“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi
My favorite client sessions are the ones where I am stopped in my tracks. I love to learn from my clients, and am often in awe of their insights and experiences of the world. We all live on the same planet, but how we live, grow, love, hurt, laugh, weep and so much more are unique to each of us. Therapists are not experts. We don’t hold some magic key or hidden wisdom that solves all of life’s problems. So moments in which we too can grow, learn and experience the greatest depths and highs of humanity are gifts that I find myself cherishing.
Recently I sat with a client in a particularly “easy” session. This client and I have been working together for a year, and she has been in therapy off and on before me. She views therapy as a support, a place where she can come and vent, have a sounding board and charge her batteries. Like many of my clients, this client is a care taker. She spends much of her energy raising her beautiful children, being a loving wife and business owner. She came to me already possessing astounding insight and an arsenal of “coping skills”, and has a huge support network of loving friends and family. She is highly intuitive, and channels much of her connection through her Catholic faith and prayer.
When I was young, I naturally distinguished for myself a difference between “religion” and “faith”. I’ve always had faith on some level, and find that organized religions that support extremists and black and white thinking make me squeamish. In the wrong hands, these rigid views can breed hate and discrimination. I enjoy eclectic and Eastern-based inclusive philosophies, and love exploring the field of energy therapy and non-traditional concepts. When I cross paths with those who align deeply with traditional religions, I have an immediate gut-reaction of judgement and wariness. I have come to be conditioned to equate this with negativity, and I see this same discomfort reflected around me daily in others.
My experience with her, however, finally connected some dots that have been hovering below the surface of my psyche. This client has such a strong relationship with and confidence in her faith, she often says things like “I just prayed to Jesus, and I knew he would provide”. This verbiage generally triggers cringe-worthy responses in me, but bear with me because this is not about holding onto old beliefs! In our session today, she noted how in recent weeks she struggled to overcome patterns of negative thinking (terms I am super comfortable with), and during a particularly moving service at her church, while in prayer she received the guidance “Your faith and strength can move mountains”. In the days following, the client was able to reframe experiences and reconnect to her higher self in such amazing ways. One example was when she felt particularly disconnected and unsupported, she accepted a position as a “greeter” and suddenly realized she had found a way to manifest or create the connection to others she had been missing. Her take home message? “This life is not about me. I am here to give back, to serve others, and that’s when I find peace.”
I sat with these insights for the rest of our session, and the rest of my day. I reflected on the beauty of universal truths, and was amazed by the intricate dance we do every day. Her empathy, intuition and the beauty of her selflessness humbled me. I felt ashamed for my snap judgements, not only with her, but towards others who possess such resolute faith. The truth was that it unnerved me so much because I lacked the completeness of faith they unwaveringly held. I could sense something “greater”, but my “black and white” brain needed more “facts” to truly let go and trust. As I released my definition of faith and spirituality, I received more. As she gave herself up to service and universal energy, she received more. While I was so busy avoiding her world, and she avoiding mine (i.e. energy work and intuition as she believes it to be against her faith), we had unknowingly stumbled upon the same concepts in a language we both spoke! Service to others, acting for the higher good.
In the face of global turmoil, hate and destruction, it’s important to seek out these moments of truth. We have to be willing to connect with humanity. We have to allow others in while releasing our judgements and expectations of others. We have to actively turn away from thoughts and behaviors that create separation and live in the faith of a higher purpose. We have to be willing to never stop learning, and trust the insights and messages as they are brought to us, in whatever form they come. Words can be powerful and healing, but taken too literally or concretely can create divides between us or foster hate that really amount to nothing but semantics.
Today I feel humbled and honored to receive such a gift from my client as she has helped me reaffirm my faith, and my desire to serve.
*What beliefs have you held that limit you, whether currently or in the past?
*What would it take for you to release a belief that separates you from others?
*What has changed for the better after a time you release an old belief?
*In what ways are you in service to others?