It happens to all of us who get whipped up into this journey of spiritual awakening and Self-knowing. We find tools, gorgeously simple tools, that can change lives. Pain melts, anxiety leaves and the daily suffering isn’t so daily nor deep anymore. Be it yoga or breathwork, meditation or mindfulness, once we find the tools that work for us, we tend to latch on. Like a child to the safety of the mother. Stepping forward in continued amazement that this stuff works!
So when we see someone who is struggling, who’s maybe repeating the patterns we know so well, our immediate instinct is to dive in …
‘Have you tried Kundalini?’
‘EFT will cure that for you’
‘Have you read Eckhart Tolle?’
‘You’re stuck in your mind, do you have an awareness practice?’
We want to share the simple but expansive benefits of what worked so well for us. We want to be part of someone’s healing journey. We’re so, so excited to help because we just don’t know why nobody is screaming this stuff from the rooftops!
And that’s great …. for us. But is it always the best tact for the person sitting in front of us? I mean … did they even ask us for our advice?
*Carrie Bradshaw ponders, gazing out her window* – “I have to ask myself, rather than being helpful, have I just been a bit of a spiritual jerk?”
Being witness to someone is an important role. As they share parts of themselves with you, you are acting as their mirror, their sounding board. Sometimes the biggest realisations come from asking a question or telling a story out loud.
A true, grounded witness helps you explore your story. They draw out more of our experience and hold it up for you. They respect your path and, from that mindset, help you find solutions and next-steps for yourself. True witnesses are rare.
More common is a mind-driven conversation. The complexities of one being battling to be seen by another. The listener, tied up in their thoughts, often aren’t listening at all, they’re biding their time until they can jump in with their experience. Having a whole other conversation in their head, they’re driven by the need to respond or to enforce their own experiences on your story. There’s a few ways this can happen:
- There’s the One-Upper – the person who, no matter what the circumstance, has a story bigger and bolder than yours. This can be fun (and enlightening!) when swapping ridiculous sex stories. But when you’re feeling your way through an experience you’ve had … not so much. Because the ‘one-upper’ is far too unaware to really see you. They can’t be your witness because their ego is so tied up in being the greater, the bigger, the wilder. Your story will always be relegated by this one. It’s not intentional. They’re not out to invalidate you. They are incapable of giving you what you need when things get a little deeper.
- There’s the Judge – this one is two-fold. There’s an external and an internal version. We’re luckier to encounter an external Judge because we can see it clearly. Unfortunately, in life, we’re conditioned to be the latter. When a person is giving us part of them, trusting us with a story or a line of thought, we appear interested, we nod in the right places and ‘awww’ when we should. But inside? Inside we’re judging your actions. We’re labelling them as bad or good, smart or stupid. And, more harmfully, we’re often attaching those labels to you, the speaker. And these labels leave imprints on the mind so that the next time you sit with them, they’re attaching those labels to you from the off. And it’s really hard to shake an externally-imposed label, boo!
- There’s the Uninvited Teacher – here we go, this is the one that spiritual folk fall into so often! In our excitement to share tools and movement and techniques we effectively stomp all over the experience our partner is recalling. We’re ‘fixing’ rather than ‘witnessing’. Or, more damaging still, we’re driven by the ego to show off how spiritual and awakened we are, delivering the tools of healing with nonchalance. Like we’re bloody Moses delivering the commandments from on high. Such wankers!
Awareness is a glorious friend because she grants you clear sight of your actions. Like this nugget – how many times have you given advice without it being asked for? Floored me! Because this was, well, 80% of my conversations, especially since taking on the role of ‘teacher’. Mortifying.
Playing with vulnerability and sharing my own stories led me down this road. How did I never realise how scary it is to allow yourself to be seen, only to be handed a hammer and nail to ‘fix’ myself. It brought to the surface something I often speak so confidently about when it comes to our actions on the mat and in regards to self-healing – consent. When someone enters into conversation with me, am I taking that as unwritten consent for me to project onto them?
That feels gross, frankly.
Because here’s the thing. Not one of us needs ‘fixing’. In fact, the idea that we can heal someone else is bogus. I am the only one who can heal myself. And the tools I employ can only be taken on by a willing party. And how can I tell if they’re willing? Well, them asking is a good sign!
So here’s my commitment to those who enter my space. I will do my best to consciously show up for you and to witness you. I will remain in my body as you speak, not fleeing to my head as is so easy. And if it feels open, I will ask you questions to help you explore your experience from, perhaps, a different angle. But I will only give advice when you have consented for me to do so.
It is an honour to hold witness for another. It is an incredible act of vulnerability for them to share themselves. And as I dance down the path of openiness myself, I’m committing to levelling up as often as I am conscious to do so.
So, if we’re lucky enough to spend time together you may hear me say things like, ‘do you need a witness or feedback?’ or ‘would you like me to offer advice, from my perspective?’. And when you do, know that the truest love is being brought forth. That I am conscious. That you are safe.
Ask, and you shall get.
Speak, and you will be witnessed.