At the Heart of It

On this past Sunday, I had the great honor of being in the audience when a truly beautiful soul, Karen Watson, shared her story of peeling away practically a lifetime of pain, anger and hurt to reveal the Pure Love within her all along. If you ever have a chance to meet Karen in person, I know you’ll agree that she radiates Love and Grace like no other.

Karen’s Story

Karen was born into an abusive home, and lived under foster care for a while, which turned out to be a positive experience in her young life that gave her a glimpse of what it was like to be able to trust a little, to feel safe a little. Later in life, in the 16th year of her marriage, the repressed pain and anger from her childhood caught up with her. That marked the beginning of her awakening to her True Self, which unfolded through a series of relationships that mirrored back to her the pain and anger trapped inside her that surfaced layer by layer as the years went by.

The most recent segment of her journey included packing up her car at the drop of a hat two years ago, and driving from California to Minnesota to care for her late mother, sleeping on the pull-out couch of the latter’s small one-bedroom apartment for more than a year. Even though they weren’t close, Karen answered the call to care for her mother during the sunset of the latter’s life. While in the role of a caregiver, she realized that, at her core, buried underneath years of cumulative pain and protective armor was simply Pure Love. She realized just how much she truly did love her mother, the woman who had failed to protect her as child.

When Karen spoke of her love for her mother, I couldn’t hold back my tears. Her words quite literally stirred my soul, and the profound resonance made me ache deeply from the core of my being. It felt as if Karen was telling my story, even though the specifics of our lives are nowhere near identical. What she shared made me think of the evolution of my relationship with my own parents—the one with my father in particular.

My Dad and I

To say that my dad and I aren’t close is plain euphemism. We’re bonded by blood and a common last name, and not much else. As a child, I didn’t have the capacity to understand the family into which I was born. But, as an adult, I can see that it was shaped by the interactive forces of the times, the culture, my parents’ own heartbreaking childhoods and the marital dynamics of two dramatically different personalities. For a long time, I was very hurt and angry at my parents for what I felt I shouldn’t have had to endure. As the layers of pain and anger were peeled away over the years—just as Karen described—I’ve reconnected to a deeper place in my heart over the last few years. In that place of Compassion and Love resides the heartfelt knowing that no one is capable of being or giving what they don’t know or have within themselves. From that place of Compassion and Love, I can truly appreciate that my parents were the best parents they knew how to be.

Even before Karen’s sharing this past weekend, I have been ruminating over my relationship with my dad lately. It was overtly spawned by his most recent visit that concluded three weeks ago when he flew back to China. On the last Sunday during his visit, when I looked across the lunch table at him enjoying his salmon fried rice, I was struck by how old he seemed and the accompanying realization that he wouldn’t be with us forever. As I raced to wipe that thought from my mind, I felt a lump in my throat. Later that day, as my mom drove off with him, he waved goodbye to me in such a child-like way that, in that brief moment, it was as if our roles were reversed. I felt like the parent watching my baby being whisked away. I felt an ache in my heart that stayed with me for days. Even now, as I’m writing this piece, I’m feeling that ache again, and my eyes are welling up.

At the heart of the matter, it’s just like what Karen said, once the layers of pain and anger have been peeled away, what remains is only Pure Love. That love has nothing to do with the fact that the words “I love you” will never be exchanged between my dad and me; they don’t exist in his vocabulary as either the communicator or the receiver. Although I’m a big hugger, I could never wrap my arms around him without giving him a heart attack. Given the cultural conditioning in our relationship and the thousands of miles separating us most of the year, there isn’t much I can do on a day-to-day basis to express my love for him—while he can still receive it in human form.

What I can do is to hang out with him and take him out to enjoy good food, when we do happen to be in the same place, even if most of that time is spent without much conversation. When he feels like launching into one of his rare monologues, I’ll continue to listen patiently. I’ll also continue to make pro forma phone calls to him on holidays, even though they never last more than a minute or two, as that means something to him. At some point, like a rite of passage for anyone with aging parents, he will become my brothers’ and my financial responsibility. While these actions aren’t grand gestures of love, they are what I know as love in action that’s meaningful to my father.

To circle back to Karen’s sharing that inspired this post, I wonder if the pain so many of us experience early in life—which gets triggered in adult relationships until it’s healed—isn’t a necessary part of our life’s journey to rediscover our Truth. That is, we’re all Pure Love at our core. And, although the specifics are different, there’s a common thread running through Karen’s and my story—and most likely many others’ stories. That is, in the process of returning to Love, we learn to honor our life experiences, including the pain, the anger and all the ugly parts, not just the lovable and beautiful parts. We also learn to honor the process itself, no matter how messy it is at times and how it continues to evolve as we grow and change as human beings. By extension, to love someone is to honor them just as they are—not who we want them to be—and to honor their life and their process just as they need them to be—not what we’d like them to be.

To close, I’d love to share Karen’s wise and beautiful thoughts on “Honor Your Process” here for you to enjoy. Please feel free to share your reactions below in the comment box.

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Honor Your Process

By Karen Watson

Honor your process and the choices you make and know that all others are simply in their process

Honor your journey and know all events along the way are purposeful

Honor your heart and follow your guidance and life will be joy filled

Honor your nature for it is the path you chose

Honor all life for it is all God

Honor your emotions for they are a good indicator of your mindset

Honor free will for it is life unfolding perfectly

Honor your friends for they choose to see your light

Honor love for it bonds you to God

Honor God for it bonds you to love

Honor your process for it demonstrates respect for your journey

And honor your gifts for they keep you in the folds of love and inspire greater and greater insight into this universe we are all part of which is forever changing and expanding and fulfilling all our desires, good and bad, for there is no separation.

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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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4 comments
Dan Teck
Dan Teck

Beautiful post, Alice! Like Scott, the stories and thoughts resonated with me regarding my mother, although the specifics are very different for all of us. What a great universal truth that "to love someone is to honor them just as they are—not who we want them to be"--perhaps the most beautiful and eloquent definition of love I've ever heard! True for love of all forms (family, friends, partners)--and probably what each of us is longing for: to be seen for who we are and honored for that. Lots of nourishment for heart and mind in this post! Thank you (and Karen) for sharing it with us!

Scott Mabry
Scott Mabry

Wonderful post Alice. Brought my Mother to mind and that same stirring in my heart. Though our story is very different from yours the challenge is the same. To honor her for who she is and what her journey has created in her. Hopefully my children will do the same for me. It is an act of grace and love to let people be who they are and not try to shape them into our own image. Thank you for sharing from your heart as you always do.

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thank you very much, Dan, for your kind words. Yes, I think that we all ultimately want to be seen, heard, accepted, loved and honored just as we are, to be recognized and understood at the soul level. I'm grateful to know great souls like yourself, who not only appreciate this fundamental desire we all have, but also have the capacity to forge soulful connections with the people in your life. Much gratitude to you, Dan!

Alice Chan, Ph.D.
Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Thank you for sharing your reactions to this piece and for your kind words, Scott! What I've found over the years is that we all have our stories. And, while the specifics may be different, the underlying messages are fairly universal. It is my hope that, if more of us share, the more we encourage others to process their own stories and come to healing and the resulting freedom from it--so that we can all live the life of our dreams! Thank you for being here, Scott!

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