Rachel Naomi Remen Quotes
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"One of my patients told me that when she tried to tell her story people often interrupted her to tell her that they once had something just like that happen to them. Subtly her pain became a story about themselves. Eventually she stopped talking to most people. It was just too lonely. We connect through listening. When we interrupt what someone is saying to let them know that we understand, we move the focus of attention to ourselves. When we listen, they know we care. Many people with cancer talk about the relief of having someone just listen."
"When we haven't the time to listen to each other's stories we seek out experts to tell us how to live. The less time we spend together at the kitchen table, the more how-to books appear in the stores and on our bookshelves. But reading such books is a very different thing than listening to someone' s lived experience. Because we have stopped listening to each other we may even have forgotten how to listen, stopped learning how to recognize meaning and fill ourselves from the ordinary events of our lives. We have become solitary; readers and watchers rather than sharers and participants."
"I had thought joy to be rather synonymous with happiness, but it seems now to be far less vulnerable than happiness. Joy seems to be a part of an unconditional wish to live, not holding back because life may not meet our preferences and expectations. Joy seems to be a function of the willingness to accept the whole, and to show up to meet with whatever is there. It has a kind of invincibility that attachment to any particular outcome would deny us."
"Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing."
"We are all healers of each other. Look at David Spiegel's fascinating study of putting people together in a support group and seeking that some people in it live twice as long as other people who are not in a support group. I asked David what went on in those groups and he said that people just cared about each other. Nothing big, no deep psychological stuff-people just cared about each other. The reality is that healing happens between people."
"In our instinctive attachments, our fear of change, and our wish for certainty and permanence, we may undercut the impermanence which is our greatest strength, our most fundamental identity. Without impermanence, there is no process. The nature of life is change. All hope is based on process."
"Ours is not a culture that respects the sick, the old or the vulnerable. We strive for independence, competence, and mastery. In embracing such 'frontier' values, we may become intolerant of human wholeness, contemptuous of anything in ourselves, and in others, that has needs or is capable of suffering. The denial of a vulnerability is the ultimate barrier to compassion."
"We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer but because we have separated ourselves from each other. A patient once told me that he had tried to ignore his own suffering and the suffering of other people because he had wanted to be happy. Yet becoming numb to suffering will not make us happy. The part in us that feels suffering is the same as the part that feels joy."
"Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul."
"Before every session, I take a moment to remember my humanity. There is no experience that this man has that I cannot share with him, no fear that I cannot understand, no suffering that I cannot care about, because I too am human. No matter how deep his wound, he does not need to be ashamed in front of me. I too am vulnerable. And because of this, I am enough. Whatever his story, he no longer needs to be alone with it. This is what will allow his healing to begin. (Carl Rogers)"
"Perhaps we can only truly serve those we are willing to touch, not only with our hands but with our hearts and even our souls. Professionalism has embedded in service a sense of difference, a certain distance. But on the deepest level, service is an experience of belonging, an experience of connection to others and to the word around us. It is this connection that gives us the power to bless the life in others. Without it, the life in them would not respond to us."
"Mystery has great power. In the many years I have worked with people with cancer, I have seen Mystery comfort people when nothing else can comfort them and offer hope when nothing else offers hope. I have seen Mystery heal fear that is otherwise unhealable. For years I have watched people in their confrontation with the unknown recover awe, wonder, joy, and aliveness. They have remembered that life is holy, and they have reminded me as well. In losing our sense of Mystery, we have become a nation of burned-out people. People who wonder do not burn out."
"Wounding and healing are not opposites. They're part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to to find other people or to even know they're alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of."
"Everyone alive has suffered. It is the wisdom gained from our wounds and from our own experiences of suffering that makes us able to heal. Becoming expert has turned out to be less important than remembering and trusting the wholeness in myself and everyone else. Expertise cures, but wounded people can best be healed by other wounded people. Only other wounded people can understand what is needed, for the healing of suffering is compassion, not expertise."
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