During the coronavirus crisis, Rachel's regularly-scheduled classes are held virtually over Zoom. The logins for all classes are on this password-protected page -- email Rachel for the password.

Compassion and Suffering

Compassion and Suffering

Compassion and Suffering


So, 2015 has only been here for a 37 days and I already feel like I have aged a few years. Seeing my beloved daughter deal yet again with fear, pain and the suffering that it brings is a bone chilling, gut and  heart wrenching bring me to my knees wailing and curl up into the fetal position state of being.

But if I remained in that state in the numerous times her health concerns rear their ugly head,  I would only be focused on myself (which is super easy for me to do…). I would miss the chance to walk with my daughter in her suffering, look her in her eyes when she is challenged beyond any measure I could imagine and let her know that I would take it from her if I could, and in lieu of that, am right here at her side. Holding her. Comforting her. Walking the walk with her. I am present to her and her needs in this space and not wasting precious life energy trying to reign in the monkey mind that is projecting the what if scenarios faster than a speeding bullet. I am present to her suffering. Her fears. Maybe there are things I can help her explore here. Is there pain? Where is it? Can you describe it? Where is it on a scale of one to ten? Can we seek relief from this in the form of pain meds and breathing and Reiki? Is it acute?  Fear: what is unknown here can be explored. Perhaps there is a question that we have not asked that can alleviate fear in some way. Information coupled with support, trust and faith can be powerful antidotes to fear. Having courage is moving forward despite still having fears. Fear that it will be painful when I move. Fear that this will happen again. But every time, every time,  no matter how many times she has to relearn to stand, to walk, to eventually come back towards taking care and responsibility for her basic needs (which are way beyond the average teenager) my brave, tiny but fierce little person does this again and again. I stand in awe.

I believe as humans, we are so afraid of suffering and are so triggered by our own fears of loss, pain and mortality that  we remove ourselves from others suffering and try to numb our own. Sometimes that takes the appearance of socially acceptable separations that appear to look like caring but have thinly disguised masks such as pity which is an emotion based in fear and has the effect of separation. “Oh, that poor girl! I feel sooooo bad for her.” Riley and I call that “The Tiny Tim Syndrome.” Screw that. It is not authentic and my fourteen year old who has had fourteen years of challenges that most people don’t have in a lifetime can smell that bullshit 2 blocks away.

I can remember my life very publicly falling apart in our small community when my first husband dealt with drug addiction and would be in and out of rehab. Both of us, him owning a restaurant and me, a local musician and performer , were visible members of the community and I can remember how many people, previously friendly, avoided eye contact with me in the grocery store, the bank. It was as if I may have been carrying a contagious disease that could be spread if people  engaged in meaningful contact with me. People that I thought I could rely on disappeared. Even family members became emotionally unavailable. Too messy.

One friend, actually before this, a casual friend, reached out to me. She recognized the nature of my suffering and knew it too well. It had been her own. This was a lifeline. Someone who would walk with me, hold me up when needed, help me with my baby. (Yes, I had a baby during this time, my first child.) and most of all just offer a presence that did not fear my suffering would also swallow her whole!

Another was my sister Kelly, who walks with people in their suffering in her work with the homeless in a way like no one else I have ever seen. She came into my bedroom one morning during this same time period  while I was curled up in the fetal position and soaked with stale tears and told me she could not do this for me, but she will be by my side every step of the way. So basically get your ass out of bed and I will hold your hand but wash the snot off first! same sister took in my son when we traveled to Philadelphia living there for four months undergoing the then pioneering in utero surgery for spina bifida (Riley’s grand entrance into the world) another blog for another day.

Don’t be afraid to walk with people in their suffering. Don’t try to fix everything that’s fucked up for them. That’s being a martyr, not a compassionate witness.

Your pain and the witnessing of others will not destroy you. It will affirm you. To be conscious in this, practice grounding, breathing and presence and responding from there. You don’t have to have magic words. Fabulous solutions. You just need to be present with your heart and recognizing the suffering of yourself or another through sending love and compassion which is boundless and comes wrapped in the humble packaging of grace. But you can also bring cookies! Allow vulnerability. Yours and others. And for Gods sakes, release by moving your body. Walk. Run. Dance madly. Sing. Write. Create. The weight of the world will pile up if you don’t. It is not yours. It never was. On the other side of this experience of bearing witness is the immense, I repeat IMMENSE enhanced capacity to experience joy. We learn to realize the enormous fragility and fortitude that are the paradox of life here on Earth School.

My life, my children, my husband (who truly is the most amazing person on the planet, a survivor of trauma so intense it could make milk curdle), my hospice patients and families and the wild Goddess women survivors I have the blessing to work with teach me over and over again when we can be open and raw and real and vulnerable with each other we fall in love with life.  This is sacred and precious beyond measure.

walk your walk with yourself, extend it to others and breathe and smile.

Lo Kah Samasta Sukinu Bhavantu


Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen, B.A. Political Science/Sociology, is a Certified Music Practitioner, Sound Healer, Reiki Master, and Registered Yoga Teacher with a trauma informed/social justice framework. She has 20 years experience of working with some of the most amazing people on the planet; hospice patients and their families, patients in a variety of health conditions, survivors of sexual abuse, adults with mental illness and most recently, incarcerated women. Rachel is also passionate about supporting and working with caregivers to reduce burnout and compassion fatigue. Locally, Rachel teaches Creative Movement at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA. Regionally and nationally, she teaches and presents at conferences and retreats, weaving live music, yoga, and creative movement into themes of compassion, self acceptance, and transformation. Rachel is committed to engaging people from all walks of life in the healing arts to create healthy, diverse, and joyful communities.