Tuesday, December 15, 2009


"There is no true service unless both people are being served." - Frank O, from Zen Hospice audio series (CD #2)

As I listened to this CD some time ago, I learned about "the mutuality of service and the crucial difference between helping and serving. We see how the true definition of compassion—‘suffering with others’ —allows us to serve from our whole self and leaves us with a feeling of profound gratitude."
The message he imparts has influenced how I minister and makes me wonder... am I confirming some identity in myself by setting myself apart from the patient, either from pity, fear or by performing some action? I learned how the helper in me actually imprisions me.

Frank suggests instead that if I minister, or serve, from my own wounds (wow, I find hospitals really awkward, do you? or I imagine that I would feel so dependent on the nurses with those mitts on my hands, is that how you feel?) then I can "serve" instead of "do for" and the power differential can begin to dissolve.

I love the ideas that he provides for ways to express compassion while serving:
1. attending to the body with the gift of touch (the oldest form of healing)
2. attending to the heart and mind through the gift of listening and being completely present. He calls this "keeping company but staying alert"
3. attending to the spirit with the gift of awareness

I appreciated some questions he offered as ways to help the care seeker discover their own truths - (not to be asked right after the other, more just ideas as conversation starters) What was your childhood like? Were you a troublemaker? Who were your heroes? Is there anything that you wish you could forget? Is there anything that you wish you discovered sooner? What was the one thing you were certain of in this life?
I hope that I can use these kinds of questions in my service with the Behavioral Health patients in a way that I, too, can be healed. This gets me away from the "why are you in the hospital" questions that, ahem, aren't so helpful. (see previous blog)

"Lord," they answered, "we want our sight." Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:33-34
How are you showing up for mutuality in this moment?

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