Being A Whisperer: Gentleness Over Force

by Jennifer Paros

Your experience of stress doesn’t come from life pushing on you - it comes from you pushing back.                                                                --  Michael Neill

Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2012

Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2012

It used to be that when a fly entered our bedroom and we were ready to go to sleep, my husband leapt to his feet, grabbed a hand towel, and went after it.  He had a technique, he claimed, a way of whipping that towel that yielded results.  Often, it was true and Man did triumph over Fly.   

But still, I always sighed when the process began - not because I was unperturbed by the buzzing and zooming but because there seemed something frantic about attempting to put an end to it

Putting an end to things that bother us appears to be a good and necessary idea.  After all, we don’t want to passively live with what we don’t want.  But the “War On!” mentality can lead to exaggerated effort, a lot of reacting, and general aggravation. 

Then one day, my husband found that if he darkened the room and opened the door, the fly flew towards the light and in doing so, left – a solution that required virtually no effort.  

In writing, avoiding fly chasing type effort in favor of a gentler approach can open the door to happier writing sessions, new discovery, and quicker resolution of feeling stuck and confused.  The desperation of fixation - trying to fix something, get it, solve it - blinds us to what could work and binds our attention to what’s notworking.    

Recently, my oldest son and I had an exchange that went like this: 

He: “Everything works itself out.”

I: “Do you have to be in a particular frame of mind - will it work out even if you’re worrying?”

He:  “Well, it’ll be unhappy for you if you’re worrying but it’ll still work out - you just won’t notice.    

Everything works itself out is a challenging concept; it seems like there is often need for intervention, times when things just won’t or can’t possibly work out without us doing something.  But the value in my son’s observation isn’t in sparking debate over whether or not to take action; it is in an awareness of whether or not action is taken from a place of trust in the process of life.  In gentleness and trust, the intelligence of life is given opportunity to come forward  - at which point we are working with our true nature rather than against ourselves. 

When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.

                                                    --  Saint Francis de Sales

In Cesar Millan’s Be The Pack Leader, he documents his therapeutic work with a dog, Banjo, who spent his life in an animal testing lab and was terrified of people.  

Rather than insisting Banjo receive his attention, Cesar avoided petting the dog or making eye contact. By turning his back to him, the dog was allowed to discover, approach, and trust a person through his own instinct. Because Banjo was a Coon Hound and his breed’s historical link was with hunting, Cesar also set down a trail of raccoon urine.  Quickly, the dog sniffed and followed the trail.  With these approaches, Cesar helped awaken Banjo to memory of himself and his purpose, to the life inherent in being a dog – one he’d forgotten.  Gradually the dog improved in his relationships with people because his relationship to his true nature had been reinstated. 

Cesar Millan calls himself a dog whisperer because he attunes to the spirit of the dog and gently speaks to that. He doesn’t force the retraining of surface expressions; he looks to reawaken the animal to its authentic nature – a nature that naturally knows what to do. A writing whisperer knows the same sort of awakening can create growth and vitality in his work.  He recognizes the inherent difficulty in using force of mind to direct the work to behave. Instead, he looks to his own true nature and the essence of the piece and strives to work with that creative energy, rather than to control it. 

When we take a gentle approach to our work or any life situation, we allow a gradual, slow, soft progression. We give ourselves the opportunity to see more - not hurry through or force anything.  And in so doing, the natural intelligence of life and creativity gets the chance to come through and help.  Being a Whisperer means giving life the chance to help us by gently calling forth an awareness of purpose and value that both reconnects and directs.

Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at

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