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“not knowing” in action

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Again and again I’m amazed how I’m able to step into unfamiliar situations (at hospice) and intuitively know what to do or not do, when to speak and when to remain silent, when to stay and when to leave, when to touch and when to keep a distance. I don’t have a perfect record and sometimes wished I could vanish and start over again, but …

This afternoon I noticed two men walking down the hallway: the younger one shaking his head, arms folded across his chest; the older one following at few feet behind, speaking father son horsequietly. The father and I had spoken before, but I knew the son only by name … also that their wife-and-mother’s health was declining rapidly. 

They circled for a while and came to a stop in the lounge. Without a plan and propelled by a wish to be of service, I approached. Making first eye contact with the dad (to obtain his silent consent), I introduced myself to the son. We shook hands and I spoke his name. Would you like to talk? I asked, noticing the tears. No thank you, I’m OK, he replied. 

I withdrew. Nothing spectacular had happened, except that we’d made contact. We’d touched and looked into each other’s eyes. Perhaps they’d discuss this encounter afterwards, or maybe not. In any case, they both knew now that I was available.

When we function from [a] place of spacious awareness rather than from our analytical mind (write Ram Dass and Paul Gorman) we are often surprised to find solutions to problems without having “figured them out.”  It’s as if out of the reservoir of our mind which contains everything we know and everything we’re sensing at the moment, all that could be useful rises to the surface and presents itself for appropriate action.

source: Dass, R. & Gorman, P. (2003). The listening mind. In: Brady, M. (ed). The wisdom of listening. Boston: Wisdom Publications, p.123.


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