The more you repress your feelings the harder they have to work to rise to the surface. “What you resist persists.” People make themselves sick this way. Some feelings are incredibly uncomfortable – ugly even – but to reject something you’re feeling is to deny yourself an opportunity to go deeper – to uncover what’s underneath a fleeting feeling of rage or shame, insecurity, fear, envy, doubt, loneliness or guilt. If something is bothering you, disappointing you, breaking your heart, making you anxious, or keeping you up at night, then by all means it’s going to affect you and it’s worth exploring and examining.
I think there’s a lot of pressure in the spiritual community to stay positive, to be grateful in every moment. This is wildly unrealistic, and beyond that it creates a lot of pain for people who are already suffering. A person who loses their child, for example, will never, ever, ever feel grateful for that, appreciate the lesson, want to hear that they should focus on all the good things in their life, that there’s a plan, that everything happens for a reason, that this is happening for them and not to them, or that it may not make sense now but it will someday. It will never make sense, okay?
This is the kind of sound-byte spirituality that alienates people whether they’ve suffered an incomprehensible loss like I’ve mentioned, or they’re going through a breakup, dealing with a debilitating health issue, suffering from stress at work, or grappling with the suffering of someone they love. There’s no compassion in making a person feel guilty for not feeling grateful in those moments. Now the person feels awful, and their pain is compounded with the feeling that they’re also failing in their spiritual practice.
Maybe gratitude will come later in the form of recognizing they’ve grown in empathy because of their experience, or can now be a beacon for someone else going through incredible loss, but don’t ask someone to race to gratitude and skip over feelings of grief, rage, or incomprehension. When I look back on most of the incredibly painful experiences in my life, I am very grateful because that’s when the most growth happened, but there are a couple of lessons I’d love not to have learned. I say that with the acceptance that everything may be happening for a reason, or everything may just be happening, and with the understanding that none of us will truly know until we exhale for the last time. People who think they know and want to force their opinions down your throat are clinging harder than anyone else. I have my feelings about this. I don’t personally believe this is all there is and then we’re worm food. I don’t know if we turn into star dust, or simply live on in the hearts and memories of those we leave behind, but I believe something essentially us lives on. You may feel differently, and I respect your beliefs. We all have to work it out and answer these big questions on our own, in a way that resonates with us. When my son was six, he came home from school one day and said, “Jack says God doesn’t like Buddha because Buddha thinks he’s the real God,” and he looked at me with confusion. This “us versus them” stuff starts at six. Where do you think Jack is getting that from?
Until we have our answers, we are here. That much we know. We’re here, and as far as I can tell, the best use of our time is to spread love. To explore this state of being alive. To know ourselves, and to open to this life as it is, with all its mystery and heartache, confusion and loneliness, chaos and longing, and incredible, gorgeous, pierces-you-right-in-the-center-of-your-heart joy. To accept that sometimes we’ll be full of yes, feeling open and grateful and full of light, and other times the light will go out for awhile and we’ll walk around blindly with our arms out in front of us bumping into walls, falling off cliffs, landing in ditches. Let it all affect you. Open up to all of it, even the uncomfortable stuff, and grow. Know yourself. That’s how you can be of service, and if you want your life to have meaning, that’s the best path I know. Figure out what your gifts are and share them. Connect. Love. Fall to your knees and wail when you need to. Be real. People cannot connect with a false-positive. With someone who screams about Shri all day long. Sometimes the path is full of unbelievable sunlight that feels like it’s pouring right out of your own heart, and other times hail hits you in your face, hard. It’s called life, and it’s pretty amazing, but it’s not all positive.
Sending you so much love,