Logs Moving Downstream
One of the unanticipated blessings of conducting these interviews has been the opportunity to re-assess how our children, our community, and our neighborhood are healing from the deep psychic wounds we received seven years ago. It feels like we’ve come a long way. And that we have a long way yet to go.
Joyce: I know the Open Hearted Listening sessions were good for Lauren, because the angst and hostility that had been building up and seeping out over the past year and a half dissipated. That was a big relief, to see she wasn’t carrying that edge of hostility around any more. She had the same “clean slate” feeling that I had imagined for her and that I had been seeking for myself during the times when I had needed to blast away at Adam, to keep him current with my feelings.
* * *
Myra: I came out of the session with Adam feeling relieved. It was like, “It’s over. I’ve gotten all this anger out. I’ve done it.” But an hour or two later I got upset and huffy. Then I started having the worst nightmares I’ve ever had in my life about Adam. It brought a bunch of stuff up to the surface, and I was dealing with that for a month or so afterwards. But now I’m having great dreams, although I can’t always remember them as well as I wish I could.
Lauren: I’d still like to kick his ass. (Laughs) There’s a big piece of anger down there that isn’t out yet. But a chunk of it got chipped off. Now I’m able to see him without all this anger building up in me. I can get pretty pissed off at him sometimes, but–
Robert: But you don’t feel like you’re living in your anger as constantly as you were before?
Lauren: Yeah. I don’t feel much anger toward him any more. I was able to get enough out that I feel healthier than if I’d just put it down again and tried to forget it. Because basically that’s what I want to do–feel healthier. I don’t want this to affect my life that much. But I also know it will probably come up again in a few years, and I’ll have to do something else.
Myra: I don’t feel my anger got out when I was just talking to Adam with little punches, because I knew that if I actually did get into it with as much punch as I could that I’d run over and punch him in the face and hopefully knock out all his teeth. So I still have that physical anger. But the training and the sessions did work with my emotions and got things unburied.
I have less of a problem talking to my mom about him now than I did before the sessions. I’ve come to a point of understanding that I can’t make my mom not be with him. I can’t separate them with my feelings. So my mom’s going to talk about Adam and I can’t get mad about that. If she’s really in love with him, I’ve got to stand on the sideline and support her.
I’m glad I’ve learned how to use this technique with my family, too. So if something comes up strong inside me and really upsets me, I could sit down and say, “Listen to me with an open heart, dude! I need to get something out and I don’t want you to talk while I’m doing it.” And they would know what was going on.
* * *
Adam: The process was amazing. It wasn’t complete. Maybe it never is. There are still feelings that need healing. But it was definitely a step in the direction of healing.
The crucial role of leadership should not be underestimated here. Without you being receptive to a vision, Robert, and honoring that vision, and being willing to commit a substantial amount of time and energy to it, this whole healing event would not have occurred. This needs to be acknowledged, because if we’re offering something that others might want to emulate, then it won’t happen in an environment where there isn’t dedicated leadership. Without that, people are going to flounder.
Robert: How do you compare Open Hearted Listening with similar techniques you’ve encountered over the years?
Adam: At first I equated it with a process called active listening. This is dimensions deeper than active listening, however, both in what it asks and what it offers. It’s almost as powerful as what sacred rituals must be to indigenous peoples. We have little understanding of the potency of those rituals, because we equate ritual with something that is old and dead and useless, rather than something that has power. Open Hearted Listening is an active, living, powerful ritual for our times.
* * *
Robert: How do you feel about the intuition that led you over to Daniel and Cecile’s presentation at the communities conference several years ago, which helped introduce Open Hearted Listening to Light Morning?
Joyce: People know what they need. I know what I need. And as a long-time member of a community, I have a good sense of its strengths and weaknesses. So I knew that conflict resolution techniques were certainly needed at Light Morning. And it had to be a very loving mode of that. Open Hearted Listening is a loving mode of conflict resolution. It seems to suit who we are.
* * *
Robert: It’s easy to succumb to a cultural mind-set about the quick fix–some magic bullet or special technique that will solve everyone’s problems. But that’s naive, isn’t it, to believe that a single session will bring complete healing?
Cecile: We had arranged for a second session, if the girls wanted it. They got to some good places, yet there was much more that could have been done. Part of my job as a facilitator is to learn how far to push people. Open Hearted Listening is not a magic bullet. It’s just a shovel. It all depends on how far you want to take it. It really does come down to people’s willingness–to use the tool and to explore the universe that this tool is a doorway into. To take responsibility for our own healing.
Daniel: The sessions were like a healing tonic. They had an effect in the moment, which also rippled out into the future. It would be great if everyone wanted to do this process every month for a year. Then we’d see some dramatic shifts.
Robert: Perhaps it is only by opening our hearts that we will learn to trust our hearts. And the more we open our hearts, the more open we’ll be to the healing impulses and intuitions that flow through them. Like the impulse that came to me last fall in Chapel Hill. Or the inner knowing that guided Joyce to your presentation at Twin Oaks.
I’m deeply grateful that Open Hearted Listening enabled us to break open that log jam of feelings which had been dammed up for so many years. No one waved a wand and made the logs disappear. They’re still in the river, thrashing around and thumping into each other. But they’re no longer locked up in that massive log jam. They’re moving downstream.