I Save Peoples Lives
When I teach the Hakomi Method at Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, North Carolina, I stay at the same hotel. Ila works in the restaurant on the weekends. Over the years we have gotten to know each other and take time to visit during each of my stays. I knew she had another job during the week. One day she said, “Cedar, do you know what my other job is?” “No, I guess I don’t.” “Well, I save people’s lives.” “You do? How do you do that, Ila?” “Well, I work in a parachute factory. I’m the only one who knows how to work the five needle sewing machine that sews the ‘foot’ on each parachute. I’ve been working there for 40 years now and I have letters hung all over the wall from people thanking me for saving their lives.” “Those letters make you feel really good, I bet.” “Yes, they do.” “Well, I hadn’t thought about it in this context, but that sounds like the right use of your power to me. I feel very grateful to you.”
The power of relationship repair is often simpler and more profound than we imagine…as in this little story. Sandra, the organizer of a workshop I was teaching, wanted to make a small change in the hours of the last day. That was okay with me as long as she notified the participants of the change. She agreed. Saturday afternoon, I reminded the class that the starting time on Sunday would be 9 am instead of 10. As I looked around the room, I noticed surprise on people’s faces followed by noticeable anger about not being told in advance. I looked at Sandra and she said that she was sorry, but she had forgotten to tell them about the change which she had requested. I felt people beginning to get angry at Sandra and several people spoke it. Then Sandra did a simple and courageous thing. She said to the group. “It’s totally my fault and I want to take responsibility for this. So, to make reparation, I will do all the clean up at the end of today so that you all can just go home. How will that be?” Astonishingly, I could feel the anger in the room just melt away and in its place emerged a sense of respect for the fact that we all make mistakes and that mistakes can be repaired when we take responsibility rather than blaming or defending.
I Have Broken The Cycle of Abuse
During group process time well into a Hakomi Training, Gary (not his actual name), an M.D., began to speak. He was in quite a bit of distress and crying as he talked. “I’m not worthy of being a member of this group. I can’t hide this anymore and you can tell me to leave if you want. But I need you to know that I abused my sisters when I was a teenager. I feel so bad about myself. I’ve asked my sisters to forgive me, but they won’t. It’s so painful that they won’t forgive me. And I can also understand why they won’t. Since they won’t talk to me, I felt I had to some something, so I started doing what I can do instead of grieving over what I can’t. I volunteer at the Rape Crisis Center. “ The members of the group listened quietly as he went on. “And I want you to know that I have broken the cycle of abuse in my family. I was abused, and I have not abused my daughters. What will you think of me now that you know all this?” The room was silent while he wept for some minutes. A woman and a man both moved closer to him in support. When he was able to look up, someone in the group said, “I’m so sorry that your sisters don’t know your sorrow and who you’ve become, but I forgive you, and I’m proud of you and happy to be a friend and colleague.” One by one, others nodded or repeated similar things as Gary looked around at each fellow student. His tears now were those of relief.
And The Sword Would Melt
Aaron is four and a half years old. A visit to the Renaissance Faire is his dream come true, with knights and kings and queens and fair maidens all strolling around. We get him a little wooden sword with a ring at his waist that holds it by his side. Aaron concentrates for a very long time, practicing putting the sword in and out of the ring as he walks. As he perfects the technique, he hooks up and sees a big dragon walking by. We stop to look. Aaron says, “I wish I were the only one with a sword because then when the dragon came by, you would all run away and then I would take out my sword and stick it in the dragon and then he’d breathe fire on it and the sword would melt and then the dragon would melt, and then, and then, and then….you’d all come back and hug me.” Aaron has a few things right here. He’s using his power to protect. The dragon actually dies at his own hand–melting both the sword and himself with his own fire. Aaron isn’t greedy. He doesn’t want the whole kingdom, or the princess for his efforts, he just wants to be loved.