Somewhere between life and death lies a river that has a few rapids and stones and even the odd waterfall as it cascades into an eternal ocean. Along the way tears turn into tributaries as they are indeed a tribute to love and an act of gratitude for the shared ride in whatever vessel has carried you in the first place. Lir, ruler of Time and Deep Space commissioned his son, the Lord of the Sea, Manannan Mac Lir to be ready for his responsibilities of safe passage for his charges. Watching a loved one make this journey is one of the great privileges of life. To be witness to the labour, to be witness to their story and to their love is a forever gift. So I come to this Sunday with another experience under my belt of this time in another’s life. The transition is yet to be complete and there is not a foot in the boat, but the ticket has been bought and the passport stamped and there are people gathered on the wharf to wave goodbye.
These are the times when the compassion revolution is offered up for strength and for guidance – to help with all the choices to be made. For every moment offers a choice of your best self to step into the space. This is a revolution inspired by wanting the best of our health and social systems and those who administer and work in them. It is a revolution fuelled by disciplines of empathy, emotional intelligence, creativity and courage. It is a revolution where the revolutionaries drill with tools of mindfulness, curiosity and finely tuned listening skills. It is a revolution where the heart opens and the brain re-wires. At this time I am being invited deeper into this revolution and am getting a masterclass from the staff at the Hospice, who connect with ease, confidence and clarity. They pay attention to the tiniest of details so expertly an untrained eye or ear would not even notice, I suspect they are so experienced they don’t even notice their own micro-skills so embedded in their practice. There is still never enough for those with an insatiable appetite for anxiety, yet staff just seem to use this as an opportunity to practice their discipline. It is a great lesson for me and while I am a reluctant learner I am taking in the opportunity to learn from them. I did turn to the colouring in pencils and chose a series of feathers to invoke my beloved Hildegard who said of herself, she was a feather on the breath of God. I am never a great one for small talk and my level of irritation of unworthy conversations gnaws at me, this is my Achilles heel (which I have reframed into my Achilles hell!). I don’t want to talk trivia. I have said many times before “life is too short for crap conversations” and in these moments my tolerance of them is at its lowest. With practice, I am learning more about the transformational nature of curious enquiry as a way to unlock and reveal something deeper – a bit like Michelangelo – I chip away to find the lion in the marble. It is a craft and an art and I am very much an apprentice. In the company of Stephanie Dowrick earlier in the year, I sat at the feet of a master and I am invoking her wise counsel in the moments I need to find more compassion for others and ultimately myself. Being a revolutionary requires discipline in the field of battle and daily practice to be ready for surprise attacks!
The re-wiring is beginning to be visible, but embedded and new neuronal pathways are not fully formed or even mapped out, so I am getting tangled up still from time to time. Making better choices mostly, but not always, is another reminder of the power of self-compassion, to give myself a break. I was distracted by a three year old’s classification system of which animals belonged where – essentially his advice was binary – in a farm or in a jungle. Such truth in this analysis – we are tamed or wild – and the process of domestication can take generations. The exotics roam free and find places of camouflage in their surroundings, the conquered are at the service of the system. A mix of both is what sustains me, and remembering that is an act of self-compassion in these mega-moments where Time and Deep Space is passed over to the Ferryman for another experience to add to this often messy, revolutionary pilgrim’s journey.