Compassionate Witnessing – The Sacred Practice of Human Connection

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For whatever reason, ever since I was young, I have been blessed to be someone that people could talk to about whatever was on their mind or heart. Recently, I reconnected with a childhood friend after not seeing each other for forty years. He shared with me that what he remembered most about me were our conversations about anything and everything. Our conversations spanned who had the better paper route (I still think I did!) to the meaning of life and death, and a lot in between. It brings a smile to my face even now as I remember them.

My more recent conversations with clients and friends seem to be more focused on current pain and/or previous trauma. As humans, we have an intrinsic desire to share both our joy and pain with others. In doing so, we no longer carry either alone. However, in our current culture it is often perceived that sharing the joy is preferable. There seems to be less capacity to hear and hold the pain of others without judgment and/or the need to do something. And when we do not have an opportunity to also share the pain, it stays isolated within us, and with no safe outlet for sharing, is carried alone as a much heavier burden. We can be better for one another.

When others come to us with their pain, there is an invitation for us to meet them in vulnerability – both ours and theirs. It means we must show up in our heart, to hold their heart, in the act of compassionate witnessing to the pain, and love them in that moment. I didn’t learn this from a book. I have been blessed with being on the receiving end of this sacred practice from others throughout my life. For all of them, and some read this newsletter, my deepest gratitude for helping me not to carry anything alone. You have inspired me to pass it on. I will keep practicing.

“In relationship, commitment grows out of intimacy”.

~Kevin Buck