When I heard a young guy was found in the water at the end of Bridge St., I honestly couldn't help wondering if it was a suicide, and I know I wasn't the only one. Since that time, I heard that was the conclusion of the investigation. As my heart goes out to all those who were touched, what comes up for me is the wisdom that I was missing for a long time. For a lot of people, this wouldn't relate to what we would call 'business', yet business only has purpose if it creates a better way of life.
I was taught growing up that genetics had a major role in our mood. I won't dispute that, yet I feel there's a deeper truth that while genetics can be a loaded gun, it's more often our lifestyle that pulls the trigger. From our diet, posture, breathing, exercise, support networks, knowing and living our calling, we're going to be out of balance if any of those parts get neglected.
There's a lot of people who recognize their desire to leave this world better than we found it, including me. I love all the tools in my toolbox, and having the skill to use them. For me, that feeling I get from working with my hands comes secondary to having the tools to connect with others, and being able to practice being more tactful. When I'm truly honest with myself, I can really be more open to what I want to give to others.
When I'm feeling sad, I just really want to feel validated by hearing; 'Wow, I sense there's something to your life that you're really drawn to looking at...'. Speaking for myself, I can get a little too comfortable with contemplating the meaning of life and staring at walls. Even though I enjoy the depth of life, it has limitations. It's not always the easiest to connect with others from that place, unless we've moved through that same depth in order to be comfortable in companioning.
I wanted to offer to share some of the rare wisdom that I learned from people who were comfortable hanging out in a lot of dark corners with me;
If we're truly present ourselves, we can invite others to the present moment by matching the negative energy with something equally dramatic. I go with yelling something like; 'FLYING MONKEYS!' or doing a flying leap and spinning. It's important to consider the setting, mostly I do stuff like that with kids, or in a workshop environment in moments where a project seems to be at a standstill. While this changes the mood, and can bring in some levity, it's limited as an intervention, since the underlying thoughts still need to be addressed. This strategy is most helpful in moments of physical danger, or supporting a move to a more appropriate location to resolve the negative feelings.
I always find the question; 'Are you okay?' to be loaded, nobody asks me that when I'm happy. Traditionally, it's been a tough question to answer, since it would lead to a pattern where the one asking would feel bad for me, leading to care-taking in a way that left me feeling guilty that I couldn't make it on my own, instead of feeling like equals. I adapted by lying, saying; 'I'm okay'. I wish I had known sooner that I could have responded; 'What would you do if I said I feel sad about things I don't yet understand?', or more simply; 'What would you do if I said no?'. Practicing this has brought in a lot of empowered responses, anything from; 'Hey, I'd like to give you a hug and tell you that you mean a lot to me...', to 'I want to do whatever I can to help you find those answers'.
My top tips for being with people who confide in us that they're suicidal is asking; 'What keeps you here?', this brings in a conscious recognition that is really powerful, it could be something we might never imagine, like an unfinished project, or the love of a pet. On the flip side, it can bring us an awareness if a greater intervention is warranted. When ending these deep and meaningful conversations, closure is really important. Part of that is being able to transition into an intention for the future; 'What are you going to do to be good to yourself from here?', it's always starts with a little thing like; 'I'm going to sit in the cafe and have a tea.'.
If we Instill the belief in ourselves that we have what it takes to get through whatever lies before us, then we can genuinely offer that message; 'I believe in you, you've got what it takes!'. If we're not at that point of knowing that part of ourselves, we can grow that feeling within by looking at our stories of resilience, looking at the challenges we've come through along with those of our ancestors, friends, and neighbors.
One thing I think about a lot, and part of me still feels bitter about, is that contemplating ending our lives isn't valued as a really important life-stage. I know for me, I denied that I was contemplating ending my life for a long time. Bringing those subconscious thoughts into conscious awareness not only helped me transition to seeing past those thoughts, it also helped me change the story of myself. Instead of feeling that we are born into this life of so many challenges without having a say, we can start to see our conscious choice to be here. Instead of feeling life was being done to us, we can feel more often that life is being done through us.
Considering that our learning and work environments are where we put so much of our effort and focus, how could we neglect creating the safety to create a new way. Ultimately, if we choose to look deeply, we'll learn to trust that we have what it takes to move through whatever lies before us, we'll find actively listening to the stories of others a great way to deepen intimacy. I once had a teacher who always said; “Intimacy; 'into-me-see' ”, it was the best thing ever, in realizing how much empathy leaves us with a feeling of being connected to something greater than ourselves. Having that insight into others builds the trust necessary to pursue even greater projects!