When I meet a client or patient for the first time in a Compassionate Inquiry session, what is most present for me is curiosity. I want to know who they are, what issue they are bringing to me, and how their current situation arose. Each new encounter is an exploratory journey that we embark on together, perhaps unsure of our destination but trusting that the journey will lead us to precisely where we’re meant to be.
It is this trust in the process that I find particularly exciting – there is a spontaneity and newness to it that can be exhilarating at times. I never know what to expect. What shows up is unpredictable, and I need to be perceptive, present and self-aware in order to respond to each moment as it unfolds.
When I was in my early twenties, a friend invited me to the local airport in Guelph, Ontario to go gliding. I said yes. A small plane towed our glider along the runway with a rope and lifted us into the air. Once airborne, the tether was released. There we were, suspended, with no engine, nothing to rely on, not a sound except the swoosh of the wind, and nothing to do but sail on the rising currents of air. Lifted by the air pressure of warm thermals from below, we gently climbed from one to the next, navigating a distance of several miles, trusting the currents to carry us until we chose to descend. It was exhilarating!
Compassionate Inquiry is like that – no agenda, responding to what arises from one moment to the next, carried by a mysterious, invisible force that exists between therapist and client, and connected by the client’s stated intention for the session. When the therapist and client have both understood and agreed on the intention for a session, and it has been stated out loud, it’s as though on some level, we’ve already arrived at the destination. From there, I let go of the rope and allow the power of the intention’s words to carry the session. The space that follows takes its own creative journey, but I have no doubt we will land in absolutely the right place by the end.
Throughout the session, it is my empathetic abiding presence, attunement to the client, spaciousness, and acceptance of whatever shows up, combined with a quality of compassionate curiosity, that guide the line of inquiry. Compassionate Inquiry is about asking the right question at the right time, going ever deeper into the somatic experience of the client, allowing them to feel what has been suppressed, and to express what has remained unexpressed. Along the way we notice the ‘tells’ – the giveaways in a turn of phrase or shift in body language that let us know when a sly unconscious belief has assumed control of the client. These can then be exhumed and brought into broad daylight, for us to notice and question. Ultimately, over multiple sessions these unconscious beliefs lose their power and morph from monsters to marshmallows. They were never true in the first place and it’s incredibly liberating when that realization finally dawns.
The relational container developed between therapist and client is actually the glider itself. The relational container is the mode of transport that carries both passengers safely from one session to the next. It is strengthened by mutual respect, personal warmth, asking permission, caring, trust, collaboration, transparency, kindness, understanding, deep listening, gentleness and authenticity. When these qualities are present in the therapeutic alliance, much freedom can be gained for both client and therapist, in the session and afterwards. The journey is truly remarkable.
~ Sat Dharam Kaur ND