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  • Writer's pictureKit Wisdom

Healthcare humans: do you have space to explore what really matters to you?

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

Have you explored your own heart?



I remember the day I met Josephine quite clearly. I was nervous in the newness. My hands were a little sweaty, my heart a little racy, my mouth a little dry. Not that she could really sense these things, as we were meeting online. Luckily, my covid-lockdown-inspired-avocado-stained jeans were well hidden. (Unluckily, my avocado-stained top was not).


It was the first time I was collaborating with someone who existed across vast oceans (hello Canada ☺️), rather than with someone from my local neighbourhood. It was the first time someone's initial impression of the work I do, would be experienced through a 2D screen, rather than in the beautifully delightful human 3D flesh.


Considering a large chunk of what I offer at Wise centers on my presence and witnessing, where I listen in a whole-body way, I think it's safe to say I was curious (and a little bit apprehensive) about what might ensue.


Josephine and I were meeting to explore her role as a caregiver and a wellbeing consultant, to consider what made her, .... well, her. She could sense a cajoling need to explore her own heart as a pathway to her future, rather than simply consume more things to 'know'.

I find this interesting, the tension between acquiring more intellectual knowledge and exploring more fully what knowledge we already have. At times, it feels like there is a strong bias towards the mindless devouring of information, fervent with urgency, reminding me of a panic buyer in covid, prioritising toilet paper triumph over everything else.


Whilst we are busily surging, we can miss the opportunity to explore the knowledge sources coming from within our bodies and experiences. This sort of exploration is an expedition in itself. An embodied one. The slow-burning self-awareness, realisation, comprehension, and experiential understanding that occurs, can not take place in our minds alone.


We need to enter our beautiful vessels in search of knowledge. We need to go in search of our hearts.


These moments have a sense of spaciousness to them as they demand the skill of noticing. A skill that is worryingly becoming less and less practiced in our modern world.
Noticing requires being with, leaning in, observing, wondering, watching, without trying to fix. .... yep, without trying to fix.
But there is so much seduction in the fix, why would we need to notice when someone can just tell us what we need to see, right? Because then we can quickly move on to the fixing and everything will be certain again. Phew, problem solved.
It makes me wonder though, if someone tells us what we need to see, are we really noticing?

 

What might we notice, if we gave it a go?


We might wonder how we feel, ask our body what it senses, embrace contemplation, and welcome silence. We might willingly step into an oversized game of connect-the-dots, one where we feel our way in, curiosity as the leader, following questions rather than looking for answers.


We might feel and understand connections we once blustered past, become aware of relationships between ideas and experiences that we may never have considered. Perhaps noticing stimulates the colouring in of a black and white context, perhaps it engenders unseen shapes and complexity.


What if noticing is where beauty breathes?


This sort of expansion feels like a different kind of learning, one that is largely missed in our fast-paced world. It inherently requires slowing down, reflecting, and listening to ourselves and others in another way. A way that differs from the traditionally didactic way we have been taught to learn.

Perhaps we need to start noticing the rushing. Noticing the missing. Noticing the disconnection. Noticing the knowing that does not include the feeling of knowing. Noticing the bereft-ness of beauty.


And value what we notice.


Perhaps the contemplative nature of noticing will unfurl, bolster, and transform the relationships between our glorious hearts, bodies, and minds.


I wonder how much of this is part of journeying home to ourselves.


 

Back to Josephine and my Covid-lockdown-inspired-avocado-stained 'uniform' as a backdrop to our first meeting. (Gee wiz, did I get caught up in the noticing of noticing 😍).


I actually loved our first date awkwardness, beautiful in its humanness and unmistakable as we stumbled through humble introductions. I could sense the thoughtful intent between us, whilst also recognising the palpable, stored energy, excitedly waiting in the wings. A bit like a 6-year-old at 5 am on Christmas morning, (or a nearly-40-year-old about to catch up with mates, sans kids, after their 5th covid-hard-lockdown).


If I think back now, I remember noticing that we were both beaming. You know that sort of smile that is contagious in its spontaneity?

We quickly discovered our mutual passion and advocacy in support of care for the caregiver, through a wellbeing lens inspired by the world of positive psychology.


Whilst Josephine's landscape entailed the more traditional caregiver role and its need for acknowledgment and consideration, mine developed from a physiotherapy background that is deeply curious about the conditions required for well-being to emerge, amongst a healthcare system that is disconnected from and deeply hurting its own heart.


Hurt that impacts all of us - those who provide care, and those who receive care.

Within this tricky context, I could sense Josephine's heart almost immediately. The more we related, the more we resonated. When she spoke about how she thought I could help her, I heard both tenderness and strength in her words. Her questions had an openness, a willingness, a want to explore - a flame of curiosity that seemed to both nourish and embolden her activist embers.


Embers that are integral to the healing of our breaking healthcare system, which is in desperate need of being heard by all of its members. Heard in a way that truly listens, that is open to seeing unmet needs, acknowledging past hurt, and committing to a hard path of restoration.
Josephine showed up with her whole heart, willing and ready, as an agent of change.

With an eye for detail, she was very keen to figure out all the how's, whilst I showed up with an eye for perspective, just as keen to wonder about the what's, the why's, and the who's.


I could sense a big part of her was energised to action points, whereas a big part of me wanted nothing more than to meander along a contemplative path. A zoomer-inner-er and a zoomer-outer-er. Action and wondering. Movement and stillness. Yin and Yang. Thelma and Louise ... I could go on ... (but I won't!).


Perhaps our differences, in what we each brought to the table, upon a shared foundation of meaning, was one part of the success of our relationship?

Perhaps a very large part?


To me, being able to work with people who have different strengths, different lenses, different noticings, is what makes work not only enjoyable, but so damn meaningful.
This meaning is what fosters fertile ground for the unfurling of creativity within the differences. Every idea, every wondering, every tricky moment - has depth and value inherent to it, purely by nature of a relationship grounded in reflective appreciation.

Our discussion centered on Josephine's world of caregivers and developing their wellbeing through positive psychology tools such as savouring, high quality connection, strengths exploration, and meaning cultivation. We worked together, designing beautiful ways to slow down and notice and explore the carer's story, as well as the caree's.


We created a place for these stories to stand side by side, each making space for the other, each acknowledging the other, each respecting the other's ability to colour the presence of multiple truths.


One could argue we went in search of the tenderness and strength in those hearts that sustain the caregiving world, unearthing their deeper stories as a means of self-nourishment.
Providing space to witness these stories, in a world often deaf to marginalised voices, engenders a powerful practice for cultivating rich soil within our healthcare system.
As we delved further into the caregiver's stories, we inevitably found ourselves delving further into Josephine's story and witnessing her needs - both met and unmet. As a caregiver and a wellbeing consultant, and also as a Mum, a partner, a female, a neighbour, and a human going through the collective and individual grief of a worldwide pandemic.

What did we notice?


Oh, many a beautiful thing.


There is so much grace in seeking space for a hurting heart. As our time together morphed, evolved, and changed shape, we intuitively, and yet also intentionally, started each session making space for hers.


In a world where there is so much pressure to move on, get over it, look on the bright side, and find a fix, this was, at first, tricky for Josephine to be okay with. I sensed the permission to lean in, or perhaps leaning in without fixing, felt wrong for her.


To me, this makes sense, as she is someone who champions wellbeing from a positive psychology lens.
Here, it's natural to find ourselves wanting to search for the good, the joy, and the delightful - as we now know, through mounting evidence, that there are a plethora of resources in focusing on what is going well for us and intentionally building on that.

And yet, what happens when we move too quickly into that space, and turn away from the hurt?


What happens when we selectively honour our feelings, when we marginalise those that are not bright and shiny?


What happens when we close down parts of us that need to be seen and heard?



 

As Josephine softened and leaned into that heart space with me, we both noticed and witnessed the complexity of what it means to being human right now. Loss of connection, loss of touch, loss of smiles, loss of normalcy, loss of openness; loss of pathways, loss of knowing, loss of certainty.


Loss. Hurt. Sadness. Anger. Grief.


Heart-break. Nausea. Tears. Tension. Collapse.


To be seen in our need to grieve, knowing each person's pathway is wholly unique, can be powerful in its intimacy and resonance. Finding space for our body's inner landscape to speak its story becomes central.

And to me, resonance is what really matters. How we can attune to one another, in those moments that do have a story to tell, but do not necessarily need an answer, a learning, or even a meaning assigned. Perhaps just space.


Neuroscience research now shows us that to change how we feel, we must become aware of our inner experience, and figure out how to befriend it, how to relate to it in a way that sees it, hears it, honours it's story.


Have you heard one of those stories lately? Where the story filled the space. The story was the resonance. The story was the intimacy. The story held us. There were no questions, no answers, no larger purpose. There was no room for anything but the story.

In witnessing Josephine's story and giving it room to breathe, we made space for her humanness. Yes, we also worked towards the doing stuff, the actionable things, the goals, the intentions, the projects. We stepped into completer-finisher mode, making genuine, honest resources for caregivers.


Yet, I wonder about their shape, their integrity, and their resonance, if we had not explored what really mattered to Josephine. I wonder how whole they would have felt. I wonder how whole she would have felt.

I am aware, in writing about this, I am perhaps attempting to convey meaning. I have a bias around beauty, and meaning, and relationships.
And yet, perhaps this is a story for resonance.

Perhaps there is no learning here, nor answers. Perhaps my meandering contemplation of Josephine coming into my life is just that. A story that I am telling. A sharing of my heart in relationship with my mind, noticing another's heart in relationship with her mind.


And noticing our relationship's emerging innate beauty, as solid ground from which to breathe.

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