View this post on Instagram
It seems like I am always trying to get out of the present moment: the gasping pain and fear and not knowing that are a big, whopping part of being human.
Ugh. My mind thuds and whirs like an out-of-control machine. I want to know. I want certainty. I want to predict with stunning accuracy what will happen three minutes from now, a year from now, and what will happen tomorrow.
I pour over astrology charts and freak out upon pulling a tarot card that looks menacing. (Ten of swords, really!?) My heart races and I just don’t want to face myself. Honestly, I’d rather do anything but feel my feelings.
In fact, I’d really like to run away.
And there are a million creative ways to run away from ourselves. As humans, we have probably mastered them all…we have our favorites.
I know I do. I’ll start working to the point of exhaustion and get utterly lost in the cyclones of my mind. And yet, even when everything feels tangled up and awful and impossible—there is a new sort of spaciousness to find.
There is an exquisite lushness to discover, even in the pain.
There are pearls, even in the fear.
This is not to say that these gifts are always readily apparent. This is to not to gloss over anything. And it is certainly not to say that there aren’t incredibly dark moments in this life—because sometimes, trauma and heartbreak is so shattering that it feels like it will last forever.
But this is to say that we are strong enough and soft enough to be with it all. Even when we think we can’t. Perhaps especially then.
What would it be like to remember that we don’t need to run away? Or panic when an intensely uncomfortable feeling comes over us?
Because we really can’t escape ourselves—and this need not be horrifying, but awesome.
What would it be like to drop deeply into our hearts and bodies in that exact moment when we want to run away?
To sit in the fires
To dance in the flames
To sing in them.
To be ruined and then brought back to life.
To rise like a phoenix,
Life after death after life—
And trust it all.
There is nothing quite like our fear, which often seems gigantic—but equally as big, thank goodness, is our resilience.
So what would it be like, when hurt or anxiety or anger overtakes us,
And expand our hearts out a thousand-fold and dare to taste the pain of all others who are also grappling with heartbreak or panic or sadness or physical pain.
And breathe that in. And breathe out spaciousness and care…for ourselves, oh yes, our sweet, banged-up, aching, exhausted selves. And all the ones who ache like we do.
This might sound heavy—likely the opposite of what we are told to do with feel-good affirmations—but it can also be incredibly freeing and connecting.
As we lean into the pain of ourselves and others, we soar above our ordinary fear that emotions will drown us—and our hearts can slowly burst open beyond our wildest dreams. It can even be beautiful.
Then, pain becomes not just this irritating obstacle we are trying to overcome, but something that can make us more intimate with the tenderness of other people, of this life.
This practice of breathing in hurt and breathing out spaciousness is called tonglen, and I adore how it reminds me that our joy is not just our joy. Our loneliness is not just our loneliness. Our love is not just our own.
It is everyone’s.
It belongs to the shaking tendrils of the universe. The stars and hope and dreams and brokenness and grit and despair. The tears and disappointments and sorrow and laughter and anger.
Oh, if only we remembered how much we had in common, despite our differences—how we yearn and ache in such similar ways.
Right now, I can’t run from my feelings anymore. Tears splash down my cheeks to the sultry sounds of Lana del Rey, mourning my own long-standing struggles—
Of wanting love and fearing it; of feeling undeserving and self-sabotaging, like a goddamn mess.
Become not just a pitiful refrain, but a moment to breathe into all the hearts who struggle to love, to feel worthy, to break free of painful pasts, to know what they deserve, who are terrified to trust again.
And in breathing out, I dedicate these words to my own cracked, tender, and broken places—and to yours:
May all beings be free from suffering.
May all beings know peace.
May all beings taste the undying splendor of love.
“Instead of fending off pain and hiding from it, we could open our hearts and allow ourselves to feel the pain, feel it as something that will soften us and purify us and make us far more loving and kind.” ~ Pema Chödrön