Welcome to the middle path

My photo
Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Audrey Perkins on Letting People Have Their Own Conundrums: Tiny Resolutions January 22

the author in one of her elements
she's also a goofball
Ed. note:  A true-life-long learner, Audrey recently took up the guitar after many years of singing for Oregon's beloved Neal Gladstone's band.  After many years teaching developmental studies at community college, she changed life course last year to focus on other pursuits.  She was a great teacher, "a sensei in a dojo", according to a parting profile from her college. "Perkin’s uncanny ability for clarity takes over like reflexive breathing while sleeping. ..she pushes each of her students to become a wiser version of themselves."  Audrey lives in a beautiful hand-built and art-filled home in the foothills near Corvallis, where she is deepening her practice of mindfulness meditation.  She's a kayaker, traveler, quick wit and consummate host.  Thank you, Audrey, for answering the call to write here.  --Jana
I have a joyous intention for 2015 that is so liberating that it just might become contagious.  
the moon, from audrey's porch/jls 2014
I recently attended a mindfulness training in Boston, with 140 professionals from 18 different countries (lots of doctors, nurses, psychologists, mental health professionals, and social workers).  On the first day, the guidelines for the 5-day experiential training were laid down: rules about confidentiality, keeping our sharing from the heart and to the point, not bringing up later issues someone raised in a session, etc.  But the one that rocked our boats was one that prevented us from doing what most of us make our living doing: no giving advice.  Yeah, we thought, makes sense.  Sure. No advice to each other during this training.  Good idea. 

But it was the framing of it that ended up getting mileage and shifting something big for most of us there in Boston. Our teachers said: Let people have their own conundrums. Conundrums allow people to sort things out.  It feels good to figure things out.  

audrey's garden/jls
That's where the shift for me began. These things we usually think of as "problems" were really our birthrights: our own conundrums.  It felt like a matter of respect.  It's like when our partners are trying to solve some issue using the remote, and they just want to figure it out for themselves, thank you very much, as we try to grab it and be the one to give it a try.  Let people have their own conundrums.  Wow.  Right.  Of course.  Reframed, it made perfect sense and released something in me that, although it was well-intended, was one of many subtle forms of aggression I have been waging, this urge to 'help' people.  Here, let me fix that for you, that broken thing.  Let people have their own conundrums.

On the last day of the training, after we had finally been allowed to break the silent-meals rule we'd had the last three days, an excited conversation between a psychologist and I revealed that we were mildly obsessed with this new way of looking at things.  Let people have their own conundrums.  Conundrums was such a cool word.  We were both smitten.  How absolutely relaxing.  Could it really be ok?  She told me of her excitement to get back to her counseling practice. And as we prepared to leave, I told her of my dinner plans for that evening--meeting up with my 'little' brother, for whom I usually have acres of pity and the constant and biting urge to 'help.'  I set my own intentions and we said good-bye.  

brother, in new light
That night, as Doug and I sat in Legal Seafoods in Back Bay, I saw my brother in a light of joy and dignity.  I saw us as two of billions of people on the planet, each with our own conundrum.  For, perhaps, the first time ever, we simply had an evening of sharing our lives, two equals.
Happy new year, everyone!  I vow to not grab the remote when you are trying to figure something out.  May it be so.  Happy conundrums.
                                ---Audrey Perkins, Oregon, January 2015


Cheryl said...

I remember when I let my brother go. I finally got it that he had this tough life to live, and he just had to live it. It…um…took longer to let my sister go. 

Laurie Barshay said...

Well done! It is my intention for the rest of my life. I've been calling it journey: Who am I to take another's journey away from them? But now I have a different concept. And by God, it's a relief to know that there are so many conundrums going on at once. All these constellations. Bless your heart, Audrey. And thanks for sharing of yourself. It's beautiful