What to do when it becomes unbearable (don’t run for the hills).

Via Writing Our Way Home
on Feb 8, 2012
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“What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.”
~ Rumi

Fiona writes: An organisation I am very deeply and personally involved with has (and is) going through a terribly difficult time.

It has caused me and others a great deal of sadness, stress, anger and disappointment. It has led me to question my involvement with the organisation at all, which feels almost unthinkable.

When I’ve asked the Buddha (or the Universe) for guidance during this time, I keep getting the same answer – ‘stay open’.

Not ‘run for the hills’. Not ‘do something’. But ‘stay open’. Not the answer I really wanted (the last thing I want to do), but there you are.

I often tell my psychotherapy clients in our first session that the times when they least want to come to their sessions are the times that it is most helpful to do so. If our work together gets almost unbearable, then we are definitely onto something.

In my experience things often get more difficult before they get easier. A spot needs to burst, or something bubbles up asking to be healed. A situation repeats itself despite our best efforts. At these times, it is supremely tempting to think that ‘the other’ is bad for us, that it is all their fault, and that we’d be much better off without them (or any of the rest of the disappointing human race).

I wish there were some other way, I tell my clients. I wish there was an easier way.

What helps us to bear this difficulty?

Chocolate cheesecake was helping me today. Talking to friends. Spiritual practice. Taking one day, one hour, one breath at a time. Knowing that you are not alone.

This blog post should be small proof that you are not alone.

And faith, too. If our faith in a person or a group of people is failing, try to remember that there is something much larger that holds us. If you can’t believe in it, believe in the possibility that it exists. This might just be enough.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
~Pema Chodron

Sometimes we have a soft landing when our nests disappear from under us with no warning, and sometimes we fall far and hard. It hurts. Ouch.

As Rumi reminds us, what hurts us also blesses us. (How hard it is to remember this, in the midst of our hurting). The deep deep darkness is the (only) way through to new light.


Photo by lynnmwillis via Creative Commons, with thanks.


About Writing Our Way Home

Kaspa & Fiona’s eyes met across a crowded room in 2010. They decided to: a) get married & spend their rest of our lives together, & b) pool their passions & talents to give birth to Writing Our Way Home. Their mission of helping people to connect with the world through writing. They offer a smorgasbord of writing e-courses, & run a thriving community. Read more about their mindful writing practice, small stones, and meet Lorrie in Fiona’s free ebook. / Fiona is a published novelist, therapist, creativity coach, & is very fond of earl grey and home-made cake. Kaspa is a Buddhist priest, writer, therapist, drama enthusiast, & is still learning to play the ukulele.


7 Responses to “What to do when it becomes unbearable (don’t run for the hills).”

  1. cathywaveyoga says:

    I feel empty after reading this post. I feel like the title implied steps or 'one big thing' would be discussed. Even reading it 3 times.. I think its the positioning of text, random quuotes and staying open. Maybe a longer discussion about how to stay open would be in line with the title.

  2. Fiona Robyn says:

    That's an interesting response, Cathy. I wish there were steps, or one big thing, that I could share with you (other than the advice I've given). Part of my intention with the piece is to try and capture how hard life can be sometimes, and how sometimes we just have to cling on with our fingertips and stay as open as we can. Maybe the empty feeling is a part of acknowledging the truth of the emptiness? Or maybe it's just not the right piece for you to read. Either is fine.

  3. I find this really helpful. I believe that "stay open" IS one big thing, and that some of the coping skills mentioned after are useful in managing the raw pain of vulnerability. When faced with struggles and challenges, we often instinctually retreat or shut down. But to stay open, to brave the challenge, to face conflict openly without defenses… that's where the real work is.

    Thanks for writing!

  4. Funny, over the past few months I kept getting that answer – patience, be open, do nothing – when I asked about if I should stay with Anusara yoga. It seems I was waiting for this. And now I get to sit some more to decide if now is the time to do something. Because it might be.

    Even doing nothing is an action. It's the intention behind it that counts.

    Thanks for your article Fiona.

  5. Fiona Robyn says:

    Thank you Katrina – I'm glad this felt relevant to your own situation. I often find that if I'm not sure what to do, then it's best to hold tight a little longer. Not always, but there's often a temptation to act which can be premature…