Saturday, July 5, 2008

Day Seven - A culmination

Today is the culmination of all the planning and work so far. More than 100 call center and crisis counselors meet at the Chemistry Industry University where we’d held our conference last week. In the morning Helena speaks about assessment for potential suicides. That is, as I said, a big issue here, especially after so many people have lost their only children and other loved ones in an instant.

We have a fancy lunch—the food has been so interesting all along, candied lotus root, bread textured differently than in the West, many colorful and delicious vegetables.

And then I am on. It is time to make it happen—to beam the light and love across language barriers and cultures. I stand up and begin talking from my heart. I tell them that no matter how much they learn, the way they can best help is to be present and surround the hurting person with care. And listen, really listen.

There is no way, as therapists, that they can bring back a lost family member, but we can bring our clients back to themselves when all feels lost. I tell them that we are talking to the person’s frightened inner child. That they are not in present time, but wandering somewhere where they can find no safety, where nothing makes sense. I bring up several Verbal First Aid techniques, from reminding them of their resources and strengths to taking care of others, to simply pacing, which means matching the patient’s tone and attitude, not trying to solve anything or cheer them up.

I have them find in their body where they hold their own sadness, anger, joy, so that they can see that those feelings are always there, regardless of how long ago they entered our lives. Then I teach them a Neuroliguistic program technique, some guided imagery.

And I do it all not from my head, but from my heart. Helena translates, and I make everyone laugh when I ask why I say two sentences and she says ten. She embellishes sometimes to help them understand across cultures.

And then the hard part. People come up, one at a time and pretend to be their patients, telling me stories of lost children, of grief, of not wanting to live. Each story is different, and with each, I do therapy of a different sort. But always I listen, pace, allow them their feelings. And as I do, they start to soften. I sit quietly while they play with what they’ve just said, revise it, and sometimes come up with different conclusions than those they started out with.

One beautiful woman comes on stage and sits with her back to me, saying she works by phone and can’t see her patient, so we have to work that way. She tells me of her tragedy and I repeat what she says with sadness. She nods, then she adds another thought, I repeat it, hear her and understand. I don’t try to solve it or make her feel better. I ask her to tell me about her daughter. She weeps. I explain to the audience that some people might be afraid to bring up the memory because it brings up the loss, but like an Irish wake, when we tell stories about how wonderful a person was, it is another way of grieving, which is the process she is in right now, and it allows her to connect with her daughter in a warm way. She tells me how her daughter loves to dance and sing. Helena explains to me that Chinese words don’t have tense, so I don’t know if she is saying it in the present tense. Finally I say, “you know, you have to be here to hold her in your heart. Her memory lives with you.” I have been explaining my method to the audience and now I turn to them and say that I wanted to give her a reason to live, not for herself but for her daughter.

We work until she says she feels different, and leaves the stage. Then, within moments, she wants to come up again. She says that she has worked with clients for a long time and never felt this feeling in her heart before. She says many beautiful things, which Helena leans over and whispers to me, and I know that they understand. This is the light, I can see it as sparks in everyone’s hearts.

This goes on over quite a few cases and finally we are done. The room explodes with love and joy. It is amazing and wonderful.

We go back to the hotel, have a very light dinner and go to bed. Suddenly I discover I have a bladder infection that keeps me awake and distressed into the night. I call my healer at home, the wonderful Melissa, half a world away, and she saves me over the phone, as she has many times before with her beautiful healings. Whatever would I have done without her here?

Life is many miracles in the midst of strife.

I fall asleep.

It has been a magical day.


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