Above All, Bearing Witness

by Virginia Macali

There was an edge of anticipation for the second 5-day Urban Zen training that was palpable as we walked into the room. It was a mix of excitement for being together again, mixed with the anxiety of being assessed and tested on our learning over the past four months. The teachers and mentors guided us through more practices and language distinctions to help us to be even more precise with our language and more grounded and present with ourselves and others.

To test our learning, case studies were used. The “patient” in the case study was played by one of our fellow students. Over the days, “patients” had lymphoma, abdominal pain, hip replacements, and brain tumors. We worked with the patient and family members by using the modalities we studied while a mentor and our peers observed and offered feedback. In virtually all cases, our presence and skills helped the patients calm down and feel more comfortable. As a group, we deepened our learning by talking through the case study and discussing how we could work even more effectively.

We practiced yoga and reiki and deepened our knowledge of essential oils. We learned more about the practicalities of working in a clinical setting as we prepare for our upcoming rotations at Wexner Heritage Village and Ohio State University Medical Center. We practiced bearing witness to ourselves and others.

On the last day, Stephanie, one of our mentors, told of being called to the bedside of a young man to give reiki. He was teetering between life and death. She spoke of her grounding before offering reiki at his feet. She made eye contact with him and felt the connection. She was deeply present and bearing witness as she gave reiki. As she left his room, tears welled up in her eyes. When she walked to her car, tears flowed. In the car, the tears increased. She grounded herself and opened to everything she was feeling. She stayed with herself. Bearing witness. A memory surfaced of decades earlier when her life hung in the balance. At that moment and in the re-telling of the story, she was bearing witness to herself. And we, listening to the story, were bearing witness—to Stephanie—and to all. For me, this captured the heart of Urban Zen and why we do this work. Being present, no matter what, we touch our shared humanity one moment at a time.

Virginia Macali is a trainee in the accelerated Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program at Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio.

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One Response to Above All, Bearing Witness
  1. Linda Oshins

    Thank you. This captures the Urban Zen experience exactly–and with heart.