Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is the universe a friendly place?


"Is the universe a friendly place?" Einstein famously asked.

This is what the clients who come to talk to me really want to know. They call from across the country or drive up from New York City to ask me why, all of their lives, they have felt empty, alone and sad; they talk about how they sense, at a soul level, that there is something more trying to work itself to the surface of their lives, and about how frustrated they feel that they have never learned the tools to uncover it.

They tell me how they look outside of themselves to find it--maybe a new job, new relationship, new outfit, or eco-vacation might be the thing to stem the longing. I tell them that the thing they are looking for is inside of them. As I say these words, I know that they have heard them before and that they don’t really understand them. I am not sure that I understand them either, and I tell my clients this--and we think about what it might mean to fill our emptiness from within--together.

Sometimes, I sense that what a client really needs is someone to listen to them, to be there when they call, to respond to their doubts and fears with love and warmth. Sometimes I think my whole practice is about healing the mother wound in the world.

Sometimes I know that it is.

It can be hard to believe that the universe is a friendly place when you have grown up in a sea of shame, abuse and terror. Or, when you have grown up in a muffled world of suppressed feeling, hidden agenda and narcissism--where there are no mirrors to reflect you back to yourself.

Sometimes, my job is to be a mirror--letting people look themselves in the eye. As they do this, I am looking--through them--into my eyes, too.

This is the work. Two people meeting in a room--or hanging on opposite ends of a telephone (or sitting together at a bar), creating a space for each other to become something more than they were before the click of their connection fell into place.

Often, my job is to help people dismantle the illusion of the world they have built out of a difficult childhood and to help them rebuild and inhabit a world of their own making. This new world is an illusion, too, of course, but it's a healthier illusion--one that supports joy and encourages self-expression.

My job is to hold the space for them, to build a little lean-to of hope and faith, a pup tent of possibility they can crawl into to feel what it is like to live that way--and when we are finished with our work, they will be able to build one for themselves, whenever and wherever they need it.

These are the tools--to help people understand that, no matter what has happened to them, they were meant to have joy, to have love, to find their purpose and to live it—and to understand that always, always, always, that purpose will be enhanced and enlivened by all they have learned and experienced, no matter how terrible it may have been.

As I teach them these things, I am learning them, too. As I speak the words, they resonate through me--and my own log cabin of happiness grows a few feet. Each of my clients' stories is a priceless gift that I cherish. Not only because of what it brings to me--but just because it's beautiful.

Our childhood prepares us for our adulthood. Our adulthood prepares us for our wisdom years. Our wisdom years prepare us for excarnation. One thing builds upon the next. All of it prepares us for joy--even if we don't yet know how that statement could ever be true, even if we don't believe it.

Everything that has happened to us has value. Nothing is wasted.

Is the universe a friendly place? I believe that it is. I base this belief on the experience I have of these people who come into my office or sit beside me at Starbuck's or call me on the telephone from upstate New York or California or New Mexico... just to talk. They show me, one person at a time, that the universe is friendly indeed, that it seems custom-designed for encounters like these--meetings when one stranger in a strange land sits down across a table from another and, together, they reinvent the world. I know it each time someone extends a hand to hoist me over the wall, into the garden below. I know it when I meet someone who needs my hand to make that jump, and when deep in my heart, I want, more than I want anything else in that moment, to help them.

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