Akash, the teacher and friend with whom I’m “spending” the past few weeks with have been feeling very tired lately. Recovering from a stroke, she is making her way through learning how to walk and to stand out of a half- body paralysis. In the past few days whenever I would be at her company up in her room, I would feel so tired. It took me more then a week to realise that the tiredness that I’m experiencing around her might be connected to her own exhaustion.
Tonight was the first time since the tired wave had fallen upon her, that I felt quite ok and not tired at all in her presence. So I asked her if she is less tired, and she responded that it is so.
My ego had felt so pleased with itself that I have this special connection with the teacher that I follow half the world around dancing to Gurdjieff complicated movements, so special and unique that I can actually feel some of what she is feeling. I told her that I only just realised how tired I’ve been feeling around her and that I think that my body can feel her exhaustion. She told me that’s it’s empathy. My ego, feeling that there is no “special connection” if it’s “merely” empathy that I’m feeling towards her, said “but I’ve been having empathy towards other people and it never felt like that. I could understand what they are feeling, but I never actually felt what they are feeling”. And so she says, in her direct matter-of-factly way, “Empathy, when experienced through all our centres, is not only to understand what the other is going through. To understand- that’s only the intellectual centre. But to fully empathise, that would also demand the psychological aspect and the sensing and feeling in the body.”
“So you’ve been feeling empathy, but to recognise that whatever you are experiencing is not your own, and not to let if affect you.”
This is a true teacher to me, that would not feed my craving to build castles in the sky out of a specialness feeling, but would give a clear view of what is really going on and how to deal with it in a practical way. And all along with that, would also teach me that I’m worthy, that I have a right to exist, that I’m lovable, and in a way- that I’m special. but not because of the funny reasons that my ego comes about with (in order to distract me from the deeper teaching behind what’s really going on), but just because. because I am me and because I exist.
And then it rained on me, or as we would say in hebrew- “the token had fallen” (נפל האסימון) – to refer to the old payphones we had in the streets when I was a kid, long before cellphone and smartphones appeared mercilessly in our life and changed it completely. There would be these special metal tokens (asimonim), that you would buy in the post office, and drop through the slot of the phone to be able to make a call. Sometime the phone wouldn’t “catch” the coin, the way modern days automatic soft drinks / snacks machines sometimes do not catch some of the change coins you put through, and you would not be able to make the call. so you would try again and again, and only when the token had fallen correctly and accepted, then you hear the magic sound through the earpiece that tells you that now you can dial the number of your choice. We use this phrase as a way to say that an understandment had finally came into affect, an old-modern way to say- a realisation…
So, the token had fallen, that this empathy story is not only about understanding that this feeling is not my own, not to own it, and learn to be unaffected, but also that it comes in many other variations in my life, other then this empathy. Now I could understand why when other people are being scolded around me, I physically feel as if I myself had been scolded. And I realise that it’s actually an issue of energetical and emotional boundaries. Being beaten and scolded quite often in my childhood, by the hand of the barer of the womb that I came from, I slowly realise I have an issue about setting my borders, that have been physically violated time and again when I was too young to know. And these boundaries are not only about defending my body from an actual physical hit, but also learning not to let in each and every feeling and emotion that passes by me, and also when they do arrive inside cause it’s a person I love, recognising them as not my own.
And so, a tiny-grand token had fallen, and finally getting the call is more then just a technical thing. It is finally getting the communication with my higher self, getting to finally have the “working self” out of the automaticity of the machine that I habitually am. It is the “working self” taking command of the many selfs and leading them in an aware way through life. So when Akash says that “we are sleepwalking through life”, she does not mean that we are only not awake, but also that we are unaware of which self is running the machine now. This is the automaticity- that each and every moment a self is in control of the machine and the commend centre is being held now by this Grand Dictator little I, and a moment later by the “poor scolded” little self, and then some time after by the joyful funny little one.
All have basically the right to live and exist, all are to be respected and heard, but being conscious of which is holding the headquarters of the me-machine, and choosing which one is appropriate for the current moment, that’s the awareness work. And it is done during daily life and moments, not only during the meditation practice.
And so it is felt when my dear friend is feeling sick for so long and I empathise with her. And so it’s done when someone is scolded around me. And so it is done when the Dictator commands me absurd little rules to abide to. And so it is done when every time, every day, the poor little one cries during stretching that he is tired and “not again” this demanding stretching and “not again” this stupid counting up to 30 and each position and each movement again and again. And so it is done when anger arises during a dance intensive and I can not deal with it and let it pour out of me, and so it is done in being forgiving towards my self and understanding that it’s ok that I am not able to do the work always, to be aware always. And just like in meditation, I find that I have deviated from the path, I remember to return, and I draw my attention again. To my breathing, to the palms of my feet and hands, to the energies in my body, to my many many selves, to my life.