“I have no words.”

As many of you know Alan Briskin and I have been researching and writing about relational fields for several years. Our book, “Space is Not Empty: Harnessing the Power of Relational Fields to Impact our World” is nearly complete. Hooray!

Thus, I have been MIA from my blog posts. I now have space inside and around me to begin writing posts again. I hope they inspire you and me to care more deeply and compassionately for one another during these very challenging times. It seems that the fields around us are fraught with fear, hatred, and violence.

As I sit waiting for the doctor in a predictably spartan and sterile examining room in the medical oncology department, the perky medical assistant checks my vitals. She was just back from maternity leave after the birth of her third son. She was breathless with trying to keep up with a faster pace from the one in which she had been living the past three months. Soon after, my new-to-me doctor arrived.

I had met him about a month prior and had mixed feelings about the appointment. Although I was grateful to see a doctor in person, he had seemed removed or perhaps even shy during my first visit. Today, he was about to review the results of a recent mammogram he had ordered in response to a small bump on my left breast that I felt but he could not. (I had had a tumor removed from the right one years ago.)

When he entered he asked me about my Thanksgiving holiday. When I asked him the same question, he said he had a good time with family. As during the first visit, I was silently trying to figure out where he might be from given his accented English.

He quickly got down to business, reviewing the results of the mammogram. He told me it was clear and that I was doing great. He then asked me to move onto the examining table. As he listened to my lungs, I quietly asked him where he was from. I was trying to be as tender and respectful with my question as possible, fearing that he might experience this as a micro- aggression.

He responded, “It depends on what you mean by where am I from.” I paused and told him I assumed he spoke more than one language. He replied, “I speak Spanish and Arabic. My parents are from Palestine. They immigrated to Puerto Rico when I was young. I was with them for Thanksgiving. My wife and other family members are in Palestine.”

After I returned to my chair, he continued asking me questions that I usually only hear from a primary care doctor. I told him that my left leg appeared swollen and had forgotten to mention this in my last annual health review. He reached for a measuring tape and was now kneeling at my feet measuring the difference between the size of my calves.

As I looked at the top of his bowed head, I felt something open in my chest. I suddenly heard myself say, “I am so very sorry.” Still looking down, with his voice shaking, he said, “I have no words.” And, neither did I in that moment.

As we moved in and out of medical questions and personal ones, his tone and manner dramatically changed. I learned that his wife lives in the West Bank where he also spends time. He began digging deeper into my medical history, making eye contact, and telling me that the first episode of breast cancer had happened five years ago and sharing the statistics with me about the unlikely event of it returning. He turned the computer screen toward me and invited me to look at the data with him. Standing next to him, looking at the screen, I felt respected, cared for. It is as if the world in that sterile space had become a cocoon, a field of human connection and compassion. He for me and me for him.

As I left the room, he smiled and wished me happy holidays. I said, “I hope you, your wife, and your whole family remain safe.” He thanked me.

My writing seems inadequate to capturing what that moment felt like. It reminded me of how simple and challenging it can be to simply express what arises in our hearts and how quickly our tone and words can change the relational field within and around us. Of course, I feel the same sadness and horror for what happened in Israel on Oct. 7 as I do for what is happening in Gaza now.

How can we step outside the horror of what we do to one another and accurately and precisely perceive the seemingly unending, inter-generational fields of suffering and trauma we cause? If we were able to take the long view, would it matter? How can we learn to tend our internal fields so that we contribute to making the fields around us more inclusive and loving? Of course, this does not mean we will agree or see the world in the same way. However, might we at least experience one another as fellow human beings, interconnected and mutually influential of one another’s state of being?


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