Diane Sawyer once said her job was to “be a powerful witness” where people are suffering. Even though my life assignment so far hasn’t included Afghanistan or Syria, I can’t help but notice that people are suffering all around me. So her job description is the same as mine.
Responding with an open heart to others’ struggles gives me all the lessons I can manage in this life. Because it brings me right back to my own. When do I help out? When is it their job? What is my moral obligation to my brother or sister? Entire religious texts and thousands of years of contemplation have gone into answering those questions.
What I continue to notice is that my own tricky little mind can take me into realms of suffering that can vie with some of the worst external circumstances. Ask any friend who has suffered from serious depression.
Ask me, when I’m believing the world is on a path of mass suicide. Or when I believe that my own life will just get more difficult. There’s a rabbit hole that can suck me right down into its roiling center.. And from that place I’m not likely to put my energy into solutions that will address the issues that are causing me stress.
It begins innocently enough. My own personal news scroll might read: I need things to get better now. But they’re not. Or: These injuries/ this physical pain will never heal. And that means… (any number of things).
What happens then? The minute I buy into the beliefs, I’m on the brink of The Rabbit Hole. Of surrender to some dark and unappealing fate. One that I can’t control. But I want to.
Most everyone I know does better when they share the load with a safe and neutral friend. This is certainly true in my world. Ask my friends, my husband, my colleagues.
BUT. Lately I’ve been drawing on another invaluable resource. I’ve been calling on my Wise Self: my own personal, movable compassionate witness. I’ve put my own inner Diane Sawyer on speed dial. So in the last month she’s just been showing up on her own, at the right moment.
Less than a month ago I was at the scene of a head-on collision. My own. There she was, that inner voice, gently telling me to sit until somebody came, stand when they asked, to pay attention to what was next to do.
She hasn’t left, during this healing process. I intend to keep her around, make that Powerful Witness one of my top advisors.
Where do you experience the insight and wise counsel of an inner Witness? When does it come to you? How do you know the voice? What’s the difference between that voice and the old reactions or impulses? What have you experienced when you discerned the difference?
How do you invite your Compassionate Witness into your life? Please share.