I have experienced some pretty dark moments in my life. As many of us have. And I think as many in the world are now.
Sometimes it’s helpful to know why or where these feelings come from—whether it’s unresolved trauma, a current difficult situation, or unnamable existential fears or concerns.
And sometimes, even if we want to know, we just don’t. And that’s hard. And that is what sends so many of us into a downward spiral of dark thoughts of helplessness and hopelessness (the freeze response) OR denying or trying to remove the emotion (the fight/flee response).
So we’re told to be with our experience, with our feelings, sit with ourselves, see reality and practice holding it. But, I’m going to be honest, I can’t always do that. And I can easily turn being with my experience into a pretty aggressive act. I can see my emotion as this invading pathogen and become determined to sit with all the darkness until it evaporates. But sometimes it’s too much. And I need a break.
But I hate admitting that…because, shouldn’t all this prayer and meditation and deep breathing work? Isn’t it supposed to make me feel better?
Well, yes and no.
I don’t think meditation’s goal is to make you feel better, but I think it is a byproduct. Meditation and the act of being with the fullness of our emotional and material and physical experience can sometimes be really hard, especially in moments of real suffering. The meditation doesn’t remove the suffering, but it helps us to get perspective, it helps calm our bodies, it helps to get us out of destructive doomsday thinking. It helps us see our thoughts and emotions as passing experiences, they rise and fall, come and go, pierce and soften.
I was talking to a friend recently and we were reflecting on how many of us are finding it hard right now. There is all the normal stuff of marriage and kids and finances and then death and loss and aging and worrying about the world our kids are growing up in and COVID, I mean, come on, still? And war and the economy…It’s a lot. And we are tired.
So, as someone who has historically not been so balanced in her approach to, well anything, I’m trying a different approach. I am trying to surrender, to be with what is, to see and accept reality AND have agency by lovingly finding ways to take care of myself, to take care of others, to get stuff done.
So many of us are having a hard time. We need to know what we need. What we can handle. And not judge ourselves. We need to be in touch with ourselves and know when surrendering is what’s called for and when a little Netflix and ice cream is what is called for. And we’ve got to come back to the heart. Always the heart. Here’s a practice: put your hand on your heart and say, dearest love, how can I care for you today?