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The Field

By Michael Sharp, MD

Michael Sharp, MD

In this edition of Health&Healing is an article about my colleagues’ and my work with people who experienced varieties of insecurity in their childhood. We discuss why it is important to understand the role of this insecurity experience in adult illness. And we explore how we engage in a healing path with individuals who have such a history.

This is an act of discovery because therapists are only just beginning to understand how to heal these long-standing wounds. Here is a poem that helps me in my journey of understanding how to help:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field.
I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
Doesn’t make any sense.

This is by no means a new-age sentiment. The reader may recognize the words of Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Rumi, written in the 13th century.

Most of us still live in a world of rightdoing and wrongdoing, of win or lose, of fight or flight. Of judgment. But there is another world—the one Rumi is talking about, which he calls “a field.” I believe love lives in that field, or perhaps is that field. Perhaps the elusiveness of what it means to love, to be in that field, is why we are all struggling with how to help people whose early experience wasn’t safe or secure. Perhaps it is the difficulty of really understanding what it means to love that stands in all our way.

This past weekend, as part of a course I’m taking on the use of psychedelics in the treatment of trauma, I heard a definition of love I’ve been thinking a lot about. Bruce Poulter is a trainer in the curriculum, and he says love has three parts: curiosity, understanding, and compassion. He says this is what people with a history of trauma need most in their relationship with healers, therapists, guides. I like to think that these are the energies that live out in the field beyond rightdoing and wrongdoing—where we can begin to understand the complexity of our connections to each other with compassion rather than fear, and thus with safety. Imagine if you will or can, being in such a field. I can imagine a peacefulness that does surpass language or ideas.

There is another quality that makes up that field—and it is patience. Our wounds don’t respond well to impatience. Curiosity by itself can be invasive. Understanding comes from deep listening, with lots of space to hear and allow all thoughts and feelings to be expressed without criticism. This takes time and respect.

There is a way of being with each other out in that field that is deeply healing, quiet, accepting, where nothing needs to get fixed—only accompanied with grace and acceptance. The distinctions between us begin to fall away in that field and a sense of deep “oneness” washes away our fear and our need to be different. Even the phrase, “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

To Your Health!