Letters to Sam

18 Jul

Can’t wait devouring another book of Daniel Gottlieb right after reading “Learning from the Heart”. His books do not only make me feel warm and cozy, but also address me to the big question, “What it means to be human?”

Daniel is a practicing psychologist. He had been through lots of adversity – his divorce, his parents and wife’s dealth, became a quadraplegic after an accident. Sam, Daniel’s grandson,was  diagnosed with PDD, a severe form of autism. Daniel wrote Sam letters with the hope that Sam would one day be able to read them and get to know his grandfather and learn how to live his life to the full.

‘Healing our wounds’ and ‘Make the container bigger’ are the two chapters I particularly love.

Healing our wounds

More often than not, we get hurt when things don’t go our way. I feel more painful when I blame myself for the pain. Since the ache is so uncomfortable, I searched for ways to fix it or to get away from it ASAP. Then Daniel said to Sam, “If you try too hard to fix pain, it only takes longer to heal.” He mentioned that all pain is about longing for yesterday–whatever we had before, whatever used to be. Like him, he mourns when thinking about his loses being a quadraplegic. And for me, the most terrible part is to listen to the little voice critizing myself for not getting over it or being vulnerable in the first place. The lesson I learnt – wounds don’t obey our wishes. Healing takes place in its own way and in its own time.

It’s so true thinking back there were times I thought I should do something to heal myself, but only get worse. Healing doesn’t follow my own time schedule. The good news is, like physical wounds, they heal themselves. Afterall, everything we need to heal our hearts’ wounds are already be in us!! We only have to get access to those ‘nutrients’ and let them work.

Still, I feel sorry for those I have hurt consciously or uncousciously, including the fragile me. Although one day the wounds will heal itself, the process is long and aggravating, not to mention the scars left behind. But that’s life. Who can live without hurting oneself and others? Only by this hurting and healing process can people be more compassionate. There are no villains or victims. We are just learners. That’s what I believe.

Make the container bigger

When we have a problem, we tend to put full attention to it. Sometimes the attention itself just makes the pain worse and then our field of vision narrows and we begin to think our problem is bigger and more important than they really are.

It reminds me of my experience of taking jabs. I always know I have to take a few jabs before going on my Africa trip, but it just that I wasn’t sure how many shots to take at a time and surely didn’t want to even know about it. But then I had to face it anyway when I consulted the doctor for his advice. He explained all the pros and cons and types of jabs to be taken. His final words were –five Jabs AT LEAST. Only by hearing those words freak me out. For God’s sake, I only have  4 limbs. How can someone take five jabs at a time? He further explained, two jabs on each arm and one jab on the thigh. I felt fine having jabs on my arms but definitely NOT on the thigh since I had never ever had jabs on my thigh before. It sounded really frightening!! But then the doctor said, you still have time to consider cancelling your trip. That was the time I plucked up my courage to take the jabs. And it wasn’t as terrifying as I imagined it would be. So it must be like many of my worries. My mind has magnified the problems/difficulties so that I am drenched in horror and anxiety.

Here’s the little story Daniel shared in this chapter:

There’s a story from Zen tradition about a young student who is suffering s o terribly, he can’t get a moment’s rest. So he goes to his master to ask for help.

The teacher advises him to put a tablespoon of coarse salt in a glass of water, stir it around, and drink it down. The student does as he’s told. of course the water tastes terribly salty.

“Now,” says the teacher, indicating a spring that’s bubbling from the ground, ” I want you to pour a tablespoon of salt into the spring water.” The student does. When the master instructs him to drink the spring water, the student finds that the taste of salt is imperceptible.

“The problem is not the salt,” says the master. “The problem is the container. You have to make the container bigger.”

That’s not all about Daniel’s lesson. Now that we know our problem is not that big, but how can we cope with it? You may find it cliche, but it’s so very true – Step outside of oneself and begin helping others wind up getting better more quickly. By stepping out into the world, we may find that the container is much bigger than we had imagined. 🙂


2 Responses to “Letters to Sam”

  1. sally lam 2010 年 09 月 01 日 at 1:24 AM #

    Janet: It’s comforting to read your sharing. Some of it just hit me right, i’ve deep feelings when u say “wounds don’t obey our wishes. Healing takes place in its own way and in its own time”, thanks:D

    • missjanetlaw 2010 年 09 月 01 日 at 11:31 AM #

      ^_^ You’re welcome! I just took the ideas from the author. We’ve all been there, being hurt and hurting others. But I’m sure that we will all get healed at times that we don’t even notice. 🙂

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