RSS Feed

… and what do you do?

Posted on

The recent retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli attracted 150 participants to a mountain-top near San Jose, CA. Most of them came from the US, many from Canada, others from as far away as Argentina, Norway, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, England, and Taiwan. What connected us was a deep caring for your own and others’ awakening. As researchers, teachers, physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists, and spiritual caregivers we’d come to practice mindfulness from morning to night, and to learn about MBSR.

Inevitably someone would come up asking, “and what do you do?” as a way to make contact. I was often caught off guard, not wishing to be boxed in. Besides, ever since I turned ‘volunteer,’ there’s simply no quick response, even if I wanted to give it. As the week went by we spent more and more time in silence. When we did speak and connect with others, our approaches became gentler with each occasion. Less of what do you do and more of what brings you here?

The Cistercian monk Thomas Merton (1915-1968) writes:

If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.
 
How might we meet a friend or a stranger today? How can we make whole-hearted connections? How will I open my/self to be present with each encounter in each moment?
 
source: Merton, T. (1960). My argument with the Gestapo. New York: New Directions, p. 160.
Advertisements

6 responses »

  1. I love this post and this quote. It always makes me uncomfortable when people ask “what do you do?” I know sometimes it is an opener but it feels like they are doing some kind of value test, are you worth talking to. I love “what brings you here?” And “what am I living for”. Now these are questions that really are worthwhile.

    Thanks, Peter. Hope your week was fruitful.

    Reply
  2. this is excellent … i appreciate these questions – to ask myself first and also to ask of others. i agree that the ‘what do you do?’ question is so inadequate to even begin to allow us to connect with each other, let alone ourselves. your time away sounds enriching.

    Reply
  3. I’ve been trying to use questions like “what brings you here?” more often. It’s hard for me to even answer the “what do you do?” question right now anyway, and I know I’m not alone. But more so, I agree that it’s not really much of a way to connect with people.

    Reply
  4. I was looking for those questions. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Beautiful..those questions really get to the heart of the person we are connecting with.

    Reply
  6. “If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”

    Lovely quote.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: