Posts Tagged ‘witness’

The presence of knowing

July 28, 2012

Knowledge is a dubious gift.

The problem with knowledge is that once something is known, it cannot be unknown. Even though we forget and often can’t recall what happened yesterday, some part of our brain still retains the memory of everything we have ever encountered.

Much of what we do and remember is automatic and linked to our survival and basic needs. Dementia and Alzheimer’s aside, it takes little effort to recall where we live, work, and play on a regular basis. I am grateful to remember my loved ones and special times shared with them. The memories I have a problem with are those when I witness the ugliness we create in life.

The current ugly in my life is the knowledge that people leave their babies and small children to die alone locked in vehicles. This summer, I have read at least five articles where infants and small children died of heatstroke inside a car or van. All of their stories yank my heart right out of its ignorant resting place. For example, a day-care worker “forgot” that she left a three-year-old strapped to his car seat in the van at the end of a field trip. I really would have rather not known this. My imagination has a field day taking on the suffering of others, and I wondered why I needed to know.

I tried to imagine what it must have felt like to die like that, so I purposely sat in my car one day when the temperature was about 85 degrees. I parked in the shade, turned off the engine and rolled up all the windows.

Within five minutes, a mild panic settled into my throat and I felt that certain restlessness that I was not in a good situation. Thick and heavy heated air went in and out of my lungs, but it was not enough. Sweat oozed from my skin as my body began its futile attempt to cool me off. Nausea settled in my stomach. Within ten minutes, I had to open my door and let myself out.

And my true suffering had not even begun.

The babies and children I have read about suffered much more. They could not free themselves. The three-year-old who was left in the day care van might have been able to get out of a car seat, but most likely he had been trained NOT to. He sat there sweating, waiting, and hoping for someone to release him. I cannot imagine the distress in their little minds, although I can imagine how I would have felt, what I would have thought, and how alone I would have been with my despair. In my ending, I felt total anguish at the betrayal of trust. I had been entrusted to someone’s care and they had broken that trust.

I think that before anyone gets to have a driver’s license, he or she must endure at least ten minutes of what it is like to be locked in a hot car and not be able to free themselves.

The question again came to me, though: Why had my attention been drawn to these articles? Why did I need this knowledge? I know not to leave a child locked in a car under any circumstances. When I am driving with a child, everything about that driving is with the knowledge that I have precious cargo on board. I could have easily lived the rest of my life without knowing the suffering those children endured.

My answer is metaphysical. God/Spirit/All-That-Is/Universal Consciousness is always with us, connected at the source of our being, even in our dying. I am connected to those children, just as I am to every living soul in the universe, through God.

In this moment, my presence is with every child who is suffering and letting them know they are not alone.

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass

A witness presence

November 2, 2010

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending a shamanic workshop about dreams and discovered all sorts of ways to remember dreams, interpret dreams, find resolution, and use dreams to heal ourselves and others. One of these methods involved helping someone complete or finish with a nightmare or a bad dream.

One woman volunteered a nightmare where she was being chased by two men in a house. In the dream, they never find her but she is also unable to find her way out. And she is tremendously frightened and scared. The group reenacted this dream for her with two of the men serving as the chasers and the rest of us forming the walls and rooms of the house.

We completed the exercise with an emotional climax, not just for the woman and the two people chasing her but for those of us who stood as witness to her frantic scurry as she dodged through imaginary doors and hid behind the walls we represented. We heard her breath coming in quiet, rasping gasps. Each and every one of us who was the house admitted afterwards that none of us wanted those men to find her. We resisted the urge to adjust our walls or form doors where there were none. After all, the house did not do that in the dream. Yet, our human spirit could not stand idly by without responding to her predicament and our helplessness.

That is both the blessing and the curse of being a witness: watching without intervening. We witness joyous events, soaking in the pleasure. We also witness events of great sadness and destruction. We are helpless in both circumstances to control the outcomes

Some say that just the act of watching changes the circumstances . . . that if we were not there to act as witness, the outcome would have been different. Our standing as witness walls while the woman completed her nightmare helped her resolve the fear and end the dream.

There is witness presence all around us. It permeates the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the clothes we make, the homes we live in. I believe this presence is not benignly neutral. This presence supports us, provides us sustenance and safety. It wants us to live and live well.

As you go through your days, know that you are being watched, and think about what you want your witnesses to see.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass