As you may or may not have noticed I stopped posting new articles on the blog for a while. I thought I would take a couple of weeks off to recharge. As it turned out I needed a lot more than that.
When I pressed pause on the blog I apparently simultaneously pressed “unpause” on a lot of stuff I had been trying to keep at bay. Disappointment, resistance, grief, sadness, exhaustion, anger…they all asked for my attention.
At first I tried to fix it and I dove into self-help mode and tried every trick in the book to try to make me feel better. Well, that didn’t work (I know, shocking right?).
Encouraged by my coach I then tried to allow all the feelings to be there, but subconsciously I was “allowing” only so they would go away. And surprise, surprise, that didn’t work either. As it turns out “trying” to allow is not really allowing.
I had reached the end of trying. Just saying the word ‘try’ made me cry.
Life brought me to the point where I had no other option than to give in. To surrender my resistance because it wasn’t getting me anywhere and I was too exhausted to keep it up. I needed to stop the timer I kept running in my head (is it over yet?), needed to stop taking score of how long it took and allow unconditionally.
That may sound simple enough, but getting there was no picnic. What it looked like?
Let me paint you a picture:
I took a bath one day with the sole intention of sitting with the sadness. While it may appear as though I was, quite literally, stewing in my own misery, that is not entirely accurate.
Sadness is just a feeling that arises,
misery is the story attached to that sadness.
My intention was to sit with the feeling not the story. It went a little something like this:
Okay, I am breathing in and out focusing my attention on the heavy feeling located in my chest.
This is hard.
No, it’s not. The thought “this is hard” is what makes this hard.
What if this makes things worse.
Then I will sit with “worse”.
Maybe I can read my new book later.
But what is this about?
The story isn’t important. The story is something I’m making up anyway.
But if I don’t know what it is about, how can I fix it?
It’s not about fixing it. It’s about allowing it.
How long has it been?
Forget about the clock. Don’t wait for things to change. You are not doing this to make the feeling go away. You’ve tried that remember? It doesn’t work like that.
I don’t like this. I feel like crying. Maybe it would help if I just cried.
Maybe it will. But that too is making something happen. If tears come, let them come. If they don’t that’s okay too.
This is hard.
No sweetie, it’s not. Creating a painful story is what’s hard. Focus on the physical sensations. Is it tingling? pulsating, throbbing? Just notice. You’re not in great pain, it’s just discomfort, that’s all.
[Breathing and noticing the feelings in my body]
This is taking a long time. It feels uncomfortable and I want to be done already.
That is impatience.
Oh, well spotted! Great, yes, I am impatient. Let’s add anger to that shall we?
Crap, I shouldn’t be angry. I have a lot to be grateful for.
Oh shit , that’s judgment. I shouldn’t judge myself for the anger either.
I feel worse, I must be doing it wrong. I don’t know how to do this. I feel crabby.
How is this helping exactly?
Well, you get the idea right? You’ll notice that in the end of this example the compassionate voice was drowned out. While at first I was able to stay with the feeling, later I got lost in self-judgment and story making and ended up feeling worse.
So even though allowing isn’t technically doing anything (as it is the opposite of doing), it still felt hard to “do”. It was hard because I needed to UNDO some things. To stop myself from going into fix it mode. Or timer mode. Or resistance mode. I needed to undo, as in stop doing, everything I was so accustomed to doing.
Except what I needed to undo, or get rid of was not the feeling itself. What I needed to get rid of was my tendency to want to get rid of it. I needed to purge myself of old habits, old ways of dealing with the pain and upsets of my life.
One thing that helped me to shift was something Jeff Foster said:
The thoughts and feelings you are experiencing
don’t come to you to be healed. They come to you to be held.
This made me realize that when I focus on healing the hurt I am working for some future moment where it will be gone. I was still keeping track of the feeling, basically waiting for it to go away. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that.
Instead I needed to cultivate an open door policy. After all we always have a revolving door of thoughts and emotions coming and going whether we want to or not. You cannot stop the feelings from showing up. Like a child that feels ignored and throws a temper-tantrum believing that is the way to get heard: The more you try to push down whatever it is you don’t want to be feeling, the more it yells for your attention. Either emotionally or physically, manifested as illness in the body.
You’ll never be able to hide from it or run fast enough to stay ahead of your hurt, it will always catch up with you. You may as well invite it in. But inviting painful feelings in while only begrudgingly allowing them houseroom is not allowing. Allowing means to HOLD the hurt. To embrace it, as in: give hurt a hug.
Imagine hearing a knock at the door and you see a little girl, tears streaming down her face, holding out her arms, asking to come in. Would you turn her away? Would you yell at her for not being good enough? Would you push her away saying: “Come back when you’re happy?” No. You would hold her. You would hug and comfort her, saying: “It’s okay. You can come in. You are safe with me”.
We need to show ourselves that same level of compassion.
I forgot about that for a minute there. Losing sight of compassion is what made this process so hard. As soon as I became more compassionate and understanding towards myself the process became a lot easier. After all it is only natural to feel angry once in a while. Natural to want the pain gone, to want to be happy again.
Reluctant as you might be to Hold the Hurt (because it is so counter to what most of us are used to) it does come with a pretty good reward. Not a reward payable on some future moment, but a reward in each moment when you fully tap into allowing.
In a word:
Whenever I allow myself to feel all that it is I’m already feeling the struggle ends. The struggle I’ve been describing is what happens before I get to that point, but whenever I do, peace ensues.
It means you can stop trying so friggin’ hard.
It means it’s okay to let it all be.
It means you get to be you, right here and now. All of you. With nothing to change, nothing to fix.
It means you get to feel whole, acceptable, lovable, just as you are.
Pretty good right?
In light of full disclosure though, I need to add that this wonderful insight didn’t instantly fix it. Sometimes I could allow and hold the hurt, other times I couldn’t. Sometimes I could get to peace, other times I got stuck in sadness. It wasn’t an easy process for me and in fact I’m still learning. It takes time to cultivate new habits.
But don’t let that discourage you.
As you learn to lessen your impulse to resist and learn to embrace the feelings as they arise, the quicker you’ll return to peace. The more you tap into allowing, the easier it gets. What hurts more than the sadness, the fear, the anger is to want it gone when it’s already here. Let it move in you and it will move away. Always.
Remember to be gentle with yourself along the way and you will be okay.
Thanks for reading all I had to say today. Now, I’d love to hear from you. Did this resonate at all? Could you relate to this struggle? What do you do when hurt shows up? Let me know in the comments below.
In the spirit of allowing and letting things come I will no longer be posting every week. Instead I will write when I feel inspired to. I will post on Fridays, just not necessarily every Friday. Show myself some kindness when it comes to all the rules I made up. Practice what I just preached.
In a future post I will share what it looks like when I live from that place of allowing. Peace… Bliss… the good stuff. Make it easy for yourself and sign up for my blog allowing new posts to come straight to your inbox.
Oh, and if this post was of interest to you, there are some inspiring video’s and other resources available on this subject that I will share on Facebook so be sure to follow me there.