Sep 21 2011
When I was in my early twenties, I read an article in Parade Magazine about Liza Minnelli, who had just emerged from rehab. Something she said in that article has stayed with me all these years. It was very simple, yet so vastly profound that it helped change my life forever. She said that she was developing a new relationship with herself and throughout the day would check in, asking, “How are you doing honey?”
That blew my mind! The thought that I could talk to myself that way opened up a whole new way of being with myself. I started checking in with myself and calling myself “honey’ and ‘sweetheart’. Gradually, over time, the critical voice that was always beating me up became a loving voice. My chronic, internal judge was being replaced by my Compassionate Witness. This is an on-going process that continues to this day.
In my forties I fortified the voice of my Compassionate Witness by doing a two-year training in Hakomi, a healing, therapeutic approach that brings mindfulness, curiosity, and loving presence to whatever is present. Strengthening the energy of presence was building a mighty muscle that would carry me through tough times.
I flex that muscle now whenever I’m haunted by horror thoughts of possible cancer carnage…I take deep breaths and become very present. This invites in my Compassionate Witness, who says, “I know that you feel scared right now honey. Let yourself feel it.” I reassure myself that when and if that time comes, I will be present with what’s present, breathing into it, fully feeling and facing it, putting on my Big Soul panties and dealing with it. (And…if it gets too bad, LOTS of powerful, kick-ass painkillers…because saint I ain’t!)
I know that healing happens in the light of awareness. The glue that binds our painful patterns together is soluble in awareness, which is much like water: “Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water; yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it.”(Lao Tzu) Awareness is very potent stuff!
When I bring my Compassionate Witness to everything I think, do and feel, something astonishing happens…I gradually BECOME more the witness than the thing that I’m witnessing! Bringing all my shadows into the light, I become whole – welcoming every part of me to the party. My Compassionate Witness throws a great party! Every shadow, every guest who shows up (and they are quite a motley cast of characters!) is welcomed with open arms. Even the biggest shadow of them all…death.
Facing our death is something we’re all going to have to do eventually – it is the big fat elephant in the room. Buddha said, “Just as the elephant’s footprint is the biggest footprint on the jungle floor, death is the biggest teacher. Death or Yama Raja, death personified, drove me to the peace beyond birth and death.”
I want to be in that peace beyond birth and death; therefore, I’m intent on facing my fear of death, and death itself, and making friends with it. That way I am embracing it, rather than bracing against it. Leonard Cohen wrote, “If you don’t embrace the ocean you’ll be seasick every day.” When I come into harmony with all that floats and flounders about in my ocean, I am at peace.
What I resist persists; in that case, I’m hoping that now that I’m no longer resisting, maybe death won’t be persisting! Not any time soon anyway. Hopefully, I’ll have many more years to practice being fully present with my fears about the big “C” and the big “D” — bringing me more into union with the big ME, my true oceanic self!
Byron Katie said: “Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it…it’s just easier if you do.” With the loving support of my Compassionate Witness, my greatest intention is to face whatever happens, and all my feelings about what happens, with an open mind, an open heart, and open arms.
Do you have a Compassionate Witness? There is no better traveling companion on life’s journey…it will help you get through ANYTHING!