I received a text this morning from a friend in the fellowship who is doing big work around his relationship with his mother. I was trying to help him understand how his mother’s trauma affected his own alcoholism. He wrote to say he had reached huge insights from watching some of John Bradshaw’s videos on healing shame. I had recommended the book to him but could not lend it as it is at the coast house.
I felt moved to tears when I read his text. It made me realise how much love we need to have for ourselves and others during the long, painful and complex path of healing. Many of us have been damaged so badly by our conditioning, subject to the wounds and defects of parents who could not show us unconditional love and our own parenting is often affected, we replay wounds unconsciously at times and then wound ourselves, acting towards ourselves as our parents did. Or we act in difficult ways with others due to the trauma of our own past.
Beginning to bring conscious awareness to the ways in which we were hurt and then can be hurt or hurt others over and over is a slow process. On a path littered with the thorns and brambles of hurt we need caution, wisdom, tenderness and compassion for ourselves and others. We also need to develop good boundaries, knowing when compassion needs to be tempered with discrimination.
I don’t know how many of you know of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He has some wonderful things to teach us about mindfulness and compassion. I love the take he has on self care. He speaks of how we nurture seeds within ourselves and others and the seeds we choose to water are up to us. If we have a seed of wounding, we can nurture that wound with tenderness and love. We can talk to our hurt, wounding and pain as if it were a little baby within us that most needs our love, tenderness, compassion and care. We can talk to our unhappiness and anger in this way too. We can say to these aspects of ourselves, just as the Buddha did when he sat under the Bodhi tree “I see you, Mara!” (Mara being the name he gave to the various demons and pains that assaulted the Buddha at that point.)
We can also learn to show this kind of tenderness and love to those around us who are suffering and in their deep suffering most need our attention, concern and love. We can be the one to offer the soothing balm to the wounded sore spot in them that needs, not criticism and admonishment, but affirmation and validation.
We can say “I see your pain, I am so sorry you are suffering, I would like to understand your pain. Is there some way I can help you with this pain?” We can offer to be a loving presence and witness to this pain deep within others, And we can also turn this kind of attention upon ourselves.
We can make a choice today to nurture the seeds of tenderness, understanding, wisdom, love and compassion, to soothe the soft, sore, raw, vulnerable, tender spot inside. How differently will we begin to feel if we can offer ourselves and others this form of loving mindful presence? With no need left to attack we know we have found with ourselves, finally after a long, long journey a solid ground of love that can and does sustain us through any trial.