Has the Lockdown helped us find our our Truth?….
This video clip reminds me of this day, last year, 6th June 2019, a day that saw me make it as far as the City of Burgos, (The resting place of El Cid), early in my Camino Pilgrimage to Santiago De Compostela. I had been walking just over a week. Being lost in the silence, the isolation and the wide expansive, yet beautiful countryside was something I yearned for on this break, as I sought to find my truth. The steady rhythmic crunch of the gravel beneath my feet at times seemed almost hypnotic. Carrying all I had on my back, stripped me of all pretence and exposed me as I am. I was always drawn to the words from John’s Gospel stating “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. Presenting genuinely as I am, has become of great importance to me in life, but is something we all find difficult at times. I do think however, there comes a time in all our lives when we are called to stop “pretending”, mainly to ourselves, and start living. This call comes in many different forms.
Following a road traffic accident back in 2006, I decided to leave my original vocation in life as a teacher and move into the world of Counselling. My shift in path, reminded me often of the legendary Irish Sports Commentator Michael O’Heir’s humorous reference to Dublin’s Dr Pat O’Neill, an energetic and tough wing back, as he commentated on a rip-roaring all-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry. As an enthusiastic O’Neill broke up a Kerry attack and cleared the ball with his usual “no nonsense” style, O’Heir could be heard to say, “Dr Pat O’Neill, breaks them up on Sunday and makes them up on Monday”. The classic poacher turned game-keeper scenario.
Teaching was something I had greatly enjoyed, but exposure to trauma and loss, some “20 plus” years into my career had a much greater impact on me than I could ever have predicted or understood. A part of me was glad to go, taking many happy memories with me. But I do reflect, and wish, sometimes regretfully, that as a teacher back then, I might have had the experience, skills and knowledge that is available to me now. Some lives might have been different.
During my recovery, I worked briefly as an “Entertainment’s Officer” in a nearby nursing home. It was whilst working there I had a chance meeting with a retiring priest, experienced in psychotherapy, counselling and in leading Spiritual Retreats. He explained to me the value of the truth and how I could find and become more comfortable with my own truth.
As I was embarking on a “difficult and lonely journey” he advised I develop the practice of “Sitting with myself”, a skill I would need before I could ever sit with others and their pain. I could he said begin to develop this practice, by sitting alone in a room (for ideally one hour), without any distractions, no music, TV, books or reading material, nothing only me, myself and my thoughts. Of course I would have to start off slowly, begin with 10,15 or 20 minute sessions, until I became accustomed to the silence, the emotions and sensations that might emerge, perhaps even prompting me to run away from any discomfort I might experience. I have by now, many times offered this same advice myself to clients in the course of my work in Counselling and Spiritual Direction. It has assisted me and a lot of them greatly learn, process and accept the truth about ourselves.
In recent weeks during the “Covid Lockdown”, I have once again been seeing this as one of the greatest gifts we as human beings can give ourselves. Many of us have found the world’s “New rules”, the call for greater self- discipline, isolation and loneliness and having to live a life, of loss and uncertainty as too much, too challenging. Some have struggled with this new “truth” and pine for a return to what they had known as normal. Others however have rejoiced the fact that the world and others whose “Perfect Lives” have been put on hold, now have to live as they have had to live their lives, year upon year, struggling, curtailed by limiting self-beliefs and unable to live with their truth.
Our adaption to this new normal, whatever this may be is going to be interesting to say the least…