Years ago I was on a trip in Mexico and was blessed to have a great teacher leading a small group of truth seekers. He had a PHD in Mayan studies and was himself a Mayan Shaman, a powerful combination indeed. I felt a bit like Carlos Castaneda as I stumbled my way through the amazing places and ways Don Jorge taught me.
I had many amazing experiences along the way but the one that has served me profoundly in my work with dying, death and grief is a practice he gave me late one afternoon on a bus ride back to our hotel.
Jorge came up to me and very firmly poked at my heart with the fingers of his right hand. “Imagine being in the heart of someone you are trying to help. Feel them from the inside out. If you do this well you will always know what to do FOR them.” Don Jorge implored. He walked back to his seat with a mischievous grin on his face. So, being a dedicated student I took him at his word and set out to practice what he was encouraging me to do.
That night lying in bed I decided to give it a try. My wife Sonora was back home in Vancouver so I thought what the heck I’ll imagine I am in her heart. I threw myself into the practice wholeheartedly. I was shocked by the immediate result.
It was as if I was inside Sonora, like some kind of weird shape shifting thing. Imagining or not I felt like I was somehow ‘her’. I sensed she was resting deeply on her right side, she felt a little anxious, and her pulse was slow and steady. I am not sure how long I practiced; it could have been minutes or hours though that doesn’t much matter.
I awoke to my cell phone ringing off the hook. It was Sonora. “ What were you doing with me last night, it felt like your were inside me? She asked. I was stunned! Don Jorge approached me at breakfast and asked, “So how did your practice go?” I relayed the evening’s happening to him and all he said was “Good, continue to practice!”
So practice I have.
I use this technique when I work with people dying or grieving. I put my attention on them as a conscious individual and imagine being in their heart feeling what they feel. I wonder what they might need from me that could help them. I ponder how they would best receive the message. From the depth of my heart to the depth of their heart I imagine being them. Something always comes to my mind. I think this practice is what we call intuition.
Here is an example.
I was working with a client on the eastern seaboard. A careless driver had killed her daughter in the early hours of the morning. She was heartbroken. She had done lots of therapy, grief support groups and such with little or no relief from the unrelenting grief. It was clear talk therapy was not her way. We sat quietly on the call together for several minutes and I simply imagined I was in her heart. It came to me to ask her is she had an artistic hobby so I did.
“ Do you have a hobby like painting?” I asked. Her immediate response was, “Yes I love painting.”
“Would you consider painting me your grief?” I asked. Overcome by emotions she replied with a sobbing “Yes”
We had found her way to express her deepest grief. She did a series of three paintings entitled Pain Has No Color and followed up with several more. With each painting she photographed and sent to me, we unraveled her sadness. I would put my words to her painting as we spoke with each other after each canvas was complete, putting words to her brush strokes and color choices. It was a magical process led by our hearts, a process that only she and I could conjure up – a process that was her heart’s way to let go of the sadness she felt.
To this day I continue the practice Don Jorge gave me more than a decade ago. I imagine being in the heart of the one I am serving and allow the healing power of both our hearts to suggest a healing path for the unique person I am with. Most often the questions / solutions I come up with seem as if they came out of nowhere, often a little odd or quirky and yet to date this practice of imagining has not let me down. In fact it has always served the situation in an oddly magical way.
Give my Don Jorge practice a try for a while and see what happens, I’d love to hear about your results. If you do decide to take this practice on be intentional, really mean it and set about practicing faithfully for a month or two. Do it daily.
I think this is what people must mean when they use the expression “Getting yourself out of the way.” Serving others is all-ways about them and their needs – not about the tools I have and how clever a helper I am. It is not about what I need to say – it is all-ways about what it is they need to hear.
Profound thanks to my crazy wisdom teacher, Don Jorge, for this most helpful practice.