August 17, 2016

Finding the Beauty in Pain, Grief & Depression.

Alexa Torontow re-sized

There was a time in my life when there was no way, shape or form in which I could understand the idea that there is beauty in pain, grief and even depression.

There was a time when I would’ve given anything to release the intensity of the emotions I was experiencing, not to mention the alluring option of not feeling anything all.

Over the past several years I’ve made huge strides in many aspects of my life, and most importantly a complete shift in my perception.

But there’s a big difference between understanding something logically and knowing it in the belly of our soul.

And it was only recently that I fully understood how there is beauty in pain, grief and even depression—and what it means to understand that on a deep, visceral and cellular level.

The experience I had when it shifted from logic to full body-mind-soul integration was easily one of the most powerful and wonderfully overwhelming experiences I’ve ever had. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

I’m not sure if anyone else does this, but sometimes when I’m in an off mood or in a difficult situation, I’ll close my eyes and imagine I’m somewhere else. You know, the happy place that we sometimes go to when life just feels a bit too heavy.

For some, it’s an empty beach along the ocean—for others, it’s going off an epic adventure. For me, it’s on the top of a mountain overlooking an infinitely vast landscape, facing an incredible view and having powerful winds blowing through my hair, across my body and airing out what’s currently arising in my soul and resting in my heart. When I’m in that space life feels light, my heart feels soft yet spacious and my entire self feels free.

One of the last times I closed my eyes, as they re-opened, I was actually there. Not metaphorically, not in my mind’s eye, I was literally there.

A few weeks back, while I was traveling, I found myself in the middle of the desert with an amazing group of women. It was one of the most indescribably incredible views I’ve ever seen. The craters were deep, the landscape was vast, there was no edge in site, and the winds were some of the strongest I’ve ever experienced.

As the sun began to set, one of the women invited us to come along the edge, arm in arm and eyes closed. I won’t even begin to attempt to reiterate her poetic words, but the words that left her lips were the perfect combination of sweet and powerful, light yet potent—the kind of words that just strike a cord of truth deep within and reverberate throughout every part of our soul.

After she spoke, she invited us all to scream at the top of our lungs with the intention of letting go—

Letting go of what no longer serves us. Letting go of the parts of ourself that are no longer in alignment with who we are. Letting go of whatever in our lives may be weighing us down. Letting go of whatever it is that we may need to, and allowing it to be carried by the strength of winds into this potent container of space that lay before us to be softened and transformed.

After a few rounds of wild roars, the collective shift in energy was palpable. It felt as if any blocks or stagnation in my body completely melted. It was like every single cell was pulsating in tune with the underlying current of this life experience.

As the winds swept from the back of my body, over top of me, and through me to what was ahead of me, I slowly began to open my eyes. And when I did, I was moved to tears from equal parts gratitude, shock and deep admiration.

I couldn’t believe it. I was there, in real time. I was standing in the scene I had imagined in my minds eye so many times before.

It felt even more wonderful than it did in my imagination.

I started to cry.

They were tears of joy. They were tears for beauty.

It was an experience of gratitude deeper than I’ve ever felt before. A huge rush of emotion washed over me as I felt how lucky I am to have such beautiful, intimate and powerful moments such as these.

But then, rather quickly, there was a shift as the joy became infused with deep sadness.

A friend of mine who took his own life came to mind, and I started to cry a little bit more.

It was in that moment that it hit me—he doesn’t get to have beautiful moments such as these, or any more moments here on the physical plane.

Nothing makes my heart ache more than to think of the moments before people take their own life. The amount of pain, discomfort and terror people can feel is one of the most heart-breaking aspects of humanity.

I cried for the people who are in moments of so much pain and torture that this life becomes unbearable.

I cried for the people who don’t get to feel a true sense of freedom or to experience what it means to be at ease.

I cried for the people who don’t get the opportunity to get through the mud to catch even just a glimpse of joy, of light and of hope.

I cried for many reasons, big and small. And as I felt increasingly overwhelmed with emotion, I excused myself from the group to take some time to let everything I was feeling move through me and settle.

I found a place to just be and took a few breaths. And that’s when it really landed.

To feel is beautiful.

To feel whatever we are feeling in totality is a gateway to who we are beneath it all.

Beneath the societal roles and titles, beneath who we are to our family and friends, and even beneath our current emotion, state or mood.

To feel joy and freedom and love is of course amazing. But to feel pain, grief and depression is amazing too.

To feel the weight of the world or the pain in our hearts means that we are here.

We are here. We are alive. We are given the gift, in every single day, in every single moment, to experience all that this life has to offer.

Sometimes life is hard, really hard. Sometimes the pain, intensity and level of suffering that occurs on this planet is incomprehensibly overwhelming.

I’m not saying it’s easy to really lean into and experience the darker, heavier and more intense aspects of this life.

But we can remind ourselves, every damn day, that nothing lasts forever. That not everyone gets the gift of experiencing whatever it may be that we’re experiencing in this very moment. Regardless if it is love, joy, pain or sorrow.

Because even in the darkest moments and heaviest of emotions, I truly believe when we come back to the beat of the heart, the rhythm of the breath and the more subtle sights, sounds and sensations that are occurring at this very moment…we may just catch a glimpse of light. A glimpse of hope. A momentary glimpse of who, or better yet, what we are beneath it all.

Regardless or where we are, what we’re doing and how we feel, when we truly lean into the fragility and impermanence that constitutes this life, I think it has the potential to change everything. Not just on an individual level, but in regards to real collective change.

There is beauty in pain, grief and even depression.

To feel is beautiful when we let it serve as a reminder that it is a gift, that it is fragile and that it isn’t going to last forever.

The more we lean into reminders of our aliveness, like the beat of our heart, the rhythm of the breath and the fluctuation of our inner world.

May we let it serve as a reminder that we are here.

May we let it serve as a reminder that we are needed.

May we let it serve as an access point to what we are beneath it all.


Author: Alexa Torontow 

Image: Author’s own; Sylvain Reygaerts/Unsplash 

Editor: Emily Bartran

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