“Just put your fear out there,” my friend encouraged. “What’s that scared little voice inside you saying is going to happen?”
I hesitated for a moment. Describing the angst that I was feeling about my upcoming retreat was difficult.
I took a deep breath and said, “Well, an influx of people registered at the last minute, a lot more than expected. And the little voice is saying that someone is going to come away feeling unseen and unheard. The thought of missing someone’s pain hurts my heart.”
My friend encouraged me to be vulnerable – to put my fear out there to the participants and ask them for help in holding space for each other.
“You can’t do this alone, Rach,” Kerry said gently. “And you don’t have to… just put it out there… watch what happens.”
I knew by the way my heart lifted that my friend’s suggestion was exactly what I needed to do.
And I did it.
Admitting my fear to the participants on our first night together wasn’t easy. It came out a bit messy and emotional – but getting it out there provided great relief.
The next day, I stood in awe as participants demonstrated that they had understood the assignment.
We’d spent the morning exploring two life-giving areas – Practice of Presence and Practice of Self-Kindness. After some time of personal reflection, we gathered around the fire pit, and I invited participants to share with the group.
One by one, brave human beings stood up and took the floor—
but not without first saying things like:
‘My heart is pounding out of my chest… I’m so nervous right now.'
‘This is WAY out of my comfort zone.‘
‘I’ve never said this out loud…‘
Nevertheless, they spoke.
Struggles, fears, hopes, dreams, predicaments, and revelations, all vocalized.
The next morning, a participant came up and thanked me for providing the opportunity to share her heart. Her exact words were, “Thank you for not cutting me off… for giving me the time I needed to express myself.”
I couldn’t help but notice the change in her face.
Placing my hand on her arm, I said, “You look lighter today… like a weight has lifted.”
“I am lighter,” the woman said matter-of-factly. “I’d been waiting for that moment of release… I just didn’t know it.”
For a solid week following the retreat, I couldn’t stop thinking about her words.
What prompted the woman to seize that moment as the moment to gather her courage and speak her truth?
What were the conditions? And more importantly, could they be replicated outside the warmth of a crackling fire built on a majestic mountaintop?
The answer came the following Sunday morning.
Standing in my sunlit kitchen, my fifteen-year-old daughter and her friend appeared. Still in their pajamas from a sleepover at our house, they’d followed the scent of baking muffins.
Perched on stools pulled up to the kitchen counter, the pair dug into breakfast. After a few bites, the friend explained why she hadn’t been attending a certain activity. This unexpectedly spilled into the story of her parents’ divorce and the tough territory she was currently navigating.
“I don’t know why I’m telling you all this,” the teenager laughed nervously as she turned toward my daughter.
Avery’s face was soft, open, attuned, and completely free of judgement.
The friend took Avery’s silent acceptance as an invitation to keep spilling… to keep healing.
One and a half muffins later, the young lady exhaled… that was the end… for now.
Her monologue had been jumbled and hard to follow at times, but it didn’t matter… there, on her face, was visible relief.
She didn’t need to have the right words… because she had found the right ears.
The right ears
That is the necessary condition.
That is what allows unfiltered thoughts, pain, and fears to come into the light, making them smaller and less powerful.
In her book Words Under the Words, Poet Naomi Shihab Nye writes:
You have to be careful telling things.
Some ears are tunnels.
Your words go in and get lost in the dark.
Some ears are flat like the miners used
looking for gold.
What you say will be washed out with the stones.
You look a long time till you find the right ears.
Till then, there are birds and lamps to be spoken to,
a patient cloth rubbing shine in circles,
and the slow, gradual growing possibility
that when you find such ears,
they already know.
I think this is it – the condition needed at this moment in time:
As we wrap up our second year living in a global pandemic…
As we approach a holiday season where loss will be exponentially abundant, patience brutally scarce…
As we accept the reality of how little has changed with regards to dismantling systems that oppress, dehumanize, and devalue vulnerable populations…
As we face the mounting frustration of supply-chain issues and employee burnout that have pushed stress to new levels…
As we navigate mental health issues caused by the adversity and disruption our kids have experienced over the past two years.
What do we possibly have to offer in this time of deep, all-consuming pain? We ask ourselves.
We offer to hold space.
We offer the floor.
We offer to pass the mic.
We offer a seat at the table.
We offer our vulnerable admissions.
We offer our undivided attention.
The right ears for someone’s “moment of release” may very well be attached to our body.
And by lending our ears,
free of judgement,
or personal agendas,
the sacred story within may have a chance to come to light.
Witness it, dear ones.
The illumination of pain inside the human heart is what’s needed most this season.
Because once it is out there, it can be held…
it can be healed.
It gives me great joy to share that I’ve been invited back to the Art of Living Retreat Center to lead my Soul Shift weekend workshop again next fall. If you’d like to save the date, it’s Nov 4-6, 2022. I’m also delighted to share that I’ve been invited to lead my Soul Shift retreat at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY on September 9-11, 2022. Please join my Instagram or Facebook communities where registration links will be posted as soon as they are available. Thank you for your love and support. So often, you are the right ears for me.