Gestalt prayer

Yesterday, I blogged a little on DBT and compassion. Today I wanted to share you with you a very special prayer- the Gestalt prayer by Fritz Perls. Gestalt therapy was a new therapy in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I’m not sure exactly when it was most in vogue, but the leader in the field was a man by the name of Fritz Perls. Here is his prayer:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.

(Fritz Perls, 1969)

I cam across it last year in my role as an assistant English teacher in Japan. The head of my department was a really cool guy by the name of Mr Matsumoto. We were learning about mottos through the story of Aragaki Tsutomu. Aragaki Tsutomu was born in Okinawa, and his father was a Mexican American GI while his mother was Japanese. I think he never knew his parents, and he was born blind. The story, which can be found in New Horizon 2, a text for Junior High School English students in Japan, begins something like: “Why did my grandmother die? I hate my mother and father,” said the boy as the sun shone in the blue sky…. So it starts off kind of depressing, but talks about how he heard some hymns on the radio, and walked into a Catholic Church. The priest and his family took him in, he learnt to sing and wanted to be a minister, but instead went to Italy and learnt opera. His motto was “try to be the only one, not just the number one.” and I thought that was great.

So Mr M asked me to come up with a list of mottos, I think I did about 30. But I also made a really beautiful worksheet explaining seven. Each motto was linked to ACTION words- Smile, Believe, Don’t give up, Practice hard, Do your best, prepare fully and Start Now in that order. So I asked him, what”s your motto. He gave me two 1) Knock and the door will be opened to you and 2) The gestalt prayer which he pulled out from somewhere in his home room.

Mr M was great. He was the kind of teacher who always seemed tired, but sometimes didn’t seem to put everything out there on the table while being involved heavily in the running of the school itself. He was into a book called I’m OK, You”re Ok- one of the big books on Transactional Analysis. He made me laugh, and I made him laugh a bit, too. He was always reading books on either history or self-sufficiency. He wanted to move to New Zealand and keep bees. He would have loved Emerson or my little Shambhala classic, Walden. On the last day of my contract, Feb 8, I looked for his familiar face. He ws sick that day. So many times jhe had come to school, fighting off sickness to take care of his classes, but on my last day it must have just been too much for him. I went back to the school on the last Wednesday I was in Japan. He had received a promotion and a new school. I wish him well and I was sorry we had to go our different ways. Every meeting ends in separation, as the Buddhists say. I wish him well.

PS: I went to the hospice book shop yesterday and they had some amazing stuff. I bought books on Feldenkrais, neuroscience, Catholicism, Buddhism and Sufism for under 10 bucks. I was just lucky that day, I guess. The books: Between Heaven and Mirth by Father James Martin, S.J., poems by Hafiz, and a book by Thich Nhat Hanh that I had never seen before. It was translated from the French. Plus the other two. Good people, good cause, good shop

PPS: Rereading bits of Sadhana by Anthony De Mello and Armchair Mystic by Mark Thibodeux, two respected Jesuit pray-ers


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