Sometimes from our densest shadows come the most useful illuminations. Or, to clarify the subject, sometimes in the heavily guarded shadows, light is allowed to enter for the benefit of others. Having gradually emerged from my early conditioning not to touch, perish the thought, and not to hug, came a call from my pain. To take it in my arms.
I was never quite sure what more I could offer than my support and practical commentary at a ten-day Conscious Living/Conscious Dying retreat, when someone asked me if I would simply hold her. Off in a corner we sat on the floor, and I held her for some time like I would hold a frightened child. She couldn’t stop crying, she was releasing, and I couldn’t ignore the continued awakening in my own heart.
Hugging in Silence as a Profound Healing Technique
This was the beginning of a new addition to the healing techniques we shared at the gatherings, which I organically began to offer to the group. Soon after lunch break, whoever wished to join me could be hugged in silence, in a separate room. By the time I got to the room, a dozen people were waiting.
At first, it seemed I would have enough time to hold everyone. However, after hugging the first person, when I came out to invite the next one in, the line had grown to a couple dozen more folks.
Seeing we would need a little organization to pull this thing off, we instituted the process that after someone was in with me for fifteen minutes, the next person in line would ring a bell and enter after the other left.
I Only Needed to Love & They Only Needed to Be Loved
One after another sat next to me and just slipped into my arms. Nothing needed to be said. We just looked into each other’s eyes and shared the common sadness. I needed only to love; they needed only to be loved.
Sometimes I picked up the origin of their painful thoughts, but words would only have diminished our connection. When our minutes were over I sometimes told them I loved them just as they were or that they were forgiven for anything they had ever done to hurt themselves or another. The line grew so quickly that the first session lasted ten hours. The next day was the same.
When I got back to our room, well into the evening, Stephen asked me if I had just taken a shower because my hair was so wet. I told him I hadn’t taken a shower, that my hair was soaked with tears.
After that, the well-intended organization of the “grief line” broke down and people would just come up to me wherever we were, at lunch, in breaks, in the bathroom, and throw their arms around me and begin to cry. By the time the workshop was over, there were still people waiting to be held. I told them we were very fatigued but I would try, at the next retreat, and keep them in my meditations in the meantime. I felt badly that we had to leave, as this was a true gift to me, as apparently, it was to others.
It was clear that love was the only gift worth giving.
The Result of Transmitting Love
When I was hugging so many wounded people in the retreats and seeing something quite wonderful as a result of simply transmitting love, it reminded me of the various contacts we had with native healers. I certainly am no shaman, but sometimes I feel that same quality of energy when we are working with those deprived of mercy in their lives, those, perhaps, whose shame bears down on their illness.
There is a natural warmth from which this energy arises, which is drawn toward healing. It is called forth directly from the source, from prayers and meditations, contemplations, and a great need for compassion. We have met those whose long purifications have brought forth what is called “a healing song.” Sometimes you can hear the song; sometimes you can only feel it.
Their spirit energy comes from clearing the hindrances to their natural light and sharing their radiance through their voice and hands. It allows them, during spirit travels, to reach outward, through the realms beyond birth and death to be able to focus their energy like a laser beam on what opens to it. They collaborate with the spirits, whose nature is well beyond ordinary understanding.
They can send healing dreams from the ground of their being, on which it is said their ancestral spirits walk, and they wait to receive the echo. They do not call this a conduit from the “other world,” but their own gift to be shared.
Their song is a bridge across the broken heart; drawing from the source of healing, residing in each cell, a release of the soul.
The Grief Hotline: Listening from An Open Heart
Years later, we installed a twenty-four-hour “Grief Hotline,” as coordinators of the Hanuman Foundation Dying Project. We were often on the phone for eight to ten hours a day, especially after Psychology Today did a feature on our work from which we received three hundred letters and eight hundred phone calls, which took us months to respond to.
Though I worked with several people in the final chapter of their life, until the grief hotline I had never been confronted with so many, with such immediate needs. I was learning to listen from a different space. I wasn’t always checking my defenses, receiving others in a nonjudgmental stillness; the heart had room for everything, hearing them deeply enough so that they could hear themselves. They were met by a healing kindness that encouraged them to attend to their unfinished business—to release their innermost thoughts and feelings to a complete stranger.
I virtually took their hand and walked with them into the fears and hopes, the submerged states of mind, that many had so painfully and skillfully eluded. Gradually, I was able to enter the pain and healing with them, side-by-side in a healing pilgrimage.
©2012 & 2015 by Ondrea Levine and Stephen Levine. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Weiser Books,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com
The Healing I Took Birth For: Practicing the Art of Compassion
by Ondrea Levine (as told to Stephen Levine).
Watch a video (and book trailer): The Healing I Took Birth For (with Ondrea & Stephen Levine)
About the Author
Ondrea Levine and Stephen Levine are close collaborators in teaching, in practice, in life. Together they are the authors of more than eight books, some of which bear Stephen's name only as author, but all of which Ondrea had a hand in. Together they are best known for their work on death and dying. Visit theim at www.levinetalks.com