“The wound is the place where the light enters you” – Rumi
Recently, when working with a client we were opening a very tender area that brought out a great deal of pain. Not hesitating, and also not fully understanding, my client walked forward into the pain. A broken relationship opened up the wound and now he stood before its doorway and had only to enter and hear its voice. As he began to walk forward the cries, tension and pull of pain unfolded and began to envelop him and he soon found himself pulling back out and standing on the precipice in quiet awe of the well of grief he held inside.
We reflected on the experience after and the awesome stretch of emotions that were held in what seemed to be the cavity of his chest. He also shared his hesitation in the face of such deep pain. I understand this hesitation, have walked it many times before, and what I have found is that healing is very much like going to the gym, making a sandwich and meditating on a mountaintop all at once!
Going to the Gym
When people ask me if they can work with me in healing work, I am, of course, honored and humbled. The next question is usually, how often we should meet. Everyone’s healing journey is unique and within each of us is the teacher and healer of this journey. We often, however, initially need a guide who has traversed these grounds before and can walk us through the dark corners and help bring in the light. To do this, we must treat it like going to the gym.
If I want to develop my muscles, I cannot hope to do this by going to the gym once a month. It must instead become a consistent practice of 2 to 3 times a week on a regular basis to begin building my muscles, develop a routine and practice that I would most likely carry into my everyday walk of building up my physique. So too with the work of the spirit. We cannot hope to open our hearts to love by only attending to our hearts once a month. We must instead make it a consistent practice of going into those tender places where the heart hurts the most and begin opening it up. By walking into the pain every single week during a healing session, we begin to build and widen our tolerance for pain.
This stretching out of our capacity to endure pain also stretches out our capacity to love. Enduring pain does not mean holding your breath and waiting until its over, that only builds more walls, which may keep out the pain for a while, but it will also keep out love, tenderness, kindness, compassion and it will keep it from the one who needs it most of all, yourself.
Walking into pain and grief says, I believe in you; I trust you; I have faith in you and your capacity to heal and walk into the light.
By consistently facing and exploring those places within us that are tender, bringing up the wells of tears and opening up big fears about who we think we are; build our endurance to hold more space for these hard emotions. When we can hold space for hard emotions for ourselves, we can begin to hold space for others and all of their emotions without making it about us. Instead, we just love those who are in front of us with all of their raw emotion…we can bring in the light, as we did for our self during every healing session.
Just like working out at the gym at a consistent pace begins to develop our muscles creating strength, it also stretches our limbs and makes us more limber, and lifts our spirits with overall health. So too does healing over time…we cannot hope to sit in front of others and all of their baggage and love them if we cannot first learn to love the beautiful creation within us that is behind our own baggage. Each weekly healing session when we sit with our pain and fear even if just a little bit longer each time, builds our endurance for pain, increasing the depth of our capacity to love.
Making a Sandwich
I often refer to healing as making a sandwich. We go into our bodies by breathing into the pain and fear, but we must also create new mental mindsets and begin to understand the changes we are creating within us. Healing is not just about releasing emotion or trauma, it is also about understanding the world with a different mental frame.
During healing sessions, once the pain or fear has lifted a bit, my clients and I discuss what is the shift that is taking place. For example, when someone I love is commenting on my behavior in a negative way and telling me all the things that are wrong with me, it can be deeply hurtful and I might think what they’re saying is true. I often ask my clients to do two things:
One, check in – Take a moment to do an inventory of yourself. Is there truth to what they’re saying? Is there something I need to look at within myself? And if there is, then that is my focus, nothing else. No need to defend, argue, challenge, deflect. Just a humble acknowledgment that maybe there are some areas of growth I need to continue looking at.
And if they continue or I don’t see those faults they point out.
Two, turn the mirror – Sometimes, when others (including ourselves) point out faults in their loved ones, they are very often saying out loud what they think about themselves. We often see the world through the lens in which we see ourselves. If we take in what people say about us as truths it is as if there were a mirror being held in front of us and we’re looking at ourselves the way they see us – it can be very depressing! If we have checked in and know what they are saying is not our truth, then turn the mirror around. The reality is they may very well be talking about how they see themselves.
So what then should be our response? Compassion and boundaries. How painful it is to think negatively about oneself – I know, I’m guilty of having done this to myself as well! And how grateful I am for people who showed me a great deal of love and compassion when I was hard on myself, instead of anger and defensiveness. I am also grateful for when people responded with strong boundaries encased in love.
Depending on the situation if someone is railing on and on about how awful I am or what I have done wrong that is so deplorable my response might be, Hmm, got it. Talk to you later. And leave.
It is important to create mental frames that support your healing path: Someone’s dumping their garbage is really just that, their garbage they haven’t let go about themselves. My mind is a great storyteller and it often creates stories about what is happening in front of me that may not be true and usually places the world against me.
Our mind’s storytelling language can have phrases like: No one wants me. They probably don’t want to be my friend. He probably doesn’t care about me. Time to set up boundaries. I was not created to be someone’s garbage pail to deposit all their bad feelings on and it is up to me to be clear about when to stand up for justice and say no. Saying no to abusive behavior towards me or someone else is taking a stand for justice. Boundaries help me stay in my power base.
Meditating on a Mountain Top
Well, it doesn’t have to be a mountaintop. But meditation brings in the mystic and spiritual quality of healing. Healing is, after all, a power that is generated from the spirit and is not really of the material realm. Yes, healing has physical manifestations of feeling lighter, happier and healthier overall. But ultimately, healing is mystical in nature and comes from a force that both animates and destroys the universe; so you know it is a powerful energy! During the healing process when I work with clients and they have opened up a tender place, a wound, a traumatic memory. After all the hard emotions have spilled out and false beliefs have been aired, I ask them to bring in the noble self. This noble self is our highest nature, whatever this Divine Force is that animates the universe. It is the highest reflection of this Divine Force’s creation within us.
Recognizing and accessing this noble self within is essential in the healing process – how else do we know who we are becoming? More importantly, as we begin to recognize our own nobility, we begin to see the nobility in others. It becomes the eyes in which we see the world!
There are, I’m sure, many ways to access and recognize this noble soul and meditation is one of those ways. Meditation has often been hijacked by the West to mean sitting in lotus position with eyes closed in a temple or in some hilltop in Malibu. Meditation can be a walking prayer, a hum when you work, a way of seeing the world through spiritual eyes, a conscious effort to stay in gratitude, a willingness to recognize the sacred act of opening up places within us that scare us.
Meditation can be the consciousness of the energy that binds us to those we love and to those we don’t yet know we love. It is the recognition that there is a Divine Source that participates in all of life’s movements and is present in every effort to create more love, bring in more light and ultimately, is the balm of healing. When we bring these three essential practices into our healing work, we begin to walk with more wholeness and see the world in a wider embrace of love, which we actively participate in.
So when healing brings in pain, I go to the gym, make a sandwich and meditate. It is, after all, a lot of work to participate in the recreation of oneself!
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