On Thursday last week, I left my office still thinking about my last client of the day. It was around 8:30 at night, and there was just a hint of the day’s warmth still lingering in the air, as I arrived at my car. I settled myself into the driver’s seat, and just before I turned the key in the ignition, I saw a sight to delight the eyes. A noble skunk was making its way across 24th street at the crosswalk. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at this connection back to nature in the most urban of settings. Delighting in his measured gait as he traversed the length of the crosswalk, I soaked in the gift of the skunk.
The Gift of the Skunk
The unique gift of the skunk is to be able to set a boundary, a very obvious unmistakable boundary in order to protect itself. Each time, I have encountered a skunk, I have been reminded yet again, that this may be a good time to examine my boundaries. I asked myself what I had been thinking or doing at the moment that I saw the skunk, and realized that I was carrying my work home with me. I had been talking with my client about the importance of having a personal life outside of work, and I was definitely not walking my talk in that moment. Nature to the rescue: In just a moment, I was able to laugh at myself, delight in the unique reminder and gently surrender my thoughts, fully knowing that my client is well-cared for and I am not serving him or myself by keeping my mind busy in this manner.
I was reminded yet again of the teaching of the hollow bone. A few years ago, on a wilderness quest, I discovered a hollow bone, and this has become a special gift that both inspires and nurtures me in my work as a therapist. If you’ve ever seen a hollow bone in the woods, it has smooth insides and looks almost pristine, having been cleaned out by animals and insects.
Hollow Bone as Nurturance
A hollow bone, in some traditions, is a metaphor for a healer, asking us to become an empty vessel so that we may fully allow Life to flow through us, informing us, inspiring us, and guiding us – unimpeded by ego. On days when I feel weighed down, I stand on my porch and pour water through my hollow bone, reminding myself that my purpose is to allow, not control, to trust, not fear, and to believe in the resilience of my clients. It helps me surrender my self-importance and fully trust in the client’s natural abilities to heal and grow.
Hollow Bone as Inspiration
When I am in need of inspiration, I think of great teachers, mystics & healers who embody the hollow bone teachings. Empty of ego, their compassion shines through. Free of worry, concern and pride, they are ever ready to listen, support, nurture and help others. While I take small steps on my own journey, I am inspired by these examples of how spirit & wisdom shine through those who have transcended the ego.
Teachings of the Hollow Bone
For me the practice of the hollow bone reminds me that I don’t have to DO anything; I don’t have to FIX anyone; and I don’t need to be perfect to be a good therapist. The practice reminds me that I need to empty myself in order to be fully present. By letting my thoughts, worries, concepts and ideas melt away, I become the best listener I can be. And in doing so, I become a clear vessel for empathy, compassion and connection; and sometimes even wisdom to flow through me.
When I hollow myself, I allow the experience of life, my client’s truth, their reality, their worries and fears to move through me. I don’t try to create a pre-ordained outcome, and by doing so, I don’t force my client’s experience in a fixed direction. I allow the process to happen, and as a result, both my client and I are transformed beyond our wildest imaginings.
When we pay attention, everything enlightens.
My cross-walk using skunk friend from last week, gifted me with a connection back to nature and to myself. It was yet another reminder that even in a busy city like San Francisco, we are gifted with connection to Nature. These are the gifts that are all around us, just waiting to be noticed. When we fill every moment of our life, we become tired, drained and overwhelmed. When we take a moment to connect with nature, we begin to empty ourselves and in doing so, we become more fully available to receive the gifts that surround us.
“May you be hollowed, so you may be filled with delight, wonder, compassion and never-ending connection to the world around you.”