Here are some experiences that I will share with the intention of providing good quality food for thought.
My core belief is that every single one of us is at heart, good. But that does not mean I become overly “soft”, a pushover, due to that perception.
“Good,” for me, means: compassionate, broad-minded, and balanced in considering the needs of self and others, and in that way, setting healthy boundaries.
One way to understand our life’s work is as a path to discovery that indeed we are “good” in that sense—and to discover the same thing in those around you.
Now, what about someone whose approach and actions are often felt as harmful? They still have that core of goodness, but it can be deeply buried. We have to try to survive intact our connections with people who to one degree or another fit that description. We have a right to reduce or avoid contact and connection with those individuals when they consistently exceed our capacity to handle them.
We need to know our limits, and can take support from those who are wiser or who are peers, and give assistance to those who want it, to the degree we can while keeping our integrity.
Many years ago I realized it was time for me to expand my work with others, from teaching the internal practice of Tai Chi Chuan over the last 30 years, to also offering psychotherapy as a service, for those feeling a need. My work as a gestalt psychotherapist and psychoanalyst is the fulfilling of a mission.
And yet, some of the most inspired, wise people I have known were under no title of being a psychotherapist, or of being in any other sense labeled as a “spiritual leader.”
One was a computer science professor with a booming voice and a booming laugh, and a deep, deep sense of compassion and high energy and amazing communication skills. He died unexpectedly from a stroke at the age of 55, and at his funeral there were close to one thousand people present! That is a large number for a fairly private individual, a teacher… but it was just a fraction of the many people he helped.
Another was my stepfather. He gave his working life as an adult (although he worked his way through high school and college during the Great Depression) to helping the workers in the hotel industry. He told me how, when he was in at the founding of the Hotel and Motel Trades Council, the standard hotel sign for workers would say “If you don’t come in on Sunday, don’t come in on Monday.”
That struck him as very wrong, and he devoted himself to changing that imbalance of rights. The hotel staff worked strenuous jobs seven days a week with no rest. Unionization changed that! My stepfather showed deep kindness to everyone in his life, but was also no pushover. I worked at his office during two summers, and several of the staff there made heartfelt comments to me such as “When they made your father, they broke the mold.”
My point is that we each have a chance to express ourselves, no matter where we are and no matter what we find ourselves doing. It is in our relationships, and our own vision and awareness. What is the purpose of this work and what is the purpose of this moment? What is my effect on other people? What can I do better?
With this pandemic, sometimes we are forced unexpectedly to face our vulnerability and transiency. When we have our eyes and ears and mind open, that is always present, even without a pandemic.
We have all known people who seem to live, as we say, “consciously”. That way of life is inspiring; and it is based on the awareness that each moment passes, never to return.
A few days ago, Tildet and I were watching an old (and humorous and touching) movie from 1941, named “Ball of Fire”, and I could not help thinking, “they are all gone now.” All of those wonderful people, acting their parts in the movie and giving us enjoyment nearly 80 years later.
Shades of Shakespeare and the quotation, “All the world’s a stage.” I want to play a good part or role, in my own drama!
Healthcare workers in hot zones are living that life of purpose, although they may understandably question, at times, why they must be the ones doing so.
I know that each of us can and should find our purpose and in that way, inspiration. Having a clear purpose, and connection to self and other, takes us beyond the moment, beyond the stress of our own limited problems, and connects us to the larger world of past, present, and future. Seize the day, with purpose and inspiration!
Hopefully, all of this is good food for thought. Whether it is that for you, or not: please stay well, and… find your purpose and stay inspired.