Many of the feelings we’re going to experience in this life are not comfortable — rage, grief, shame, fear, doubt, jealously, envy, loneliness, bitterness, feelings around being betrayed, abandoned or neglected — none of these are easy feelings. Sometimes we’re in so much avoidance around this stuff, we flee. We keep ourselves insanely busy, or we numb out all the time, or we cling to a false reality and insist those who are close to us do the same. None of that works, assuming you want to be happy and at peace.
The desire to feel good can be so strong, we excuse and explain behavior of others that we really shouldn’t tolerate. Forgiveness feels better than rage. Gratitude feels better than the feeling of lack or bitterness. Being in love feels better than acknowledging something at the core is just not right. What we know is more comfortable than what we don’t, even if what we know doesn’t feel good, but forced joy is not the same as true joy. Should you be happy because it’s the holiday season? Should you get married because you’re thirty and all your friends are doing it? Should you be careful around the word “should”? You feel how you feel, and your best bet is to deal with it.
If you’re enraged because your spouse had an extramarital affair, you can’t race to forgiveness; you have to be with all the other messy feelings that come up first, and see if you can work your way toward forgiveness later. If your grown child is determined to head down a painful path, you do a disservice to everyone if you deny that reality and insist everything is okay. Clinging to positivity is a sure recipe for suffering. It’s not all positive and light, some of it hurts like hell. Some of it makes your blood boil. Being spiritual does not mean you shun those feelings or push them down or feel shame around them, either. The greatest gift of a spiritual practice, whether it’s yoga or seated meditation, hiking or salsa dancing or cooking or whatever speaks to you (and yes, anything that you do consistently that helps you quiet your mind and tune into your own intuition, that helps you become a part of the flow, and lose your sense of separateness, can be defined as a spiritual practice), is the ability to face reality as it is. It’s not about being positive and thinking positively every second and clutching at the light like it’s going to save you. Being able to be with the darkness can save you. Sitting with what is real for you and owning it and allowing painful feelings to arise so you can understand yourself is incredibly liberating. If you don’t do that, you’ll be driven by unconscious forces, and wonder why it is you keep making choices that send you headfirst into brick walls.
The pressure to be happy is enormous. It’s all around you. Watch what you feed yourself, and I don’t just mean food. Everything you take in through your eyes and your ears is food for your mind. If you feed yourself a constant diet of “everyone else is happy and I suck”, you’re probably going to feel pretty badly. Not everyone is happy, many people are suffering in silent agony because they don’t know how to get from here (despair) to there (peace), and very few people talk about the shadow stuff. I think it’s the responsibility of people in the spiritual community to get their hands dirty and shine a light on the stuff that hurts. Knowing yourself can be a deeply painful, lonely process. You may have made a series of choices based on what you thought you should want, or what other people wanted you to want, and you may have a lot of unraveling to do to get back to what’s true for you. That hurts. You may have old wounds that are unhealed that need your kind attention, and that hurts, too. You may find that certain relationships need to be examined from the roots up, and that they may not survive the move to new soil. Birthing anything into existence is uncomfortable at best, whether it’s a new way of being, or a new life that feels more authentic to you.
Too many people are hopeless and numb, internalizing their own rage, walking around feeling depressed, and wondering how all these shiny people on Instagram are doing it. No one posts the pictures of days they shuffle around in their pajamas, feeling lame and alone. You don’t see many status updates that say, “I feel scared because my life is going by and I don’t know what I’m doing”, but everyone has pain, fear and questions. That’s the stuff you run toward, although that might not be intuitive. If you want to be at peace, you have to be willing to walk through the storms, too. They don’t kill you, they don’t wash you away. Avoiding them does.
Sending you love,
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