As I was sitting on my yoga mat stretching this morning, I noticed a soft, tender, tugging feeling around my heart.
I recognized the sensation immediately. I realized that I felt sad.
Instead of continuing with my routine, I climbed into bed, sat cross-legged, propped two pillows behind my back to help me sit upright, and started breathing.
Deep breaths. In and out. Inhaling and exhaling. As I meditated, I heard the sounds of falling rain and wind gusting outside my window. I saw the slight flickering of candlelight off to the right, through the barrier of my closed eyelids. My attention was focused on that delicate place inside my chest.
I sat, and felt, and breathed. I understood and I allowed.
I had no goals or motivations beyond just sitting there, allowing what I was feeling to just be.
I know there was a time in my life when I shied away from feeling into difficult emotions. And though I still sometimes feel myself balk at the idea of letting myself experience the pain, particularly when I can sense something heavy, dark, or profound pulsing there inside me—I do it anyway.
I’ve learned to gently will myself through these moments, because there’s so much opportunity beating within that shadowed space.
Too often, too many of us resist feeling into difficult emotions because we’re afraid of how they feel. We’re wary of feeling pain; we’re afraid of feeling fear. We actively avoid anything that will make us feel any element of bad, unworthy, or scared.
It’s natural, and an almost expected reaction. Of course we don’t like feeling negative emotions. Feeling uncomfortable emotions never feels comfortable—but they’re not supposed to.
The uneasiness we feel is an indication that there’s something we should draw our attention to. These emotions want to tell us something. There’s some lesson that’s begging to be heard. Information that’s pleading to be discovered. We wouldn’t understand that there’s something to be uncovered if we didn’t have those sharp, uncomfortable sensations of discomfort.
When we avoid looking into difficult thoughts, feelings, and emotions, we shut ourselves off from one of the most expansive aspects of life. So many of our deepest insights are gleaned from softening around and into our tender places. We experience growth from feeling into our vulnerability.
We also lose the chance to release and let go of whatever is triggering us. Because the energy of whatever is causing us to feel badly is living and breathing inside of us whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Ignoring pain doesn’t get rid of it, and refusing to acknowledge fear doesn’t stop us from feeling scared, it just banishes these energies to some place buried deep within us.
They either become dormant, awaiting an opportune moment to reassert themselves, or they simply begin operating at the level of our unconsciousness. Which means they influence us, and unwittingly govern and guide us, without us even knowing.
It’s hard to feel into uncomfortable emotions, and sometimes it can even feel acutely painful, but it’s the only way to really let them go.
When we have the courageous audacity to inquire into our dark spaces, we give ourselves the opportunity to disentangle from the binds that seek to limit, define, and restrict us. We uncover hidden thoughts and beliefs, discover buried heartache and pain, and shine the light of recognition on deeply entrenched fears and not-yet-healed embedded wounds.
We dismantle the inner governing structures of pain and fear that thrive on unawareness.
Once we become aware of these spaces, we have the chance to decide how to deal with them.
Awareness allows us to choose how to react to every aspect of our life experience. It might not feel like we get to determine everything that happens to us, but we always have the ability to decide how we want to react to—and interact with—what is happening.
It’s not easy to sit through difficult emotions. It takes courage. Boldness. Resilience. It takes a soft, willingness to allow whatever it is that’s making us ache to simply be.
It also takes a willingness and determination to experience whatever is happening without judgment—seeking only to see, watch, learn, observe, and understand. Allowing ourselves to simply discover whatever unfolds.
This work can be painful—sometimes excruciatingly so—but it’s temporary. Transient. Fluid and flowing. And, if we just allow ourselves to watch the motion, without avoiding it or attaching to it, we can learn the lessons that are percolating within it.
And it’s how we’ll be able to move our way through it.
The pain I felt in my heart space this morning was light. I knew what it meant before I even sat down. I knew exactly what it referred to. I intuitively sensed that I wouldn’t learn anything new.
But I also understood that I had to feel into it. Without thought. Without judgement.
Just sit there. Watch it. Allow it.
The pain just wanted to be felt. It wanted to be understood. Every emotion we feel just wants to be heard.
We can uncover whatever is pleading to be learned.
We just have to have the soft, tender, courageous willingness to sit there and listen.