Thjs example of a Jewish Life Mentoring (hashpa'ah) session involves conflict between a Christian father and his adult Jewish son. It is shared with the permission of the individuals involved, as are all stories in this series. All names have been changed to ensure and respect privacy.
1. Focusing Invitation: “I wonder if you might take some time to sit quietly and share with me what is bothering you.”
Marc: My wife, Julie, just told the family she’s pregnant, our first. When my dad was told, he was very quiet. Later last night he called me to say that if there are children, he expects me to make sure they will be baptized. He knows we’re raising the children Jewish, we went through this with him when we first got married. How can he dare meddle like this?
Focusing Partner (just reflects): When your baby is born, your dad wants the baby baptized. You feel he is meddling and has no right to interfere in your plans to raise your children as Jewish.
2. Partner gives next Focusing Invitation:
Marc, I wonder if you might take a moment to sit with this concern and to bring your attention to the center of your body to see how it all feels inside. Most likely you will first become aware of a sensation somewhere in your body, perhaps a tightening of your throat, a twinge in your chest, stomach, or back muscles. Pay attention to that spot, and see what comes right there.
Marc: My guts are cramping. No, actually it’s a sharp pain on the right side, like a finger jabbing into my guts from the inside.…
Partner: You feel a finger jabbing into your guts, a sharp pain on the right side.
3. Partner gives next Focusing Invitation:
I invite you to stay with the sensation and see if a word, phrase, or image arises from there and matches how it feels.
Marc: The jabbing feels more like, yes, a rock, a mountain…[silence, Marc seems inside of himself] That’s my father, like a huge jagged mountain I always have to work around him. He never respects my choices; he always has to be the one in control.
Partner: Your dad is like a jagged mountain you have to work around. He never lets you have your own way; he always has to be in control.
Marc: I’m so frustrated, and Julie is upset he didn’t respond with excitement at the great news. We had a Justice of the Peace, not a rabbi, just so dad would come to our wedding. Oh, now I feel sick to my stomach thinking how we distorted our family life to accommodate him.
Partner: You feel sick to your stomach; you distorted your family life to accommodate your dad.
Marc: Dad’s not even a practicing Christian, and he knows nothing about Judaism. This a control thing. My whole life, it’s always his way or the highway.
Partner: For you this isn’t about Christianity, it’s about control issues.
Marc: Yes, like when he didn’t let me go to art college. He said I had to have a real profession. Now I’m a dentist, I thought perhaps to do something that could create beauty. But it’s not me, not me, not me, it’s more business than beauty, all paperwork.
Partner: Your father prevented you from your dream of being a professional artist. His pressuring you has contributed to your unhappiness.
Note: Take the time needed to be present with each sensation, to discover what it comes to tell you. When a feeling releases, you will become aware of a shift that feels constructive; when a sensation increases, it needs more of your attention.
4. Partner gives next Focusing Invitation: Stay with it; ask what is needed for “it” to be better.
Marc: My grandfather--I just had a flash of my father’s father, not his face, his voice calling my name. That happens sometimes, some kind of auditory memory.
Partner: You heard your grandfather call your name.
5. When a symbol or sensation occurs, it might be your inner wisdom drawing your attention to something. Something that comes from underneath all the distress, that is calm, feels deeply true and helps center you, might be what the prophet Elijah termed “the Still Small Voice,” one way of experiencing G*d.
Marc: My grandfather John always understood me. Oh, my stomach pains are gone, no jabbing finger, no mountain. What would Grandpa John tell me to do if he were really here?
Partner: Your grandfather always understood you. You feel a shift, no more pain.
6. Partner’s next Focusing Invitation:
You are wondering, what guidance would he have for you in this situation?
Marc: An image again, like, I know, the roots of a tree.
Partner: An image, like the roots of a tree.
Marc: Grandpa always told stories about the family, a duke, a knight. We were from England on his side. It’s about not losing my roots, passing them on to our child.
Partner: It’s about not losing your roots.
Marc: I can talk to dad about the family history, he likes that. He could tell everyone at the baby naming about my roots, our baby’s roots on our side. He can be important that way, or some way, he’s great at telling stories. That would be right to honor him as an elder, a grandfather for the first time.
Partner: Your father will be a grandfather for a first time, an elder, his role is changing.
7. Partner’s next Focusing Invitation:
When you feel complete with this issue for now and ready to emerge, you might gently come back and open your eyes.
Marc: I feel clear inside, newish.
Partner: You feel newish and clear inside.
8. Partner’s final invitation:
Your frustration with your dad; how is that inside now?
Marc: No sharp pressure, some buzz of excitement about the plan that emerged. Thank you!
As the poet Piet Hein taught “t.t.t., Things Take Time.” Listening for the “Still Small Voice” is an important practice to carry in your kit bag for challenging times. Marc’s exact strategy may not be the precise way things turn out, but he is now centered in compassion for his dad’s shifting identity in the family and for himself, for his own struggles with his father. Marc has a healthy place to start from – their shared lineage. This is an example of the kind of holiness of process and personal awareness that can lead to lived happiness.
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