November 16, 2011

The Compassionate Witness: Why Being Self-Centred is Selfless

It doesn’t come naturally: sitting in quietude, seeming stoic and somewhat dispassionate while someone you care deeply about is in tears. Their pain is real, the suffering is there. Their desire to have you help them ease it is palpable–even through the phone line. “I don’t know what to do,” they moan in anguish. Solutions race like Indie 500 cars through your mind. You’ve got tons of them! Fifteen at least! You could list them all in under 10 minutes, maybe even write them out in an email and send it, with hyperlinks to extra resources! Yes!

No. The pain is the issue. Not the circumstance causing it. Ease the pain, and the solutions will rise on their own. Ease blooms from ease. The resistance causes the suffering. We can change almost anything by first changing ourselves.

So we sit, embodying the compassionate witness, honoring what the other person is feeling but knowing that it rises from a place that is not the Truth, or the essential self. It rises from a place varyingly called the social self, the monkey mind, the brain, or the Amygdala. Knowing this because we’ve practiced becoming the compassionate witness for our own selves and seen that beneath all the drama and trauma is peace. And strength. And joy.

We witness the other person’s pain with love from the center of our Self, and then we begin to talk to the part of them that is already in peace–free from suffering. We begin to talk to that part of them that lives in Truth. We ask them to “say more” about it all, and we keep delving until we find the thought, the limiting belief, that is the crux of the resistance. “If I rest, and something bad happens, it will be my fault.” Ah.

Ah. Is this true? Can you know with absolute certainty that is is? Who would you be without that thought? What would that feel like? We refer to the work of Byron Katie. We help them find their freedom. We help them notice their inner lizard brain and do what it takes to help that lizard calm down. We help them find their peace. We refer to mindfulness practices. We help them understand how they can begin to practice being free from this thought, take a vacation from the fear. We help them begin to live a more liberated life.

We sit in Self-centered peace, compassion, and love so that we can help the ones we care about do the same.

“Consider what would happen if security was not the point of our existence, that we find freedom, aliveness and power not from what contains, locates or protects us but from what dissolves, reveals and expands us.” Eve Ensler

Much love,


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