I have a friend who remembers every slight that she has ever suffered...
as if it had happened yesterday.
No matter how anyone talks to her or tries to help, she remains locked
in her painful memories.
This story is dedicated to her...and to the many others that suffer similarly.
Some years ago, I attended a Reiki intensive.
It was a week long hands-on healing learning experience.
The Reiki master had a wide-ranging circle of students.
One never knew who or what to expect in these gatherings.
We were sharing accommodation in a bed and breakfast.
Pairs had been chosen by the teacher before our arrival.
Although the teacher claimed to have made those choices based
on his knowledge of us, his choice of my roommate struck me
as based more on a bit of whimsy or mischief.
My new roommate arrived just as I did.
We each registered shock along with ill-hidden dismay as we were introduced, after which we were ushered to our room and left to our unpacking.
"What on earth!" I thought. "She is the LAST person I would share
a room with! This is never going to work!"
I couldn't even face her long enough to be civil.
She, I have to admit, looked down her nose in disdain at me, as well.
We simply flashed!
She strode in, looking for all the world like a model, heels clacking,
fancy red suitcase and make-up bag in tow.
"What is Miss Material Girl doing at a healing conference?! This was a joke!" We took quick inventory of one another and headed for opposite corners of the guest room. She tossed her mane of long blonde hair over her shoulder and proceeded to commandeer most of the closet and drawer space for her wardrobe.
She looked like Celine Dion...larger than life with that same regal bearing.
We each took furtive and critical glances at the other as we unpacked.
For her part, she found me unspeakably plain and drab.
"Might as well be staying in a convent! She's no fun! Why doesn't she take more pride in her appearance!?"
One backward glance from her found me unpacking a bit of lacy underwear, however, and at that she thought there might be a shred of hope for me.
It was obvious we came from very different worlds.
There would be no meeting of the cultures.
We were clearly annoyed with the situation and were glad to get out of that room. Once inside the conference room, we headed for opposite ends as the workshop started..
To make matters worse, I overheard someone say she was a trade rep for the World Wrestling Federation!
Was she one of those scantily-clad floozies?
We were opposites, all right! Big-time party girl!
Judgments swirled on both sides of the equation.
As we prepared for our sessions, we looked around the room for people we might compatibly work with. Our first exercise consisted of pairing off with someone you felt comfortable with. Great! Things went predictably well.
As we prepared for our second session, however, we were asked to pair up with the one person in the room that you felt you would most want to avoid...
the person you were most repulsed or triggered by.
The idea behind this advice was that the people you felt most at odds with
had the most to teach you.
While it was easy and pleasant to work with people you liked and felt comfortable with, it was far more valuable to challenge your prejudices and judgments.
It was terribly clear to each of us who that person was, but our feelings were so strong that we attempted to dodge the assignment, hoping to choose an alternate person. It was a bit uncomfortable for the dozen or so people in attendance.
Slowly, people drifted across the room and introduced themselves.
The two of us held back stiffly and we were quite cross at the whole idea. Finally, all the others were set and ready to work together.
Just we two remained. We had no choice. We chafed visibly.
It took everything we had to approach each other and begin our work.
For those who are not familiar with Reiki (pronounced: ray-key), Reiki is a Japanese word for "heaven's energy."
Taken simply, it is hands-on healing from a skilled spiritual practitioner.
Reiki must always be offered in a state of compassionate, non-judgmental caring. We had to set aside our personal feelings or, if that was not possible, bring them to the table for exploration and healing.
I don't think either of us had ever had a more challenging assignment.
It was strange that we felt so strongly about a person we didn't even know,
but the fact of the matter was that we didn't like each other and would not have made the effort had we not been forced to.
You have to dig deep for your spiritual side and overcome your opinionated personality. It's the only way it works!
She laid on the massage table and took a deep breath.
I closed my eyes, said a prayer and placed my hands on her head.
I tried to clear my mind and heart and let the healing energy flow.
In the moments that followed, my heart opened and I relaxed, finding it easier to remember that no matter what the appearance and no matter what I thought, she was an eternal soul just as I was.
We are all connected on that level.
We both began to enter the energetic state.
It is like slipping up to the higher levels of your being.
Sometimes music transports us like that...
In that state, I began to drift in and out of her energy.
I was surprised to sense pain under her successful, happy façade.
I felt many kinds of pain inside...
There were flashes of fear and loneliness and remorse.
There was great need...
I felt the beautiful, compassionate energy rising inside...
Learning to heal others begins with one's own healing.
Everyone that was there had come for that reason.
Apparently, appearances could be deceiving.
Many of the people were therapists of various kinds.
They had been drawn to the helping professions because
they had suffered themselves. The walking wounded...
Everyone has a story...some are quite horrific compared to ours.
It seems few souls go unscathed.
As her pain emerged, there were hot tears that soon gave way
to sobbing from deep inside. The dam had broken.
I stayed present with her, supporting her through whatever was coming up for release.
It came in painful waves.
It was a poignant glimpse into her soul and her life.
Gone were any judgments or irritation. We were past all that nonsense now.
That experience opened up a world of understanding and empathy.
Later on in the day, when we traded places on the table,
she entered into my inner world with its painful beginnings.
What happened in our exchanges was so unexpected, so profound,
A new relationship began that day. We marveled at how easily it happened.
We started over, sharing all the private details of our first meeting and the things we felt in our sessions. We laughed at how we had started out.
But we also took some important lessons from those experiences...
From that time on, a close friendship unfolded.
We continued to work with each other and deepen our practice over the next several years.
We went through many experiences of healing and growing as well as some intense learning experiences.
In the end, we were closer than sisters.
Though we lived far apart, we spent many hours over the phone several times a week.
We each had difficult family relationships, so we became family for each other. Every holiday and birthday was shared. It was typical of us to just throw off the holiday obligations and just go have fun in Florida instead.
We were able to grow beyond the things that had hurt us earlier in life and to carve out happier lives.
There were some great adventures along the way!
So much laughter and deep sharing.
It was a rare friendship!
In between shared time, we gave each other support and advice about so many things. We were there for each other through every kind of change, challenge and difficulty. Things continued happily along those lines for several years.
We had endless patience for each other...
That is....until one particular evening.
We were in the midst of a serious heart to heart call one evening.
I was having relationship problems. I had launched into quite a lengthy discussion about my boyfriend and all the problems I was having when my friend suddenly broke into my sad, heavy story with a resounding
Had I heard her right?!
I felt like I had been slapped across the face!
Sliced to the bone!
How could my trusted bosom friend, my closest friend and ally ever, cut me off like that as I was pouring out my heart?!
She meant it, too!
I was reeling from the blow!
We had been going along just like we always had. I never saw it coming!
"What?!" I sputtered into the phone.
"I said," she repeated with emphasis "WHO CARES?!!!"
Ooofff!! Then there was silence...
She was making fun of my problem! I was so insulted!
I had always listened to her problems!! How could she...?!!
Then suddenly, as if I'd heard the twinkle in her eyes, I caught her meaning!
There was an undercurrent of humor mixed with the ridicule in her voice.
It was not malicious at all!
Yes, she was poking fun at my problems!
She was also poking seriously good-natured fun at how wrapped up and heavy I had gotten!
She challenged me...
Oddly, it gave me a moment of relief...
A split second later, I yelled back. "Yeah!!! Who Cares?!"
to which she replied "I don't care! Do you care?!"
"No! I could care less!! What about you?! Do you care?!"
"I've never really cared, if you want to know the truth!!"
"Well, If you don't care, then why should I?!"
We bantered back and forth like that until we collapsed laughing
and hooting with tears streaming down our faces.
Somehow, we had unleashed a torrent of joy!
She had broken the spell!
That was the beginning of what we affectionately called
"The Who Cares Tour."
From that time on, whenever one or the other of us would get all tangled up in our problems or things got too heavy, the other one would come to the rescue with the swift retort of "Who Cares?!!!"
We would tease each other out of our bad moods and seemingly hopeless situations with those two words...
The "Tour" taught us so many things!
Among them: Don't take yourself so seriously...
Don't take any situation or circumstance too seriously.
Make light of the troubles that are sometimes heaped on you.
When we glimpse the Big Picture, most things become laughable.
It is one thing to laugh and be innocent of troubles as children are.
In fact, their carefree laughter is a comfort to us.
But it is quite another thing, to look difficulties in the eye and choose to laugh, knowing what we know as adults...
Learning that all problems invite solutions...
Learning to inject great love and laughter into life's circumstances.
Knowing that it is not only all right, but it is downright necessary on a regular basis, to throw off the heaviness of life.
This story is shared with affection for my esteemed Thai teacher,
Chongkol, who said at the beginning of my healing journey,
"Never forget...you have laughing Buddha."
...and in the words of my most favorite and dangerous writer, Tom Robbins:
"It's never too late to have a happy childhood."
Debra Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org