Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Community of strangers

And I thought I was teaching. Saturday, they arrived in a steady stream with enough space between to begin to get to know them, their pain and stories. I had been prepping for this event for weeks with my new partner, and years before that.

As often happens, I had not counted on receiving so much from a group I was helping facilitate. Yet, that's what transpires when you invite Spirit in with the intention of deep community.

We laughed, cried, ate, played, turned inside, shared and learned together. We may have entered as strangers, but we didn't leave that way – at least not from my perspective, even if we never meet again.

This courageous group opened me and provided community I had been missing without knowing. Mostly I have experienced my pain in isolation, sharing with immediate family and close friends. But, honestly, they have no inkling of this journey. I tend to put it away on a shelf when not dealing directly with the pain. Nobody really wants to hear about it, except God. And this group.

It was as if we could not believe it was ok to talk about what we experience, including our darker thoughts. The ones that typically remain unspoken for fear of being misunderstood. 

This group certainly got it. They live it, daily. For over three hours, we vacillated among discussion, one-on-one conversations, prompts, journaling, playful and interior activities aimed at confronting our pain and seeking its spiritual messages. For most, it seemed the only path with the promise of real answers and transformation, though certainly not the first path for many of us. Seems we've reached a place of desiring understanding and not necessarily healing because of so many false promises. I can't say I've had the surgeries and hardware others have, but I know all too well the disappointment of a shiny new therapy, test or drug promised to work.

We all seemed to share the idea that we are less than. Chronic pain can do that. But I suspect we had some of that in us before the pain. Yet, hearing another person verbally articulate those feelings broke my isolation. One wise soul shared that she had learned to become her own best friend.

I felt normal for having such an inconsistent life and ability to work because they live similarly. I am more patient with my lengthy morning routine, grateful that I can get out of bed and into the gym or studio.  It was as if Spirit blew in a breath of fresh air, helping me see there is connection even in pain.

I came home and crashed. Frustrating, but not unexpected because I typically can not count on performing major activities back to back. My partner was down two days with a temperature. Yesterday, we e-mailed each other from bed. It seemed so pathetic as to be funny. Humor was another common element in Saturday's group. We laughed more than anything else – a rich and welcome surprise!

There's still some processing to do and program tweaking, follow-ups and prepping for the next session, but I suspect this group will be in my heart for a very long time. Isn't it amazing whom Spirit randomly seems to pull together?

• When have I felt accompanied and understood among strangers?
• What bound us?
• What is my experience of receiving when I thought I was giving?
• When have strangers marked my heart?
• Whom has Spirit randomly pulled into my life?

Thought I was
SO organized

everything neatly
packed and in
the trunk

ready to
the room into

a colorful
splurge of
playing with pain

yet I forgot
my latest art
piece, a rainbow
pain meter

my partner gently
encouraged me to
get past it and
move on

into Spirit's lively
flow of reaching
down deep with
patience, humor
and tenderness into
our pain and tapping
the places we
all share


a community of

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