A psychologist finished his work day devastated, and dragged himself into the office building’s elevator to slink down to his car and try to drive home. In the elevator was another psychologist, an older man, who looked crisp and happy and was whistling instead of looking like he wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Unable to contain himself, the younger man cried out: “how do you do it? How do you listen every day to all these stories of disappointment and death and shattered dreams and failed marriages and cheating and losing and dysfunctional families and lost hope? How do you listen to that all day and still stay fresh?”
The old guy looked at him, smiled, and said: “who listens?”
I recently spoke of one of the things I find of greatest value in life: connecting deeply and helping people, especially people in trouble. And a reader asked:
“How do you take in all that sadness and not let it affect you. My husband jokes about my dayglo orange sticker that says “Tell me your Robles. I can help.” And it must work because it happens all the time, but by the end of the day I’m drained and sad to crying myself. These days my health has become fragile enough that I hermit a lot, saving the spoons for fighting with the best medical system in the world at a point where I’m making choices between food and meds. I’d like to be more social, but not if I can’t figure out a way of listening and giving without absorbing everything. Thanks.”
I start by loving myself, connecting to my heart and “child” and “elder” selves EVERY MORNING. And give to others only from the overflow. In Aikido they refer to “extending your ki.” Envision a stream flowing sluggishly. If it is connected to a cess pool, the cess pool will back up into the stream and pollute it. But if the stream flows rapidly, it actually purifies the cess pool. By connecting with Source (call this whatever you wish: God, the Universe, the Divine, the Deep Unconscious…I don’t care, as long as its not your ego) you tap into an energy larger than your frailty. And so long as you stay connected there, you are “borrowing” energy, not depleting your own finite supply. This is why a daily ritual of action, emotion, and focus is essential to my being.
Oh yeah, I listen. But more importantly IT listens. And answers.
I’m just along for the ride.