Those of you who know my husband and me personally, know that we come from very different political perspectives. Discerning and discovering how we be together so that we each feel both honoured and in integrity with ourselves has been a journey where we often find ourselves at the edge of our current capacity. It is exactly those moments when each of us is powerfully called further into the depths of who we are at our core. For me, hearing the news last Thursday of the US missile strikes into Syria was one of those moments.
Earlier in the evening, we’d had a challenging interaction where Bruce had felt I’d minimized his celebration of something he considered a significant personal accomplishment. It was something he’d been feeling uncertain about his capacity to do, so this success was a big deal for him. But since I’m pretty clear about his extraordinary giftedness in this area, in my “Woohoo, yay you, I knew you could do it!” response, there’d been no acknowledgement of that part of him that had (unknown to me) been feeling tender and uncertain.
As soon as he let me know about this part of him, my heart went out to meet it – to meet him. And as we sat together in that moment, he connected with and shared with me a similar painful memory. As a small child, he’d had the sense that in his family everyone existed within their own ‘force field’. Though they were physically there, they’d seemed to him inaccessible, and as a result he’d felt both desperately alone, and incredibly helpless to do anything about it.
I believe this longing for connection is universal.
We all ache to be seen, known, loved, acknowledged, accepted and celebrated for the whole of who we are.
AND we all have parts of ourselves we feel may be, and fear others will find, unacceptable.
It’s SO understandable that we develop many ways to keep these parts hidden from those around us, especially those we care for and really want connection with, and sometimes this even means hidden from ourselves.
Later last Thursday evening as the news of the US cruise missile strikes into Syria broke, my first instinct was to go off on my own and find out more about it. As I did, I recognized I was feeling afraid – and it was actually way more fear than my immediate situation warranted.
I paused and paid attention, and I could feel the memory surfacing of my 9 year old self at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remembered the kids talking at school – speaking of the danger of war, but no one at home said anything, and I was frozen in my fear, wanting to reach out, but too afraid to ask.
Despite the fact that I was feeling extremely tender and fearful, last Thursday I had enough confidence in my adult Self to be able to see this as an opportunity to create a different pattern. Though I was uncertain of Bruce’s response to this emergent political situation I was committed to changing my part of the dance – at least for me, and (I hoped) for Bruce and me together.
I knew I could and would keep those tender parts of me safe.
I was willing to reach out and let him know I was feeling vulnerable and wanting his presence with me right then. AND, though I really wanted a ‘yes’, I was willing to respect whatever his response – yes, no, or not right now, maybe later.
Sally Kohn’s 5 minute wonderful and edgy invitation to a powerful, political-spiritual practice …
As Sally Kohn says in her TED talk, I knew I was committed to finding the compassion for others that I want them to have for me. Though I don’t particularly like her term ’emotional correctness’, I’m clear that as she says it’s not so much the words, but “the tone, the feeling, how we say what we say, the respect and compassion we show one another” that makes the difference in our interactions.
Like her, “This whole finding compassion and common ground with your enemies thing is kind of like a political-spiritual practice for me.”
I hardly have words for what happened when I reached out to Bruce. He said “Yes” and we came together. Each of us bringing the newly-acknowledged, very human, tender parts of ourselves. Together we experienced an extraordinary level of shared vulnerability, and intimacy of connection – the thing that both of us had so longed for when we were young, and again in that day as adults. And in the days since then, delightful ripples of connection from that experience have continued to flow!
I don’t know the ‘right’ thing to do in Syria. That’s perhaps a conversation for another reflection. But what I do know is while I have no way of directing the political decisions made, the choices I (and we all) make in the arenas over which we do have control, create a substantive impact in our private lives, and this can’t help but ripple out into the wider world.
Is this an easy practice? Hell no! But is it worthwhile? Absolutely! I’ll echo Bruce’s reaction to my recent writing about Geisha Healing of Hearts, “It’s been a worthy journey”, and one I’m excited to continue to discover and share more about as we practice it. Want to join us? Do be in touch!