The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"You can't know that!"

I was teaching Tai Chi at Arisia science fiction convention, and a lady mentioned that she had struggled with anorexia. I suggested to her that she might want to perform a meditation to make contact with the child part of herself, someone younger than any damage or discomfort life had given her, that that part of her probably had some interesting things to communicate. After the class, a gentleman approached me and said that I shouldn't have said that. That he has been in therapy for years, and that it is impossible to know enough about someone in a moment to make a call like that.

My reply is that there are certain knowings that exist in time, and others that take place in a moment. That certain types of information are available instantly to us, if our eyes are open. The most important determinant is that we are honest with ourselves about how we came to where we are in life, the decisions we have made, and the prices we have paid.

At the core of what we are as human beings, there isn't tremendous difference. I love the analogy that suggests we're much like mushrooms--apparently individuals on the surface, but look deeper and we see these apparent "individuals" are part of a larger mycelial mass beneath. Go deeply enough into your individual reality, and you emerge at the universal. I've never gotten into trouble assuming others are like me. The only difficulties I've encountered over my life have occurred when I assumed others are different.

The second thing he didn't understand is that I'm not a therapist. I'm a coach. the difference is that I have no idea at all of the specifics that this lady has been through. But I know what a healthy human being is, and what the journey is. It is like meeting someone trying to climb Mt Everest. I don't know the path that they have covered to get to base camp. But I can point in the direction of the peak.

That's all I did. I know that a healthy human being, self actualizing, has a healthy balance between the different aspects of their personality. One way to represent this is to speak of "child" and "elder" aspects. There is no downside in what I suggested:

1) Visualize the child self. Find a representation that is young enough to have avoided whatever damage has occurred in life, even if it is an embryo. A single cell. An image of light, prior to your current "incarnation." Whatever works.

2) Become quiet enough to allow that part to communicate with you.

This isn't therapy. I always suggest that my students work with their personal wellness team. Many times, I have worked with their therapists, if they give me permission to contact them. What I'm doing is similar to a geometry student who can be given three points, and from that extrapolate the rest of a circle. It is a matter of keeping my eyes on what the full arc and expression of our humanity is, and believing it is within our capacity to reach it.

He walked away unconvinced. But the lady in question approached me after class...and thanked me. And that, for me, is the only standard that matters.


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