There’s no doubt that a train of thought will affect the way you feel. If you’re in a negative frame of mind, that’s going to create a set of circumstances within you. Some thoughts will affect your physical body–the way you’re holding yourself, the way you’re breathing, the degree to which your muscles are “holding on”, your jaw is clenching, or your brows are furrowing. Some thoughts will affect your ability to sleep or eat well, and some will have an effect on your emotional body, and lead to feelings of listlessness and hopelessness. But nothing is going to have a greater effect upon you than your own actions. At the end of the day, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror while you’re brushing your teeth. You have to be able to live with yourself. And that’s not going to be easy if you’re acting in ways that are hurtful to you, or to other people.
Having said that, we are all going to hurt other people at some time or another. Sometimes two people grow in different directions, and there’s just no stopping the reality that someone is going to be crushed. Sometimes we’re young and we don’t know what we’re doing. Sometimes we’re selfish and immature, and don’t understand the ramifications of what we’re doing. I’m not talking about that, though. I’m talking about those actions we take even when we realize somewhere deep and real, we shouldn’t. Feelings can be powerful, but they’re just feelings. They come and go, like everything else. You don’t have to act on every feeling that comes over you. Sometimes pain is just brutal, relentless, exhausting, and it’s natural to want a break from it, an escape. But if you’re in pain, the pain is there to teach you something. I know that isn’t a pleasant reality, but it’s the truth. Again, I’m talking about the kind of pain we create for ourselves, not the kind life brings (although frequently we create pain for ourselves because we haven’t healed a wound from the kind of pain that life can bring). Avoiding it or trying to escape it will not make it go away. You can try drugs, or alcohol, or sex, or shopping, or eating or not eating. All you’re doing is prolonging the inevitable. There’s no permanent escape that’s appealing, there’s no lifelong distraction that is going to bring you peace. At a certain point you’re going to have to walk right into the center of your pain and sit your a$$ down. Your pain is your path to freedom. Avoiding it is a jail sentence you’re imposing upon yourself, with the key in your pocket and your mind full of can’t.
I don’t say this without compassion, because I certainly avoided dealing with my own stuff for many years, but it’s really self-indulgent to desist from dealing with your issues. It’s an act of ingratitude. We don’t think of it that way when we’re in the grip of fear, thinking our pain will destroy us; we think of it as survival. But that’s flawed thinking. That’s your real, actual work here–healing yourself, filling yourself with love and compassion and kindness and inspiration, so you can spread those things freely. I realize fear is a big factor. People often feel overwhelmed and defeated by their past, their past behavior, and the idea that they might be able to do anything about it. Not doing anything about it is the thing to fear. A lifetime of emptiness and loneliness and quiet desperation, or not so quiet rage is the thing to fear. A life where you want to numb yourself or distract yourself constantly is something to fear for sure. A life where no one can get close to you because then the real work has to start and you’ve chosen to bow out of that, is something that ought to make you feel a little sick to your stomach. When you refuse to plunge in, your soul gets sick. Soulsickness. Like seasickness, but it’s your heart that’s getting thrown against the rocks.
Your pain won’t defeat you. Not dealing with it will, though. The ability to sit with your feelings without reacting to them is a tool you need to develop if you want to know yourself. If you want to be close to other people. I’m talking about real intimacy, total nakedness with someone else. Trust. The ability to have an uncomfortable, deeply painful conversation with someone about how you feel before you act on your feelings, even if the conversation terrifies you.
“Developing the witness” is something we talk about in yoga and meditation. The idea that you can have your feelings without identifying with them so much. Finding the strength to pause and consider and explore a set of actions before you do anything. That’s freedom. That’s also where character develops and strengthens. In order to change your behavior, sometimes you need to change your thinking. Creating space between yourself and your thoughts, recognizing that you are not your thoughts, is step one.
It’s going to be very hard to love yourself if you aren’t living up to your potential. Because somewhere inside, you’ll know you’re not. You’ll know you’re sleepwalking. And treating yourself and other people carelessly. And you’ll also realize time is passing. You could be shining, that’s the essential thing. You could be so full of love and consciousness and kindness and yes, that it would spill out all over the place wherever you went. Please don’t deny yourself that kind of shining. You could love your life if you don’t, already. You could love yourself and everyone you encounter. You could say, “Okay, Life, let’s dance”. I really hope you do. Sending you love, as always. Ally Hamilton