When my brother succeeded in getting me to join an Alanon group in 1994 or 1995 I had little understanding of the healing for mind and spirit I would find among the gentle, powerful souls that opened the door to healing simply by listening to me and speaking of their own paths in a way that made it clear I could take what I found healing and leave the rest.
What I did know was that I was deeply afraid of others trying to tell me how to think, how to live, or even who to be. What I did not know was that the boundary violations I had experienced when I was young had created some very large trauma that was only increased by living through the slow deaths of both of our parents when my brother and I were teenagers.
Healing and a deep inspiration flowed from a combination of those inspiring spaces for listening and walkabouts in the forests and mountains, first of Orgeon and then of New Mexico. And what I found was an understanding that no one had the answer for me, no one had the right to tell me what I should do, that only by that personal walk with God in those places of quietness and stillness could I hear and see and feel and find my own muse, my own path, my own unique way of creating and connecting.
I have begun to understand the enormous power of words, the extent to which the misuse of words has created large swaths of humanity and society with seriously reduced capacity for sensing reality, sensing the power of the words and images that are thrown around so carelessly.
So much of what we say to each other is either powerless, without inspiration or filled with power to damage and limit those who accept the words. This comes either as a result of ignorance (the most common case) or intentional malevolence. I have been guilty of using words in ways that were not respectful of the need for others to find their own way. Phrases like “you should do …” are rarely helpful or useful and are often damaging. I would now argue that they never belong in print because, when they are appropriate, it is always very situation dependent. When they do appear with well intentioned people, I believe it is most often due to enthusiasm for discovered insights that have worked well for them.
We discover something that works for us and we immediately evangelize others, certain we know the way, that we have the answer for them as well. This is most pronounced in those that have an undeveloped gift for teaching, but it seems to effect everyone who has made discoveries they think others might need. So often we speak these words and add force of our own, lest those listening (or who are forced to listen) not get the importance of what we are saying.
Yet this betrays a misunderstanding of the power of truth and inspiration. It shows we are not sufficiently aware of how others find their muse, their path of creativity and connection.
Balanced, wholistic truth contains in itself all the power needed for it to take root and grow. In growing, it adapts to the soil it finds, encouraging the uniqueness it finds, illuminating the creativity that results. The creativity that results in turn illuminates new and original facets of that truth. A simple telling of a narrative containing that truth, without force, transmits that truth in a way that is most likely to be accepted, though perhaps laying, like seeds in the ground, awaiting just the right conditions for to take hold and grow.
The encouragement to the listeners to find, explore, hear the stillness themselves, to become adventurers and participants in that deepest conversation with their Teacher — this becomes the most powerful thing we can do for others.
In their seeing what we have learned, what we have found, what is part of our story, they are inspired to begin their own journey, to find their own muse.
It is arrogance, blind as it always is, that leads us to think we can find the path for others. Sometimes that arrogance is a subtle, cultural type of arrogance. Other times it is overt and obnoxious.
When we begin to see clearly and deeply, the humility that must accompany this leads us to get out of the way of others in their quest to discover who they are, where they can go and what they are privileged to create.
We discover that the path of the creative teacher and mentor, collaborating alongside those involved in the joy of finding and following their own paths, is an experience full of living energy and fresh discovery.