Look again

nature-sunny-red-flowersYesterday was one of those days for me … not awful, not dramatic, just slightly off-kilter. I felt like a skipping record. I’d play, but only with a great deal of picking up and finding another groove. You know?

One of the day’s ‘symptoms’ was losing things, and then, not; that is, frantically searching for and then finding keys/papers/Altoids exactly where they should be, and where I had looked just minutes before. GAH.

So the day’s very practical practice was “Pause. Look again.” It was helpful for finding the ‘missing’ iPhone, but so much more meaningful in other ways.  

On the spur of the moment (since my schedule was completely off-kilter as well), I visited a former UZIT™ client and friend, who is at a local rehab facility. This lovely lady has suffered varying levels of anxiety since her serious health crisis about a year ago. Naturally, her family and caregivers do everything they can to prevent and alleviate panic attacks and generalized anxiety.

On the way in, I heard her crying from down the hall. She’d just received sad news from a visiting relative. An aide was trying to calm her down and was encouraging her to get in bed ‘to her happy place.’ Due to aphasia (impaired speech/language), my friend’s speech is hard to understand … ten times harder when she’s upset.

hands1The aide, who is also lovely, vaguely knows what I do as a UZIT, and that Mrs. J. (as I’ll call her here) is very relaxed, if not sleeping like a rock, by the end of my visits. She was happy to see me and my ‘bag of tricks.’

But this time, no ‘magic’ tools felt right or necessary. Mrs. J. was not having an acute panic attack. She could speak, and, honestly, it didn’t matter whether it ‘made sense’ to me or not. She could express herself, which she did, for quite awhile. I just listened (and, OK, gave her reiki, with my hand on her knee).

Despite my initial urge to ‘make it better’ (lavender oil, stat! grounding movements, etc.!), I did what I’d done all day: I looked again. Mrs. J. was fine. Her emotions were not a crisis that needed fixing or even soothing. She needed a listening ear.

In UZIT training, we learn a lot about practices of bearing witness, true empathy and the basic principles of Non-Violent Communication. These might well be the most valuable teachings for me. For many of us with certain personalities and empathic leanings, it is hard to override a seemingly natural urge to rush in and fix something or someone. To soothe. To make it better. To be, whether we’ll admit it or not, in charge.

For many of us there’s a lifetime of social conditioning and mental/emotional patterns to examine. These are some of the questions that have helped me through different situations, from being with Hospice patients and their families to living with a teenage kid: Who is more uncomfortable or distressed when someone’s crying … the crier or the listener? If you could take away someone’s suffering, should you?

There are times when patients (and teenagers) need to be calmed … when relieving anxiety can help reduce pain and other symptoms, and facilitate communication. But in our rush to provide comfort at any sign of upset or unease, we can miss the bigger picture, and some opportunities for healing and connection.

Restorative and integrative therapies are often associated with relaxation. That’s often a huge part of the equation. But numbing, shoving aside, distracting … that’s business as usual. To be integrated is to be accepted, experienced, even welcomed, as part of the whole. Pain is part of life. 

Mrs. J. was asleep again when I left yesterday; I think I just have that effect on people :). She isn’t my client anymore. Her insurance doesn’t pay for complementary care and its ‘unscientific’ modalities. But she’s my friend now. Maybe that’s even more valuable.

Kathy owns and teaches at Practice Yoga in Dayton, Ohio. She is also an Urban Zen Integrative practitioner who sees clients in private sessions. To contact Kathi, please click here. Yoga on High’s UZIT program begins this October; for more information click here or attend one of our upcoming information sessions: Saturday, May 14 from 4:15p to 5:15p at Yoga on High or Tuesday, June 7 from 5:30p to 6:30p ET via conference call.