“Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it.
It is all we ever have, so we might as well work with it
rather than struggling against it.
We might as well make it our friend and teacher
rather than our enemy.”
~ Pema Chodron
All of us have experienced being in a particularly dark place at some stage in our life.
Whether it be instigated by a particular event, like the loss of a loved one, or just because our nature is such that there will always be ups and downs, at certain times in life we find ourselves rapidly sliding down a slippery slope into a dark hole of sadness and despair. Such times in life are inevitable and often even necessary in order for us to be able to process things and move on.
The problem I see today though, is that being in or heading towards such a place can be so uncomfortable, terrifying and daunting that we find ourselves doing anything we possibly can to bury or deny ourselves any emotions or feelings that we think may have the ability to push us over the edge into what we see as the abyss of despair.
Every now and then, life pulls the rug out from underneath us.
When that happens, inevitably we start feeling things that can be terribly uncomfortable and confronting. Sadness, anger, jealousy, discontentment, confusion. We then immediately start labeling those feelings, dump them in a bag, write “negative” on it and bury that bag deep within the core of our being; never to be seen or spoken of again. All the while telling ourselves that it is not OK to fall apart, that we must wear a smile and soldier on.
So what if we turned the table upside down? What if during the times of darkness we were able to view life pulling the rug out on us as a positive, and see those difficult feelings as integral components of ourselves and our experience?
The point is, that everything changes so quickly (or slowly it may seem, but it changes none the less) that we probably don’t need to place so much emphasis and labeling and negativity on each and every event or feeling. When we label everything we feel, it immediately becomes classified as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
If we view certain feelings or responses we have as bad or negative we become unable to allow ourselves to feel certain things that we need to feel, and we are therefore suppressing an important part of ourselves.
We need to feel all of the things that arise, because that tender part of our heart which feels sadness or anger or despair or doubt, is the same part that feels love and compassion and gratitude. If we force ourselves to soldier on, burying “negative” emotions, screaming slogans at ourselves such as “action is the antidote to despair” we are telling ourselves “you are bad and weak and pathetic for feeling sad and crying and staying in bed for half a day.” Rather than just being with that feeling, accepting it, moving closer to it, knowing that it will also change.
Just as the most beautiful moments will change, and knowing that your ability to feel utter sadness or anger or loneliness is equal to your ability to feel real love and genuine compassion.
In order to love we must open that part of our hearts which we guard so vigilantly, which we shut down when any uncomfortable feeling creeps in. Cultivating openness means not hiding behind the wall we’ve erected to shield us from feeling hurt. It means truly loving and allowing ourselves to be loved.
And sometimes it means hurting and feeling sadness or anger and doubt and confusion and anything else that we inevitably feel along the way. As human beings we are flawed and vulnerable.
We are never going to always be OK. And it’s OK to not be OK. As Pema Chodron put it “None of us is OK and all of us are fine.”
Perhaps we can even embrace the difficult, uncomfortable times. Not clinging on to them for any longer than we need to, but not denying ourselves the right to not be OK either.
From moment to moment everything is constantly changing.
Perhaps what can help us through these times is knowing that the part of us which feels this darkness is the most real, raw, vulnerable part of us, the part that also gives us the ability to love and laugh and dance and dream. It’s one of the most beautiful parts. The tender heart. We feel what we feel because we love. And love is hard and messy, confusing and confronting. Love is what makes us vulnerable. And this is scary.
But love is also inevitable and beautiful. We all have the innate desire to love and be loved. This is what drives us, what allows us to laugh uncontrollably, to play, feel joy, to take risks and act out of loving kindness. And this love is caring, beautiful and nurturing.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Jess Sheppard/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum