I was walking recently and came across beautiful, small red leaves on a tree.
Usually, I would quickly glance and continue, but a used, wet, tea bag wrapped around one of the branches caught my eye. This unexpected litter paused my stride long enough to see. I realized the enormous contrast of beauty to the internal pain I felt.
In fact, up until that tree, that walk was a dark, endless path of despair. The intensity of the emotion left my soul with only one option—to be still. To think at all only caused more pain and hopelessness.
It was as T.S. Eliot says when referring to despair:
“I said to my soul be still and wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought.”
The birds sang, sun radiated and I walked through molasses.
Despair was familiar. I made a conscious decision years ago to be mindful with emotions. Including the dark ones that our culture so frantically numbs and denies. Experience through the years taught my soul that healing was available. This time was no different.
Even in the midst of grey it was essential to, as Rumi says, “befriend the guest that had arrived.”
This guest who tore everything from the walls, stole the nourishment from the cabinets and left me to sit on the cold floor. Time and time again, it was continuously affirmed that unless mindfully met the suffering would continue.
So, we befriend this anguish? Well, yes. Hello buddy.
We start by waving the white flag of this internal battle and surrender. Only then can we rest in mindfulness. We relinquish control despite it being difficult as hell.
The flag means less micromanaging, numbing, denying, blaming, isolating and resenting. At one point in time, these subtle mind tricks had protected us from being overwhelmed. They are there for a reason and previously served us, however, these mind tricks keep us stuck by blocking our ability to learn. Instead we continue to react and pain perpetuates.
This happens until we learn to relax our minds, release control and accept the lesson. As we relax we become familiar with the process, surrounding thoughts, physical sensations, sources or relief and sources of continued pain. We get to know the houseguest. Suddenly they do not have as much power. Instead of ruling us we begin to learn about these moments.
Insight brings much wisdom. I will name a few tokens:
Working our inner worlds allows us to learn patience, kindness and compassion for another.
The qualities of these painful moments become intrinsically known, and it is less likely to automatically react and lash out. Less attacking.
The rigid thoughts that have protected us from feeling pain soften and there is less judgment.
True expression blooms as authentic truth is revealed.
We experience the warm light that comes with true intimate connection.
Opening to our own experiences draws that out in others. Our common humanity is painted on the walls making these moments of pain less lonely. We are exposed to the fascinating truth of all being connected. It becomes a tutorial on the universe. No books necessary.
One part that blocks this process is the thought, “what is wrong with me?” That seems so real. To us in that painful place, it is real. Truthfully though, despair, fear and grief are normal parts of life. Even animals experience these conditions. This process is instinctual.
There is nothing shameful about it. We are human, all unconditionally flawed. With practice, grace becomes second nature. Nothing is wrong with us.
This takes herculean courage. I can’t lie, sometimes, in order to learn, we must fall. We fall off, land face first into micromanaging, resentment, hurt, helplessness, shame, blame and numbness. Sounds terrible.
However, every fall polishes our ability to see our defenses sooner. Some days will be breezy. Other days will seem torturous. We move at our own pace and please, do not give up.
Some kind ways to soothe include: walking in nature, praying, using mantra, spending time with trusted friends, exercising, listening to music, eating nourishing food, drinking plenty of water, consciously breathing, journaling, dancing, playing in the dirt, bike riding, yoga, reading a good book, taking a warm bath, attending therapy and anything that brings you to a place of least resistance with the pain.
Kindness inspires beauty, peace and faith.
The day of my walk, I continued to look at the beauty of the tree. Tears came to my eyes. I witnessed the sharp contrast of external beauty and internal pain. The enormous paradox of life experientially occurred.
The beauty and pain existed together and simultaneously, the tree with beauty and me with pain. Only, without that subjectively ugly pain, I would be less likely to notice the beauty. The pain brought the capacity to feel. With this in mind, the pain wasn’t so ugly after all.
Author: Jess DiNisco
Editor: Renee Jahnke
Image: Matt MacGillivray-Flickr