“To companion our fellow humans means to watch and learn. Our awareness of the need to learn (as opposed to our tendency to play the expert) is the essence of true companioning.”- Alan Wolfelt
Some people believe that when you take a photograph you are removing yourself from the true emotional experience of that moment. Yet, some believe capturing it on film helps you truly tune into the moment. I can say I have experienced both with my photography. I have missed “feeling” moments because I was too busy trying to capture it on film. Yet, sometimes I have captured an awesome moment that might have otherwise slipped through time.
While sitting on a beach in the Dominican Republic I saw something I wanted to capture on film. I wanted to honor it, yet, there was something in me that held back. I only took one knowing I was missing a beautiful series of photographs. Instead, I just witnessed and held the moment, for me, off film. The conflict I felt in photographing or not reminded me that although I might have an eye for “moments”, I would make a terrible photojournalist!
I share this photo with you to honor the moment; the moment I witnessed and the moment I let go.
I share this photo with you to honor the human compassion and companionship I witnessed that day.
I watched this man be carried into the surf by his caregiver/friend. They then swam together for what seemed like an hour. When the man was done swimming his caregiver/friend carried him out of the surf, to his chair and they then left the beach.
I was told they come daily.
I have companioned many people at the end of life, through bereavement and through a variety of difficult life events/experiences. What I witnessed that day on the beach reminded me of Alan Wolfelt’s Companioning Philosophy. It is a wonderful philosophy that can really transcend bereavement counseling into what real friendship and love is about. To me this philosophy is really about being a compassionate human (without an agenda), willing to sit, hold and walk along side of another. Or as Alan says, “Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.”
Companioning is a true gift to give and receive.
1. Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
2. Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
3. Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
4. Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
5. Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
6. Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading or being led.
7. Companioning means discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it does not mean filling up every moment with words.
8. Companioning the bereaved is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
9. Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
10. Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
11. Companioning is about curiosity; it is not about expertise.