People don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief. A cure is painful.”
Anthony de Mello
I spent most of my life thinking I wanted a cure for my deep emotional and spiritual pain, and I sought for these cures in numerous ways: obtaining knowledge, being a good person, and trying to transcend the pain through my spiritual path. But nothing worked; peace eluded me.
After numerous failed attempts at finding a cure, I came to understand that what I really wanted was not a cure; I wanted relief. I wanted the pain to go away and I wanted it to be replaced with peace, bliss, love. And stillness.
Everything changed last summer. I spent three months alone (intentionally) and without the joys and distractions of friends and family, I was stuck with myself. No masks, no pretenses, no hiding. I rolled up my sleeves and thought, “Ok, now I can really deal with my stuff”, but as soon as the uncomfortable feelings appeared, I got scared. I was overwhelmed with my feelings, and I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to feel these feelings. They hurt. What was I doing wrong? Nothing. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It was simply that for the first time in life I was consciously experiencing my present experience. And it hurt.
Upon examination and self-reflection, I saw that I’d spent my whole life running from the present moment—dwelling in the past and worrying about the future—anything to keep me from fully embodying my present experience. I realized that the traumatic experiences of my early childhood had caused me to develop the habit of disconnecting from my present experience. I had learned early on that it was best not to feel, because feeling hurt. I grew up terrified of any emotion, convinced that, if truly felt, it would destroy me.
One night I’d had enough of the running. I simply couldn’t do it anymore, and I decided that I’d sit there and let all the monsters, all the shadows, all the pain, all the avoided and repressed feelings and pain surface. I recalled the story of the Buddha, sitting under the Bodhi Tree, and being tempted by Mara. I kept this beautiful image in my head as I sat through the night.
I had no expectations. I just sat. I didn’t look for relief. I didn’t say no to the feelings. I started saying yes, yes to whatever arose. A feeling would surface and I’d feel it. And sometimes it really really hurt, but it didn’t destroy me. It would come like a wave, hit me, wash over me and go away. It was at this moment that I experienced the nature of impermanence, that nothing—whether good or bad—lasts forever. And I experienced that the point of entry to fully living my life and fully being connected to Presence, is in the present moment and experiencing that moment, whatever it is.
When I got up in the morning, something had definitely shifted. What I experienced during the night and what I continue to experience is that Awareness is absolutely everything that makes up our life experience. It is beyond words, beyond any sense of positive or negative or “I” or “you”, it IS everything.
The way to find the cure is to fully embrace this “everything”, which starts right here, right now, in this very moment.
We won’t find the cure by running from life. Because life is the answer—life in all of its various manifestations and expressions. Some days are easier than others. But every moment is just as valid and real as another, and only by embracing each moment can we open to the truth of our lives and the truth of ourselves, and therein lies the cure.