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2. The person of the guide


The person of Andrea


On the basis of some of my experiences of Andrea (from the extract from chapter three of Reflected Love that was included in the previous section: Exploring our Praxis), I would like to add the following observation about her person—the person of Andrea as guide and companion. This might prompt your noticing of her person.  

 

Some of my noticing about

Andrea’s person.

Thinking response

Noticing my inner responses to the person of Andrea as a companion?

 

Agree

Dis-agree

Not

sure

As I encounter Andrea as a person I’m very struck with her openness, her inner freedom and the high level of awareness she has of her own person, including of her woundedness.  

Andrea did not seem afraid of Carol’s obvious pain and distress. I noticed in my observations of her encounter with Carol how easy it would be to become anxious and overwhelmed in the face of such pain and distress. And the pain does intensify as the session proceeds.

I became aware of Andrea’s inner freedom as it was manifest in this session. Her openness to this trouble pilgrim appeared to come from a place of inner freedom – free from entanglements, free from mixed motives and personal agenda, free from fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A conversation with Andrea about “the person of herself”


I am sure you would agree how good it would be to place, in the service of a pilgrim like Carol, such an open, free, creative, and aware self. Could we explore this more with Andrea? I wonder what questions you would like to ask her about her person. I will try some of my own! They are slightly more direct than I would use with a pilgrim and am aware that these are rather personal and not easy to explore.

Author: Andrea, as I observed your work with Carol, I noticed something of your own freedom—your inner freedom—in this encounter. I noticed at one point I felt somewhat anxious and even a little overwhelmed at Carol’s obvious pain and distress, and yet you did not seem afraid of it.

Andrea:  I am sure there are times that I come close to “anxious” and “overwhelmed,” but I am now aware that feelings like this present me with options; with choices. I need to be awake and discerning in such moments.

Author: Are you saying you can choose your responses to feelings such as anxious and overwhelmed?

 Andrea:  Definitely. You might think this a bit odd, but I could converse with these feelings—ask them what they are bringing to my attention!

Author: And how might they respond?

Andrea:  In a number of ways. Because this is what I am experiencing, these feelings may draw my attention to my own humanness; to the humanness I share with a pilgrim like Carol. In this way they are “tuning me up,” “tuning me into” the human experiences we share together. They can also highlight to me something of the level of anxiety that Carol is experiencing at that moment.

Author: You are saying such feelings can be “productive”?

Andrea:  I suppose “productive” is a good word. Feelings can be both “productive” and “positive” and can act as pathways to lead you to what you might need to attend to at a particular point in time. At times, however, they might do the opposite, as for example, if I started to feel sorry for myself and lapsed into being highly anxious and overwhelmed. Even so, if I’m attentive even to these feelings, I might notice “fear” rearing its head.

Author: Fear rearing its head. What do you notice when fear rears its head?

Andrea:  (Appeared deeply reflective for a few moments and then she looked up). It has taken me quite a long time, but I am learning to cope better with my fear of the dark and of the unknown, especially when journeying with pilgrims into their darker, painful and fear-filled places. In part, my own fear has been a sentry—a guard—placed at the entry points of my own pain, my grief and my wounding. It can say to me: “Don’t go there, Andrea! You will be hurt. You don’t wish to be damaged again, do you? You will just be totally overwhelmed again. I am warning you, Andrea, it could be like death to go there!”

Author: That’s pretty strong, Andrea! Does it always speak to you like that?

Andrea:  Only when I eye-ball it and it shrinks into a more manageable size. (Andrea laughed, realizing how odd this all must sound. She then became serious again.) As a sentry-guard, fear does tend to over-inflate itself, and then I would recoil from it as a strong and powerful emotion. Or it has other guises, such as trying to make sure you keep to the rules—get everything right – so you don’t upset people or risk causing them to be angry with you.

Author: Fear as a “sentry-guard!”

Andrea:  (Laughing again). An area of my wounding; worried I may get hurt again! A sentry guard? Yes, it has been. And you know fear can be pretty subtle. It could even co-opt religion as a way of making sure I got things right. “Make sure you get it right, Andrea, or God will be angry with you!” Pretty mean, don’t you reckon?

Author: Fear can co-opt religion!

Andrea:  It certainly can and it did! But eventually I was offered the gift of freedom from fear’s demand in this area.

Author: Could you say a little more about this gift of freedom?

Andrea:  Jesus has been teaching me his, “Come to me . . .” Well an important part of this was him inviting me to his way of greater inner freedom. That, of course, is ongoing for me. But when I was working with the “Come to me . . .” passage, he revealed to me something of what, “Take my yoke upon you,” meant for me. He helped to lift off the oppressiveness of the rule-bound meritocracy that was part of my family and culture and then had become part of my religious practice. I was trying to be so scrupulous in everything I did, including in my companioning. I was straining to live up to “something” and experienced an ongoing anxiety of committing serious sin for my most trivial of faults.[1]

Author: You say he helped to lift-off this oppressiveness.

Andrea:  Yes, and in doing that, his invitation to me was, “learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”[2] One of his great gifts to me has been to show me, and to continue to show me, how to companion pilgrims from this place of “rest for my soul.” It is a place of such great inner freedom. And it is to reflect to pilgrims this same gentle and humble heart.

Author: You are reminding me of the song: “Freedom is coming.” 

Andrea:  Freedom is certainly coming. ‘Yes I know!’

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Notes:

[1] William Barry. Finding God in all things: A Companion to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1991, 23.  
[2] Matthew 11: 29, NRSV


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