Originally published in the Sonoma Gazette, August 2016.
My heart goes out to all those suffering from tragedy right now. Its a lot to process and reactions are strong, including anger and hate. What can we do to truly help change the situation we all now face? Its closer than you might think. Violence is often a result from internalized pain, when pain and suffering can’t be acknowledged.
Anger is a valid feeling, as we’re all human and get angry, however, its what you do with it that counts. Underneath anger is often feelings of pain or sorrow. How are we going to heal war if we can’t turn and face it straight on and say “this is breaking my heart, I’m torn to pieces inside what a great and unjust loss of lives”. Fighting war with fighting just kills more people. We heal war with love. This isn’t just a hippy concept! This is at the core of healing oneself, and by extrapolation, the pathway to healing on a worldwide level. “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” (Hermes Trismegistus) is not just catchy saying! It poetically illustrates the nature of reflection we receive between the personal and natural worlds, a divine harmony if you will, where patterns are magnified or reduced in either direction. If you have studied science, you will know there is infinite space inside you in as much as there are atoms – as in the cosmos!
Start by allowing yourself to feel – even the painful, shameful, difficult, tear-soaked parts. If we can meet these “awful” or “difficult” places inside ourselves, with love and awareness, then the chances are we can meet these places outside ourselves, to witness others, feel their pain, to listen – it’s the first step in healing.
It can mean that we feel pain. In this culture there is so much focus on being positive that the shadow gets suppressed, in our speech, or by taking feeling-altering substances. Denial does not make things go away. Feeling is natural, and part of our whole experience being human. How can I feel happy, if I can’t feel sad? Emotions are a switch – on or off. If we want to numb out the pain, we numb out joy too. If we allow ourselves to be real with our feelings, they DO pass, evolve, or shift into something else. They make room. The beauty of feelings is they don’t stick around. That doesn’t make them less valued. It makes them more treasured. They are our path to greater intimacy and connection. That’s also our route to feeling joy.
What happens in a culture that suppresses the value of feelings, is they are stuffed down. I use the analogy of “putting them in the basement”. The basement can be a scary place, left long enough and full of enough unsorted junk. You can close and lock the door, but eventually the mold and spiders will sneak up through the cracks of the walls. In other words, it will find you, eventually, anyways. Allowing yourself to feel not only moves the energy so it isn’t stored away, it activates the heart center, where we access compassion. We can’t truly facilitate change for any other person or for humanity if we can’t go there with ourselves.
It is safe to grieve loss, for each of us is a unique part of Humanity here on Earth. Just as our human body that is made up of billions of living cells, all working together, when our cells go astray… we need to come back into balance. Not by hating the part of our body with an ailment, but by loving our bodies more. Taking better care of ourselves. Listening more deeply to our body’s needs, diet, nutrition, environment… We are in a microcosm/macrocosm experience, so what happens in our bodies is happening worldwide. We cannot reject another culture or even violent perpetrators and expect to get well. We must look to the root causes, of how this “dis-ease” has developed. The steps towards wellness are listening, feeling the pain, coming to understanding what has gone wrong. Not flinging hatred. Not escalating violence.The Earth is calling for balance, now that we are aware we are all one people on one planet. What happens on the other side of the world does affect us – just as what is happening in your big toe affects you. We’re all connected. We can no longer ignore what is happening with people in other places.
When we are honest with our own feelings, we begin to change the way we relate to one another. For instance, as long as we hate murderers, we reject that part of ourselves capable of shadowy things (like rage, hate, violence). The more we suppress it in ourselves, the more we suppress it in society, and the more it pops out when we least expect it – in the form of snapping at someone, road rage, or in the form of violence, such as killing others. Its fractals of the same symptom, and healing has to begin at the seed of the problem. It all starts with you, and your willingness to be with deeper feelings, and acknowledge your own shadow.
In our culture, we are taught to change someone’s emotional state with “comforting them” – often an attempt to get them to stop crying, when what they really need is to feel their true honest pain and cry! I invite you the next time a friend cries over something worth grieving, let them. Be there as a witness, let it be safe to feel. The road to healing from tragedy and loss begins with grieving. And how can we inflict pain on another if we are in touch with our own grief? What if people caught in violence and war were able to express their pain and be heard?
Having sadness come up and letting yourself feel it does not make you a sad or depressed person, which is a fear I hear when inviting people into these difficult spaces. Depression often is the repression of the sadness (and other feelings, like anger) which you can see in the etymology, “depress” means “to press down”. The inability to give yourself permission to feel means the feelings get caught inside. Its possible to have total acceptance with even the darkest feelings, so they don’t trap you at all, but discharge by owning them, and knowing they are passing emotional reaction.
I invite you to let yourself feel grief. If it feels scary, find a professional to help navigate the territory of built up emotions in the basement. It’ll change everything. Contrary to our fears, really letting ourselves feel lessens the control the emotions have over us – we learn to dance with them instead of being overcome by them. It inches us closer to wholeness, embracing all of ourselves with radical self acceptance. Change can only happen when we truly accept what is.
Mardi Storm is the founder of SoulCentric BreathworkTM and SoulCentric PaintingTM . She was trained and certified by Clarity Breathwork, Diamond Light, and Lightbody. She is a graduate of International Academy of Consciousness, and is trained in Intuitive Process Painting, Reiki, Clairvoyance, Shamanic practices, and more. Through many pathways, what has distilled is the love of finding and nourishing the inner compass for creating one’s own unique pathway. She helps others access their deep inner truth, and encourages action into the flow of fulfillment and purpose. She has a lifelong devotion to spirit, and offers healing sessions and spiritual guidance over Skype/Zoom and in person in Sebastopol, CA.
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