Why is it that healing so often feels like pain? It’s like a frozen toe, anesthetized by fear and defensiveness, beginning to thaw, and in that thawing comes the terrible fire. How do we know that it’s a healing pain and not a thoroughly destructive pain? How do we hold onto the knowledge that all this work and suffering and hanging on will carry us over to a healthier state?
I think, often, we’re too afraid to find out. We shy away from confronting it. We keep ourselves numb. That’s what I do, anyway. I don’t know about you.
No. That’s what I did.
Something changed. I can’t think of myself as numb anymore, even if I’ll surely continue to confront all the behaviors that seem determined to keep me in the deep freeze. I know all those self-defeating behaviors are attempts to keep myself safe. But I actually want to thaw, damn it, not shoot myself in the foot.
A friend of mine suggested that I read the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. I’ve only just started it, but it’s been touching me deeply. Then tonight I decided to find out if Tara Brach had any talks I could listen to online, and came across this.
Apparently Tara Brach knows all about how to make me cry. And cry, and cry, and cry. That talk I linked to is about an hour long—guess who cried without stopping through the whole thing? I suppose it helps that I’m in my house, by myself, overwhelmed by the human world, primed for emotional release. I cried huge, splashy rivers. I might not be done yet, although I’ve seized this pause to attempt to write about it.
Such miracles can happen in simply pausing.
Tara speaks of the trance of unworthiness, and how deep it goes, and how damaging it is. She describes some ways to move towards self-love and self-compassion. She suggests that we can pause before the self-hating voice kicks in; we can pause to recognize that we are suffering.
What happens when I pause? when I commit to witnessing myself?
I see that I’m showing up for myself, in my spindly, coltish manner, practically a newborn when it comes to offering myself all-encompassing love. I see the anguish of internalized cruelty. I see the terror that’s kept me in a vicious cycle of trying to whip myself into being barely adequate. I see how sorry I am, how helpless I’ve felt, how heartbreaking it is. It’s only right to feel one’s heart break in the face of it, bursting forth rivers. I see the shadows and teeth of shame. I see my deepest longing, the universal love that claims me as its own, pervading the space where nightmares grow, reaching its verdant tendrils to softly caress.