Recently I spent time with a group of people who work with refugees. The topic of our discussion was compassionate listening. I’m always curious how others in the helping field manage while walking so closely with those who are in pain. Intimately knowing the stories filled with such loss. Seeing the suffering. Feeling the injustice.
Some of those in the group shared their experiences. They talked about spending time with refugees. Marveling over the beautiful images of their country when there was peace, shedding tears with refugees at the images of devastation. I assured them that by staying present and listening, they were helping in the healing process. Bearing witness to the pain of others is important work.
But it can be costly work as well.
The human spirit is quite resilient. However, when our heads and hearts are filled with pain, whether it’s our stories or the stories of others, we can get trapped in suffering. We may distract ourselves, avoiding feeling anything for fear of drowning in the sorrow, preferring numbness to an ocean of grief. Or we may find ourselves fully immersed in the suffering and gasping for air as we sink deeper into the pain.
One way to approach the pain in our lives is to acknowledge what we are experiencing in the moment we are experiencing it. Being aware of our thoughts, feelings and body sensations without judgment and with compassion. This is mindfulness. And as we grow in our ability to be mindful in painful moments, we may be surprised in our ability to notice when the dark clouds lift and light shines through. Enabling us to experience moments of joy as well.
We may even begin to believe the suffering won’t last forever. This is hope. And hope keeps us moving forward.
Moving forward with hope is a journey that doesn’t need to be walked alone. At The Journey International we offer therapy, yoga and educational workshops. We also offer a six-week mindfulness group to help people cultivate their own mindfulness practice. There will be more information on this soon so that you can register for the class.