by Kathy Harwood Long
Recently at a restaurant, about 80 of us listened to a child shrieking for over five minutes. I felt every instinct to jump up and help but watched as the mother and extended family engaged the little one. While I continued eating with my friends, I pondered the power of an empathetic connection with the family of the distressed child because there was no ignoring him!
“Staying With” others who are challenged vs. shaming, or the ubiquitous blaming, ghosting, blocking, etc., does not mean we become doormats for others’ behaviors. But Staying With one’s own self in the midst of distressing situations can reveal self-awareness resulting in an inner trust and safety to respond with self-care and compassion. Staying With can create an atmosphere for discovery in which we overcome persistent destructive patterns. This is our societal opportunity as we all reel and reckons with threats and shootings at schools, and our children cry out to us, their greater family–the family of humanity.
David Bohm, a theoretical scientist who understood connectivity at a quantum level and its conscious application in the mind, referred to spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti and what I call the power of Staying With: “Krishnamurti said that to be is to be related. But relationships can be very painful. He said that you have to think/feel out all your mental processes and work them through, and then that will open the way to something else.” What is that something else that can be discovered when Staying With–in a restaurant, with a spouse, a family, or with one’s own self–when wanting to run, hide, avoid?
As the child of a mother who had experienced the trauma of abandonment, I often listened as she processed her life. We talked almost daily, bridging thousands of miles by phone. One gorgeous summer evening, when she again despaired, I took her for a “walk” outside describing the sights. I listened to her crying and felt I could not bear her suffering. I instinctually moved the phone away from my ear. The daily spiritual practice to stay with my breath, to stay in my heart, surely helped. The last rays of the sun reflected off my cell phone, and I held it and her pain up to that light. Something greater than us absorbed us and held us. Her cries subsided…I acknowledged her great sadness…we continued our walk invisibly connected, strong in an unimagined beauty I could not create by myself.
Staying With, relating with compassion, empathizing, all this is an energy felt. Isn’t this what we most want when we cry out? I’m sure the parents with the bellowing child were relieved when he finally calmed, and the collective chatter of the restaurant was restored to a soothing hum. I marveled at us. Togetherness, after years of covid precautions. A community creating the light of something greater. Staying With. Let’s do this!