LIVING THE SOULFUL LIFE
The Circle Of Love
By Scott Kalechstein
“Giving and receiving are one in truth.”
— A Course In Miracles
In 1996 I had a life-changing experience.
It was a week before my birthday. I was planning a big party, an evening of friends, celebration and music. An idea crossed my mind during the week. The idea was to invite my friends to gather in a circle, placing me in the center. Then, one by one, they would come up to me and share how I have touched their lives and what they appreciate about me. My inner critic, anxious to be the first one into the circle, immediately jumped in with his appreciation: “Are you crazy? That’s the most egotistical notion I’ve ever heard! You always have to be the center of attention, don’t you? When are you going to stop needing other people’s validation and start standing on your own two feet?”
I felt paralyzed, and put the idea on the back burner. A few days before the party, I considered it again, this time in a more meditative space. I brought the matter up with my inner voice. As usual, its guidance was in direct opposition to the inner critic. “Scott, your gracious receiving of your friends’ love and support will be an act of humility and service, not ego. Many hearts will be touched and fed. It is only your sense of low self-esteem that is feeling threatened. Trust the process. Feel the fear, and move forward with your plans anyway.” Deep down I knew the truth of those words, but I wrestled with many doubt dragons during the days before the party, and ended up taking the position that I might or might not go through with it, depending on how I felt in the moment.
The moment came, and how I felt was petrified! And as I greeted friends and strolled around, I successfully convinced myself that gathering all the people in a circle and having them say nice things to me was completely inappropriate! Then, across the room, I spotted Helice Bridges. Helice is a remarkable woman who has dedicated her life to teaching the power of giving and receiving acknowledgment. She created a blue ribbon that says Who I Am Makes A Difference, and she gets people from all walks of life to use the ribbons to reach out and make heart-to-heart contact. I knew immediately that with her in the room I could find the resources inside myself to go ahead with the love circle. I told her my idea, and my terror, and asked for her support. Helice sprang into action. In a tone and volume that silenced a hundred rowdy conversationalists, she exclaimed, “EVERYBODY GATHER IN THE LIVING ROOM. WE’RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR THE BIRTHDAY BOY!” I felt tremendously excited and embarrassed, and was trembling like a small child about to ride a huge rollercoaster. Helice took my hand and told a few stories about the healing powers of sharing acknowledgment. She then explained that whoever felt moved to do so would, one at a time, approach me and share their love and appreciation in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear. Never one for shyness, Helice was first at bat.
Two and a half hours later, the last person finished speaking. I spent that time shaking, shivering, crying, and breathing deeply. I had never been so deeply moved in my life. For the most part, I did not respond with words, not even a thank you, for my energies were focused on purely receiving. Everyone was being touched by the sacred energy in the room, and tissues were being passed around liberally. I sensed angelic presences watching over us. Sometimes I wanted to say things like “You are wonderful, too!” or “It’s not me. It’s God through me you are appreciating!” Although these statements had truth in them, I recognized them as subtle temptations to deflect the love I was being offered. Sometimes unworthiness has a very crafty way of masquerading as spirituality.
When the last person was done, we broke into song and celebration. That night I went to sleep feeling rocked and lulled by each friend’s blessing. The next day and all through that week, people telephoned me to share what the circle had meant to them, and how it had impacted their lives. “Since the party I’ve been noticing all the ways I keep myself from receiving. Watching you accept all that love was so inspiring,” one person said. Another exclaimed, “Scott, you’ve encouraged me to take more risks asking for what I want. Thank you!”
We all need models of what it might look like to graciously let people know how they can support us. John Gray, the author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, explains how taboo it is in this culture to ask openly and directly for what we want. At his lectures, he demonstrates the power of asking for appreciation. He finishes a segment of his presentation by saying, “If you have appreciated this part of my talk, please let me know with your clapping.” People clap, but first-timers to his events often look a little confused. Authenticity takes a little getting used to.
There is always risk involved in authentic communication. To ask openly for appreciation leaves us vulnerable to feelings of rejection if we don’t get the response from others we would like. To avoid risk is to avoid life. I’d much rather be feeling alive on the edge of fear than playing it safe, protected from pain, but unable to feel much joy and ecstasy.
Recently my sweetie asked me to hear her out while she vented some painful feelings that had been building up inside of her. I agreed, and for a few minutes was able to be a compassionate presence while she expressed. Gradually I got tired of just giving silent support. I began to go into my head, where, often with the best of intentions, I transform into... Mr. Fix-It!
In this particular situation I still had some time to go before the metamorphosis was complete. Mr. Fix-It was growing inside me, about to come out and offer solutions to her problems rather than empathy for her pain. In silent prayer I called on the spirit of John Gray to help me mellow my Martian tendencies. John’s coaching was to stop giving, and take a moment to receive. So, right in the middle of her emotional catharsis, I interrupted Lisa and asked her to pause and acknowledge me for the listening energy I had been giving. I told her that I wanted to continue to be available and her appreciation would fuel me to go the distance. She beamed a smile of gratitude and told me how supported and nurtured she felt by the quality of my listening. Her appreciation energized me deeply and I was then able to tame Mr. Fix-It and continue listening until she was complete.
Like most of us, I learned at an early age that it is far better to give than to receive. What I am now learning is that giving and receiving are as inseparably linked as inhaling and exhaling. The circle of love needs both to go around.
Scott Kalechstein offers expert coaching and counseling, both in person in Encinitas and on the phone. In addition, he is a minister, inspirational speaker, recording artist and modern day troubadour. He travels through the United States, Canada and Europe giving concerts, talks and workshops, as well as presenting at conferences. For more information, he can be reached at (760) 753-2359, or you may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org . His web site www.scottsongs.com is an inspiring and playful place to visit.
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