What is it about being witnessed that brings us in so much closer, more at home in ourselves? There’s a disruption to the seductive pull of stubborn independence, isolation and separation. A ripening of our fruits. The tenderness of human connection draws us out through the tiny cracks and crevices of our heavy armor, eventually stripping us naked of our defenses, holding up a mirror to reflect our most raw and honest selves.
I have been spending a lot of time lately in circle with others, exploring deeper ways of relating, expressing, and playing in the arena of sacred theater. It has been beautiful, uncomfortable, expansive, terrifying, and joyful. I often ride an arc that moves through pouty resistance and avoidance into ecstatic expansion, with a full buffet of emotions in between. Leaning into the intentional space where I am eye to eye, heart to heart, body to body with others, my whole being can take a deep breath and let go of my tight grip on control, my need for permission slips, my reflex to hide. I can take in the deep medicine of witnessing others, letting their bravery, expression, and sharing of their heart imprint onto my own, inviting me to go deeper, expand wider, surrender more fully.
I recently read about a group of women in Romania who work as wailers; a dying tradition in which they attend the funerals of people they don’t know and they cry, wail, and sing songs of mourning. They spoke about how people have lost the ability to mourn publicly, that death has become taboo, crying is seen as weak, and their old ways have been overshadowed by the church. They see their work as imperative because it brings people together, showing those in bereavement that they are not alone, and that their grief is shared across the whole village. They give them permission to feel deeply, and feel deeply for those who are unable to – a way of saying, here, let us show you that nothing you need to express could be too much. What a beautiful offering, and how bizarre that we’ve been so deeply conditioned to believe that our emotional landscape is weak, excessive, and unwanted, and train ourselves to contain, conform, numb, and push through, even when our inner terrain is on fire.
Your being will not be given more than it can handle, but you can only hold so much before it spills over. You are water – the dams behind your eyelids can not contain the depths of your ocean forever. Let the unraveling be witnessed; it gifts us the permission to feel, to surrender, to release, and to be held through it all with loving hands. Our tears fall with more grace. Our trembling voice carries more bravado. Our words, an anthem of reclamation. The breath that has been sitting in your lungs, trapped under the weight on your chest, can finally slip through your lips with a deep sigh. There is another heart in front of us that says I see you, I hear you, I feel you; you do not have to hold all of this on your own, let me share in this love and grief alongside you. We are storytellers by nature, and a heart cracked-open has more to tell, more to give, more capacity to love. Being witnessed in your anger is liberating; a fire that catalyzes change and burns to the ground what is no longer meant to be left standing. Being witnessed in your pleasure is activating; an invitation to experience the creative, the erotic, the joy that is available to us all. Being witnessed in your grief is expanding; an offering of love and gratitude, an invitation to surrender to the deepest depths of the heart. Sink into the knowing that we all have medicine for each other if we are receptive to receiving, and open to sharing all the parts that we’ve kept so carefully hidden away from the light of each other’s hearts.