The Tool of Witnessing
I had a powerful experience of one of the tools for living with more ease the other day.
I believe there is a significant difference between knowing something academically, when it sounds like a reasonable idea, and knowing it “in your bones”.
When we have a real experience of something, then we really know it.
It’s a challenge for me to write these thoughts about health and healing. While there is so much evidence of the beauty in people on a day to day basis, there is so much emphasis on the ugliness. And it doesn’t seem to take much ugliness to make it seem like it’s the rule rather than the exception. That, and the anonymous instantaneous medium of online writing, is provoking to my own feelings of vulnerability in expressing things from the heart, with the honest desire to be of help in some way.
I’ve been putting an emphasis on breaking my limitations these last couple of months. And it leaves me feeling like I’m standing on shaky and foriegn ground. So, it happened that I had a feeling crop up. In my body, it felt a small weight sitting on my heart. That weight was a particular brand of fear–one that I’m familiar with. It was there for a few days, almost like an object. I wanted it to go away, because it was uncomfortable, but I didn’t know how to make that happen.
What I did, with some encouragement from my support group, was to put my hand over my heart, where I felt the feeling, and witness it. I just let it know that I was there, that I saw it, and I asked if there was anything that it needed.
I let go of trying to make the feeling go away and decided to accept it. It is, after all, a part of myself, and it has a reason to be there.
It was then that it told me what it was, and what it needed. And I told it that it was okay that it felt how it did.
At times like these I sometimes think of parts of myself in the third person. It seems to be helpful in allowing me to feel more compassion, than I would tend to if thinking of myself in the first person.
As a result of taking the time to witness and to hear the part of myself that was afraid of exposure to a hazardous and frightening world, the feeling felt better. Now it knows that it’s been seen, and that its message has been heard.
I believe this can work on other parts of the body and other feelings.
The shoulders are a good example. It’s normal when our shoulders feel tense to reach up and put one of our hands on the area between the neck and top of the shoulder and give a squeeze. That squeeze is the desire to do something to make the unpleasant feeling go away.
Next time though, try to just place a hand on the uncomfortable area. A hand whose sole purpose is to witness the area, to listen to it, and to let it tell you what it needs to tell you, without trying to fix or change anything.