Last night, I sat on my meditation mat before starting my sādhanā and cried.
I felt so much pain in the center of my chest that I mentally thought to myself, “This hurts so bad.”
Ah, yes. This is why I’ve been avoiding this all these years.
I finally, after nearly a decade, felt into the pain I feel around a past experience—an experience tinged, laced, interwoven, coated, shrouded with guilt, shame, and regret.
When I think about this experience, a dark cloud swallows the memory. It’s instantaneous. And, I know that my tendency is to instinctively, out of self-preservation, I’m sure, want to do anything but feel into the feelings I have around it.
I’ve been dancing this dance for years.
Somehow, this feels like a lesson that is constantly unfolding for me.
Feel into your emotions. Acknowledge them; admit them; feel into them. It’s the only way you can free yourself from them.
Damn—it takes courage to feel into them.
It seems we’ll do almost anything to avoid having to feel into these dark spots. We repress, suppress, deny, and avoid because we’re scared of feeling the heavy uncomfortableness of these feelings.
They feel so bad to feel.
So we knee-jerkingly switch our attention to pretty much anything else—cope in whatever (probably maladaptive) ways we can.
We think we’re keeping these dark places hidden. (If I don’t look, then they’re not there!) But we’re only relegating them to the shadows—they haven’t really gone anywhere. (Hello, hello. I’m still here. And I’m going to pounce and make you feel me—and feel bad!—when you least expect it!)
And if we think they’ve gone somewhere, we’re either not self-aware or we’re lying to ourselves. Even when we say we’re not affected, or we push things aside, on a deeper level, we also know these things we’re trying to avoid are still breathing within us.
It’s why we close our eyes tightly when we think of that thing that makes us ache, or we feel ourselves physically cringe at even the slightest hint of a reminder of it.
And it’s not just the big experiences. We also want to ignore “unflattering” thoughts.
Sometimes I can actually see an aspect of my consciousness’ resistance to even acknowledge a thought. I see the slightest hint of the thought, but notice how I (on some level) am wanting to refuse to really look at or acknowledge it.
But I’ve trained myself to acknowledge this, to intentionally admit that thing I’m wanting to avoid. I’ll even state it out loud. I want my consciousness to understand I am aware of it. I know what’s happening.
“Okay. Fine. I know that I’m thinking…I’m not saying it’s true or even that it’s how I truly feel, but I’m thinking it. I’m acknowledging that the thought is here.”
We don’t have to tell the world our stories; we don’t have to share our secrets with anyone else.
But we have to be willing to admit them to ourselves. We have to be willing to be radically, even painfully, self-honest.
It’s the only way we can find the freedom from the heavy feelings we feel. Or let go of the thoughts that we never chose to think in the first place.
To be able to release guilt, shame, regret, and other less good-feeling feelings, we have to be willing to forgive ourselves—and to be willing to forgive, we must first be willing to acknowledge, admit, and feel how we feel.
It can be damn hard, but it’s the only thing that works.
Because only when we let ourselves truly feel what we’re feeling, or think what we’re thinking, do we have the opportunity to bring a different, more understanding perspective.
There’s another experience in my life where something similar happened—where I held onto feelings of guilt and regret for far too long. I felt guilty for something for almost 14 years—for something that happened when I was 15. The kind of guilt that would make my insides cringe every time I’d think about it. I would even cry.
The guilt only left me when I’d brought a different perspective to the situation. I was 15. I didn’t know better. If I’d had the context I have now or the perspective, I would have behaved differently. With the understanding I brought to that time, I was also able to look at the emotions and mental state of a 15-year-old and say, Duh, of course!
But I only got to that point because I’d been willing to see the situation differently.
And that happened because I was finally willing to forgive myself.
And because I’d spent time feeling into the pain of my guilt and regret.
We have to be willing.
Willing to acknowledge and admit the things we’re so desperately trying to resist. And we have to be willing to feel the feelings that accompany them.
And this can be hard. So, so damn hard.
But we can’t release or let go of something that we refuse to admit is there.
As I cried last night, I also had the distinct sense that there was an opportunity here. That I could, finally, heal from and release this hidden, limiting burden I’ve been carrying.
I wish I could have known sooner, done this sooner.
But at least I have the chance now.