To understand the context of this post it’s important to know the background that initiated the ‘birth’ of the following story.
Tessa wrote to me sharing some aspects of the birth of her youngest, nearly two years after his birth. As I was reading her story of events labels like traumatic, horrendous, awful, tragic jumped to my mind as I was thinking of how she must have been feeling. That was my first reaction.
Rather than sharing that reaction and an accompanying label with her I wrote back the following “I don't think there is a word for how THAT must have felt. And yet, today, this little treasure is so full of love, receiving and giving. May the knowledge that this wee little guy is what love looks and feels like, give you healing”.
She immediately wrote back, saying that in the past she had shared a tiny bit of her feelings with a friend and the dismissive response she got had shut her up physically and emotionally, but my reply didn’t. And she thanked me for that.
That jolted me. What was different that my words made such a different impact on her than the words of her friend, who surely gave them with the best of intentions? It took a deep conversation with my heart to find an answer. That lead to a profound moment. A moment that made me realise what being heart centre really means for me, and what that means for my teaching. This week's article is my story, my conception of being heart centred. It's long, it's deep, and it's personal.
The relationship is all that matters - and it requires me to dare greatly!
Heart centred teaching is not a skill, it’s a journey. I have come to realise that over the years of teaching, parenting, and quite simply, living.
As my friend shared her story of events during the birth of her youngest, nearly two years after it happened, I responded to her story, and she responded to my response. The whole conversation only took a few minutes but it was so profound that the aftermath created a shift for me, and as I understand for her too.
My friend shared how my response had highlighted a gap for her she thinks she needs to fill in if she is going to follow her dream of working with parents - “to respond more like you do”, were her words, “I’m not dismissive like my friend, but I'm also not at your level.”
I pondered on what that level my be? And this is what I came up with.
First, I listened to what she was saying, without jumping to conclusions, without judging what that must have been felt like, without even thinking of what do I think of all of that.
Instead, I listened to the feeling she was communicating. I was listening to hear her. I wanted her to know I hear her and I did so by acknowledging her feeling. Most people tend to think that acknowledging someone’s feelings means they have to label it. I decided to not label it. How can I? I have never gone through anything like she had gone through. If I had given it a label, my label, I own it. It’s become my feeling. And in doing so I have decided what she must be feeling. I would have been judging. Not many people like being judged.
If I had said “that must be awful”, I would have told her that ‘feeling awful’ must be what she was feeling. But did she? Maybe it was traumatic, or horrendous, or life chattering. Who am I to tell her what she “must be feeling”? Some feelings are so deep, I don't even think there is a name for it. I don’t think they even need a name, feeling the feeling is enough.
In saying I don’t think there is a word I acknowledged her feeling without a label or judgment, and she maintained complete ownership of her feeling.
Secondly, and this is the vulnerable part that I find the most difficult, I opened my heart.
Opening my heart to another person is scary. It can be misinterpreted, used against me (yes, that has happened and we al know how that feels), or mis/abused. This is were I take a risk.
Analysing that risk comes down to practice, growth and experience. It’s taken me fifty years of growing to get to a point where I am more comfortable with opening up and acting from the heart and feel less vulnerable. Less vulnerable, not without feeling vulnerable!
I went deep in my heart, searching for what I would need in this situation at this moment in time, and I shared that with my friend. I believe that in many situations, what we really need is connection and love. Those two are the best medicine!
My words offered my friend just that, connection and love.
Offering love, unseen, is a vulnerable act. Depending on how established and strong our relationships are we fear rejection, scared that our fundamental need for connection goes unmet.
I took a risk. As some people may not get or appreciate what I was trying to communicate. They most likely say “thank you” and move on and nothing would have changed for them. But my friend did understand and she did appreciate. And something, even if it was only very tiny, shifted for her, a little piece in the puzzle of healing. THAT is all that matters, that I provided a little tiny puzzle piece.
This is what I believe being really heart centred is. It is totally letting go of my own stories, judgments and attachments, letting go of labelling what is happening. Even though I may think it's in the best interest of my friend, labelling it still is my story, my label and it takes any growth away from the other person. Heart centred is sitting with the other person, without fixing, without saying what should and must happen or not happen. It’s acknowledging without judgment.
I choose not to react to the little voice inside of me telling me what I like an dislike. Instead, I listened to my friend’s voice. In refraining from listening to myself I refrained from feeling a need for a fix. Any label, judgment would have been a fix, my fix, and disempowered my friend.
This is were the relationship is so important. Letting go of my own voice of like and dislike is not easy. The ego is there, and it loves talking to me. It takes a lot of strength to silence that voice. Feeling loved, feeling connected, feeling less vulnerable, less shamed, creates a safe environment to put the ego aside.
I am learning, through practice, to silence my ego and be more attentive to what is really happening in front of me without judgment. I have, what I call, daily conversations with my heart, before I go to bed. They help me on this journey.
It is one thing to understand that being heart centred and giving full attention, to myself and others, is so important. It is another thing to understand HOW to do this. How can I learn and grow to be heart centred in a way it becomes a more natural part of me? How can I practice this? For me it’s investing time, resources and experiences in personal development. There are many books that can help with this journey. Books that are philosophical and about the what and why, and books that are practical and about the how.
The relationship is ALL that matters! It's the relationship that influences our reactions and therefore our response to the other person. We all react. It’s what we do with that reaction, our response, that makes all the difference. For the other person in the relationship it is not how we react, it is about our response. Do we react to our own emotions triggered by the story of the other person and in doing so disown the story from the other, or do we respond with love and kindness in a way that connects and empowers?
If we all could react a little bit less and respond a little bit more, what a difference that would make. It meant so much to my friend, imagine what it means to the fertile soil that is the soul of the child! This is where love lives.
What is the most critical in my teaching? It’s the relationship.... it's ALL that matters. It’s a journey of love. And it requires me to dare greatly!
- Anja ❤️