Sunday, June 24, 2012

Feeling itchy

This morning's reading in Parker Palmer's  A Hidden Wholeness was about Clearness Committees; a particular kind of circle of trust, convened by an individual to help awaken insight on a particular issue.

So here's the deal: I sat in on a clearness committee once, and it was not a pleasant experience. So I needed to look at that from the perspective of years (it was several years ago) and through the lens of whatever wisdom I may have gained since that time.  What is it in me that was rebelling -- and it was definitely rebellion I was feeling -- and why?

I found myself reading closely, to understand the thinking behind clearness committees.  And I could see several things that might trigger me: First of all, there are VERY clear rules to be followed: no eye contact, for one (not a problem), only open-ended questions may be asked (that might have been the problem; I did this before I took the coaching course at Antioch, and may not quite have understood what the nature and function of an open question is), and you need to spend an hour and a half asking them.

I hate to say it, but knowing me I suspect that spending an hour and a half totally focused on someone else's problems may have been the issue (though I honestly don't remember).  I'm human, after all, and want at least some of the time to be about me, or I get bored.  I'm not proud of this, but I do think it's true; maybe it's a function of being an only child?

I also suspect I was responding negatively because forcing me to stay other-focused is a bit like putting a muzzle on a dog.  I say this at least partly because there's a storytelling contest coming up here on the island, so even though I'm not entering I'm more than usually conscious of that way of being in the world, and I think storytelling is my natural response to other people's concerns -- you know, the sort of "Oh, I remember worrying about that and this is how I handled it and this is what happened."

It could also just be that I was so new at the questioning thing that I was carrying a sense of failure because I hadn't gotten good at framing good questions yet.  Since I was not socially adept as a child, school was one of the few places I could succeed, so a lot of my self-esteem is tied up in getting it right, doing it right, being quick to pick up and follow the rules.  So to fail at something new I was trying to learn is always threatening (it's amazing I ever learn anything new, although maybe learning new things is the way my soul likes to keep prodding me forward -- and forcing me to face my fears...)

The root of my issues, though, was probably that I didn't understand the purpose of the clearness committee -- which is to allow the focus subject's soul to speak up; something that has a lot of value to me.  Somehow I suspect I may have missed understanding that that was the objective.  Which would explain why it felt like rebellion -- it's rather like making rules for your kids without explaining why; it almost guarantees rebellion because it seems so arbitrary.  And I do suspect I was one of those children who had the unpleasant habit of asking "why?" all the time.  (Something I wish I did more of as an adult, frankly).

So it was with all these thoughts roiling in my head that I sat down to meditation this morning.  And almost as soon as I closed my eyes the thought came to me: what if, instead of opening your heart to God in meditation, you maybe -- just for a week -- chose to spend that time listening to your own soul; being your own clearness committee.

And OMG you would think I had let a dog loose in a henhouse: my leg started twitching, my stomach started growling, my eye itched, my head itched -- EVERYTHING in me was rebelling against taking the time to listen to my own soul.  I tried everything I could think of to calm all those rebellious parts of me down, but they weren't having any of it.

So of course now I'm wondering, what is it my soul wants to say that my body doesn't want to hear?  It seems clear -- given all that resistance -- that I must be on to something.  And I noticed, after typing that sentence, I gave this HUGE sigh.  Something in me really doesn't want to tackle this.  Well, buckle up, kiddo; it sounds to me like this may be a bit of a bumpy ride -- but someone's gotta go there!  It's kind of like this picture: maybe it's time to stop mindlessly following the path; time to open up the trapdoor and step down into it, see what's ticking down there...

(PS: if you notice a lot of dog analogies here, it's probably because our dog is struggling with seasonal allergies right now.  We've got him wearing a t-shirt and the Cone of Shame, we're giving him benadryl, and still, when he's not sleeping or eating he's scratching and chewing at himself and it's driving me CRAZY.  Fortunately, since it happens every year about this time, I know "this, too, shall pass." But jeez, Louise -- what a pain; I feel itchy just looking at him. Sigh.)


Maureen said...

I had not heard the term "Clearness Committee"; the value or objective of it seems to be implicit in its name. The "committee" part of it makes me want to run in the opposite direction.

In Imago therapy with which I'm familiar, the word "why" is verboten. One has to reframe an issue in the form of a question such as "What is it that is keeping you from ...?" The person invited to dialogue is to look inside, to try to achieve insight by talking through the issue; the listener's aim is to stretch to see the world from the speaker's perspective, not necessarily to agree with it. The dialogue follows a structure that can seem (and is) artificial but can be revealing if practiced correctly. One difficulty in using it is to keep the lizard brain at bay because once it cranks up listening tends to stop. I admire those who can use the technique expertly, which tends to be the case only among those who find themselves fully healed and thus whole. I'm not there yet.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Diane ... this is like a cliff-hanger ... I do hope you'll keep us posted as to what comes out of all this twitching (too funny!)