One of the most important questions we may ask ourselves when we are in a helping role is:
- Why do we want this role?
- Are we doing this work because of our love of youth?
- Because we want to heal our own wounds?
- Because we want to change the world? Because we feel empty inside and want to feel better?
- Because we want to serve?
There are no right or wrong answers here, only the need to know what aspect of our own ego we are bringing to this work. The answer to this question may very well be the largest obstacle we bring to doing this work and seeing another human being through a clean & clear lens, and being present with someone without our own agenda getting in the way. Why? Because the attachments we have to whatever we are doing are the veils through which we are seeing, the veils of personal attachment that interfere with our ability to be truly present in a non judgmental and helpful relationship with another person.
The same holds true for all of our ideas, opinions, and beliefs about how anything "should" be. So the second question to ask is: What are our beliefs and feelings about all of the issues we are discussing with young people? Our beliefs are the filters that prevent us from truly listening and hearing with an open heart and mind. These will be the filters that truly prevent us from connecting on a deeper level with another person. We must honor our beliefs because they comprise the personality we identify with and live within. And, when it comes to truly listening, in a non-judgmental manner, in a healing manner, we must suspend (not deny) this aspect of our being. When we come invested in our own "SELF" then we will unconsciously, and at times consciously, direct, mold, mutate the process to the issues, feelings and behaviors that serve us, not necessarily the person or persons we are desiring to serve.
Our task is to listen deeply, to help another person come to the conscious understanding of their own feelings and beliefs, the etiology of these beliefs, how they do or dont serve the individual, and how they can be changed, if desired, to better support a more conscious self and life.
When a young person feels in their gut that we are offering our unconditional presence, then, and only then, will they ask us for guidance. They WILL ask us for the wisdom we have within, based on our experience and deeper knowing. They WILL want to know us, our feelings and beliefs, once this healing relationship is established. A loving relationship is healing in and of itself!
Yet the most profound and helpful guidance will be when we can gently redirect that individual to their own inner wise person. Whatever the age, we each carry within us the collective Wise One, who feels deeply and knows what is the truest of truths for that soul. When we can guide a person to their own deepest truth, then we are supporting that being in actualizing their soul purpose, not ours, not societies, not their familys, but their own. It is our responsibility, and essential for our common good, to provide this to our youth and each other.
Question number three: Are there any monsters in the shadows that we are afraid of and what will we do when they are mirrored to us by anothers pain? Hearing someone elses fears, anger, hopelessness, or any form of pain or distress, mirrors for us own shadow side our own pain. To truly serve another we must be willing to sit in our own darkness, feel our own hopelessness and stare into the eyes of the monster. Our own fears may prevent us from being willing to journey there with someone else. Often adults interpret the discomfort they feel, when listening to the darkness their children express, as a measure of their concern for their children. And though at times that might be true, there are other times when it is our own inner shadow being reflected back. The most courageous way to serve a person is in the willingness to hear their darkness, identify when it is triggering our own, and knowing when to suspend our own veil of fear so we may listen fully and be present for them. When a person seeks out our personal experience we must be courageous enough to share our own darkness with them as well as our light.
The Many Ways of Serving
There are many ways to "be" with someone and many ways to serve. When working with an individual or a group it is important to find out what that person needs rather that assume that what we want to give them is what they truly need. So go to the expert, the person you are trying to serve, and ask them what would serve them best. Always attempt to be clear as to the intention of the meeting and then be open to the organic evolution that will occur. In whatever way we chose to serve and share of our selves, let it be experienced in a container of love and trust.
Sometimes what someone needs is for us to only listen. They do not want or need us to resolve the issue, fix it or give advice. They want their feelings to be received and held in the loving vessel of our attention. Reflective Listening: Sometimes what someone needs is to be "heard" which means not only do they need us to be present with their words or feelings, they also need to know that we have understood the essence of what they have said. This can be especially important in times of conflict. At these times we can reflect back to them what we have heard them say so that they know they have been heard. We may need to do this process more than once to get to the understanding correctly since though we have listened we have not always necessarily heard.
Play, Celebration, Ecstasy:
Serving can take the form of sharing joy, creativity, dance, celebration, or sharing an ecstatic moment. Allow the celebration of life and each other to as much a part of your work as any other.
The deep connection to our own inner spirit and just sitting with another person in that "space" can be the most healing sharing of all. We culturally tend to place the highest value on the sharing our emotions, mind or our bodies. I offer that what we most truly have to give in service is the presence of our own spirit, our own deepest self- shared in the silence of the moment.