Can you know where you're going if you don't know where you are or where you've been? Or does it even matter where you've been? Perhaps all that matters is where you are now. Or where you want to go?
When working with clients, I like to get an idea of all three -- where they've been, where they are now, and where they want to go. And I have to balance the vision for where they want to go with the reality of where they are right now. I have to accept them in the place they are now, for if I lose sight of that, the client suffers.
I remember a teacher of mine telling me a story about a client with whom she was working who having difficulties in her romantic relationship. The teacher made up her mind that her student needed to do certain things regarding this relationship. The mistake that the teacher admittedly made was that she didn't accept the student where she was in the moment and tried to push her too hard and too quickly and possibly, in the wrong (and when I say wrong, I mean wrong for the student) direction. The teacher lost her objectivity -- and therefore, some of her compassion -- by projecting onto the student. She wanted the student to take the actions that she herself would take rather than what what right for the student. The student left the teacher and the teacher saw it as a valuable lesson about meeting people where they are -- without judgment.
I've struggled with this in my personal life for a while now. When friends come to me for advice, I sometimes can't help but put myself in their situation, thinking that they feel the same and would do the same things I would. I often have to reign myself in and remind myself that what's right for me isn't right for someone else. I learned this the hard way years ago when a friend of mine came to me with relationship woes.
I listened to my friend's issues without offering any advice until she pushed me for some. She wanted help and rather than meeting her where she was, I met her where I would be in her situation. My words put her on the defensive and she stopped coming to me for advice. Ironically enough, years later I found myself in a similar relationship situation which I handled in the exact fashion that I had recommended to my friend (at least I'm consistent, eh?). The thing is -- I was forcing her to go at my pace as opposed to hers.
These days I've been questioning what certain things truly mean to me -- love, relationship, my yoga practice, how I live my life. I've changed in how I view just about all of these things. And every day I often deal with folks who don't feel the same way -- some of these folks being my dearest friends. Does that give me the right to judge them? No, it doesn't. Instead, it gives me a chance to love them where they are and to love myself where I am (because I'm neither ahead nor behind them; I simply am where I am and they are where they are).
A few days ago a friend and I were talking about a discussion she had with her friend regarding the friend's relationship. My friend was horrified by the type of relationship that the friend was "willing to settle for." I asked my friend where the idea of settling came from -- from her or her friend. Sure enough, it was my friend who defined the relationship as less than, something second best, something not ideal. Since my friend and I are in agreement over this particular subject, I could understand how she was thinking and feeling about her friend's relationship. It was coming from a place of wanting her friend to be happy, yet I realized in that moment that neither she nor I have a right to "feel sorry for" her friend. What if that relationship -- although not ideal for my friend or myself -- is ideal for the two people involved in it?
These days I'm seeing love in a whole new light. I'm currently been loved and supported in a way that I didn't even realize was possible. If you had spoken to me 5 years ago, I would have told you that I felt completely differently. And if you tried to convince me that I should be where I am today you probably would have lost me right there on the spot. I needed some time and some experiences and a desire to challenge my former assertions about love.
As folks wanting connection and desiring to help others, we like common ground. Yet sometimes the ground shifts. Or sometimes someone is standing on ground that's quite different than yours -- and that doesn't mean that one is on higher ground than the other. It's merely different -- not bad. And isn't that really the true meaning of compassion -- meeting someone where he/she is without judgment? Same goes for oneself -- meeting yourself where you are is a form of self love.
Yes, I've had clients who go as far as they want/need to as opposed to where I think they can go. But it's not up to me. My work lies in being with them as they are, where they are and working with them in the way that they want to work to the depth that they want to work. I need to take my ego and my judgments and my projections out of it. I let go of wanting to see someone have a certain practice or a certain experience to just wanting to happily be with someone where he/she is. Same goes for myself. I want to happily meet myself here, knowing that someday I may find myself somewhere else. The ground may be shifting but that doesn't mean that I can't have love for the fluxtuations.
Are you meeting yourself and others where you/they are? Are you allowing yourself to be pulled somewhere you don't want to go or aren't ready to go for fear you'll disappoint someone? Are you judging where you -- and others -- are? Can you accept that where you are now might not always be where you will stay and can you have compassion for yourself and for others on the same journey? Are you projecting your standards, beliefs, desires onto another and then judging them for not feeling, believing or wanting the same thing?
Last year I attended a fabulous live music event in which the extremely talented musician sang about being in the "sweet spot" of one's life (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xme54LShkSA). Tears welled up for me because at that time I truly believed that I was in a sweet spot, that things had come together perfectly for me and that I would always look at that time as one of the best of my life. Now I laugh that I ever thought that was a sweet spot because I'm even happier now than I was then. And the ground shifts once again...