Friday, July 4, 2008

Day Five

This is apparently our day off. We have breakfast and are driven by Mr. Wei, who is wise and wonderful, to the Forbidden City. It takes your breath away. It is horizontally tiered—that is you walk through one building and court yard after another to actually arrive at the emperor’s house. The recorded guided tour we wear in our ears tells us that the last little emperor-designate, who was three years old, was very upset about a ceremony that involved him. He cried and made something of a fuss. His father, to calm him, said to him: “It’s done. It’s over now.” And that was taken as a curse, which ended all the dynasties, after which Sun Yat Sen led the change from the ancient feudal system. Now THAT’s the power of words.

The garden that is filled with twisted trees is so mystical, it’s no wonder emperors went there to write their poetry. The fall of the petals of so many flowers, looking like brightly colored snow, often inspired them. The names of the various palaces and gardens are of the inscrutable variety, inspired and twisted too. My favorite might have been The Mountain of Accumulated Refinement. Once a year the Emperor and Empress would climb that rocky hill and view their domain from that powerful perspective.

We have been told again that, as experts, we are very special. Only experts can stay at the Foreign Expert Hotel (one presumes they have to be foreign, as well), and they have to qualify with the government at a very high level.

In the afternoon we “shop” -- a concept that has always been somewhat foreign to me. Here it is all about negotiation, haggling, bargaining. The only things that are non-negotiable are Olympic items. Otherwise, if they quote you a price of 80 RMB, you say 20. Actually, we don’t. Mr. Wei and Tina do. They say, in shocked and “offended” Chinese “What? You want to charge these experts who came here to help you that much for THAT?” And pretty soon, we’re paying 1/5 of what they originally asked. I suppose the merchants feel there’s no harm in asking. And after each encounter that looks so dramatic and confrontational to us—imagine trying that at Macy’s—everyone smiles and the deed is done.

As the day goes by, I can’t help thinking about all that still needs to be done. I’ve been searching my brain for ways to assist the emotional recoveries of the school principals and teachers in the earthquake region. They are in shock and trauma from losing so many of their students. The main tool I use in situations like this is the Emotional Freedom Technique that involves a client literally tapping on acupuncture points while repeating the very thing that is most upsetting. It has worked for clients of mine who have experienced the most dire of conditions: one who was incarcerated in an Iranian prison for months, one who accidentally killed a woman while driving, one who helplessly watched her daughter’s boyfriend commit suicide with a gun, among many more. The hard part is often finding the exact feeling, or series of feelings, wrapped around the trauma, and then peeling it back until it disappears. The final step is to fill the emptied space with what was and will be good.

I’m also considering Verbal First Aid techniques that can help to restore the lost part of the person, the part of the soul that “left” (in the parlance of the shaman) when things got too rough. In many traditions, the shaman goes through the veil to retrieve the piece of soul. I am not capable of that, but I have had clients reclaim it themselves when they return in their mind to the time it slipped out. Under my guidance, they grab it to put it back.

But the challenge here, the sheer volume of the problem, is daunting.


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