Sacred Witness: A Call for Self-Patience and Self-Compassion

In these particular weeks of COVID, you may feel a cloud-breaking good feeling, followed in short order by a feeling of dark cloud-cover; you may feel ready to finally move forward, then a heavy exhaustion may arise.

In our Prayer/Intention Hour this week, we had the experience of finding the parts within us that are uncomfortable and sitting with them in quiet compassion and patience. We also meditated and found places within us that are strong, and we also sat with those parts, just as patiently.

We are Sacred Witnesses to our experience now. We can witness our restlessness or strength and sit with it as though that part of us is in labor, but there is no baby crowning yet. We can witness our discomfort and sit by its side like we are with a hospice patient who has not yet crossed over.

In these times, there is no action, no fixing, no transforming that will change the inevitable. This is tomb time. We cannot pull resurrection from the tomb. We can only be a patient, Sacred Witness to our own process.

Elizabeth Gilbert says that grief is bigger than our efforts to manage it and we must “allow that it cannot be managed.” She suggests that we walk into our most painful feelings and allow those tidal waves to wash over us.

I had a different idea over 25 years ago when I decided to research and find the fastest method for moving from pain to peace to creative purpose. I loaded up trucks of transformative methods and tools – perhaps as much to protect myself as others from “empathy-overwhelm.” I have successfully applied my arsenal of transformation over decades, and yet, this time those methods weren’t working for me.

After weeks of COVID, I have had enough space from “normality” to pull away even from my truck of sure-fire, transformational methods. I tried something else this time: one night I wrote down all the feelings I felt – especially the most painful, related to my whole adult life.

Then, I separated out the “good girl” in me that would never allow these things to be said so blatantly and ungratefully. I separated out the “Judge and jury” who so often hold the throne and are ready to give a verdict on what they suspect is my rising self-pity. I separated out the part of me that felt victim and the part that rescues the victim. I separated out my inner child and my part that keeps me accountable.

I put a sacred wall around all these unseemly feelings, fierce accusations, and wild anger, not allowing any of these characters to limit my rant. I wrote until it was all done. I grieved and raised my fist; I allowed out all the pain from all the places in my body that had heretofore held their respectful and respective expression in. And I slept without praying an apology. I woke up still angry and let all that feeling continue to pour out, through and over me. I would not be stopped.

I stayed in bed. I would not get out. I would not play responsible mother or business owner or do all the things I expect of myself every day. I would not let any of those characters within me judge my lying in bed, nor would I get out of bed until I felt like it…until whatever part of me was working out these resentments and regrets were finished. I stayed in bed, falling asleep and waking up, just staring out the window all day. I would not let my exercise-driven part or my dutiful prayer/meditator part have their way.

I realized that all these parts have had influence on if and how much I allow myself to feel and express feelings. I sometimes stifle the unacceptable emotion or transmute it into blessings for others…because I have adamantly believed that I have no right to wallow in them. My judge calls self-pity “The heresy of responsibility.” So this time, I wallowed and hugged and welcomed my self-pity.

I realized that I had not been on my own side; that somehow I did not have a right to these feelings unless I sat down, prayed for help with them, felt them intensely, offered the pain up for others and then released them so I could move to clarity once again in the service of others – hopefully in one short “session” of dedicated prayer.

Suddenly, this deeply dedicated path felt unfair. In my work, I am ever on the side of my clients and their right to feel as deeply as they do. I connect to their pain, understanding the depth of their feelings with compassionate neutrality. I say to clients “be on your own side and express those feelings. You have a right to them. Stay with yourself as they move out.” To allow myself that same set of instructions: now that is heretical.

For me, then, bravery was to stay with myself for as long as it took.

I’ve learned that being a Sacred Witness to authentic feelings, protecting them from inner judgment or speed to completion, results in a slower dawning of different energy. It took longer than any of my inner parts would have preferred or my transformational methods would have facilitated, but I feel quieter inside.

Having said, that, here is the real learning:

It is less that any of the challenges that triggered those emotions were resolved than it was the act of staying with myself and being on my own side – being a Sacred Witness to my own life – that has brought me greater peace.

The desire for someone else to be there for us can be a projection and a longing to be patient, non-judgmental and compassionate with ourselves.

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Therese Rowley, Ph.D.

As a skilled intuitive, consultant, and thought leader, Dr. Rowley supports leaders making strategic decisions with intuitive data and deepens their access to intuition. Her work with Fortune 500 and smaller company leaders in facilitating large scale change in industries such as telecommunications, manufacturing, market research, marketing/communications, real estate development, and financial services spans three decades.


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