(Originally posted on the Space Bangkok blog.)
I look around me, and inside me, these days and I see broken people. We are dealing with grief, burnout, relationship troubles, family troubles, difficult work situations, financial difficulties, physical and inner instability, disease, various inner crises, and overall just trying to get our lives together…again. For many of us, it seems when there is the faintest glimmer of hope, of light, something else happens. The other shoe drops. And the shoes must belong to a centipede as it seems to be an unending onslaught of falling footwear.
It seems a never ending process, really. Getting your life together. And somewhere along the way you begin to realize that it will actually never happen. That getting your life together is, in fact, an ongoing journey rather than a destination. That no one really has it all together, regardless of the polished facade they portray to others, and that’s OK.
What we need, then, is not to gain support and a community around us based on our perfection, but rather our struggle. We need those people who see our weakness and brokenness and focus instead on our talents and potential. Who accompany us along the way as we accompany them, regardless of the twists and turns our journeys take. As Ram Dass has written, “We are all just walking each other home.”*
And time and again, as we share our desperate struggles with each other, somewhere inside we continue to scrape the bottom of a deep, deep well to find our last remaining bits of empathetic effort to give away. It is a precious gift. And we use it to prop each other up. Because, you see, often times what you give to another is exactly what you need, and in the act of giving it away you also receive it. When you give empathy, it somehow comes back to you, like a boomerang trailing a snugly blanket.
Ram Dass has also written: “The process is realizing that you and I exist on more than one plane of awareness simultaneously and on one plane suffering stinks, and on another plane suffering is grace. The question is, ‘Can you balance those two things in your consciousness?’”*
Can you also balance the notion of being a broken healer? What does that look like and how does it work? How can I, a broken person myself, even begin to try to help someone else? I’ve had some recent conversations with others sitting in this space and we have clearly recognized the difficulties, challenges, and discomfort of this role. At the same time, we also recognize how our brokenness helps us better support others in theirs. Empathy isn’t comfortable, but it is essential. As one friend put it, “We come into these spaces as wounded healers who need our own healing. Strength comes from the vulnerability you bring to the work.”