I am a sensitive person. It may be karma, a blueprint laid from my stars and ancestors, or the experiences of the time and people and places. I am an emotional person. And I have great capacity to feel. Dating back to childhood, this was challenging in a family, and maybe a culture that did not understand emotions other than the happy, comfortable ones. My history is full of reactivity and trying to fight the vulnerability that came with both those wild emotions and having no container with which to hold them. The less those around me would feel or relate to me, the more excessive my behaviors became. Whether it was tantrums of all sorts, floods of tears, or seeking to find solace in all of the wrong ways from manipulation to food to promiscuity, I would flail. And I began to both grow walls of protection from the outside, and from the inside I learned to treat myself unkindly as a false remedy for protection.
I would like to believe that in my evolution I now turn to healthier ways of processing and meeting vulnerability and discomfort: through prayer, devotion and meditation, mindfulness practices, running, asana, personally aligned food choices, and the support of trusted friends and guides. I have learned more skillful means of containment and of self-care and self-soothing. I am growing my practices of allowing what is to be. Yet, I am learning that I still abandon myself time and time again. I am quick to make myself wrong in order to make an uncomfortable situation “right.” I will meet insanity in trying to find an answer to make the vulnerability become something I can grasp.
A few goddesses in my life have been lovingly serving me this reflection of the ways in which I abandon myself in a time of transition. One of the greatest spiritual teachings lies within the mystery of all things. We have the opportunity to embrace the experience as it is offered, to accept what is. I am finding that my ways of being may be a bit more evolved, but at times they are still tantrums. I am discovering growth is in the practice of staying open despite the discomfort in the chance to feel into what I perceive taking the vow of a Bodhisattva might truly mean. When we learn to remain in a space of unconditional friendliness with ourselves and recognize what a mighty task that can be, we are simultaneously opening ourselves up to the many experiences of the sufferings of the world. In my experience, when I can stay with the pain, I am strengthening my capacity to stay open to the pain of another. This is my understanding of compassion.
While I might be light years away from this practice in her fullest expression, I am recognizing that the path of compassion is the only way. And we must begin with ourselves.
So, how can we stay with ourselves, in the center of our most open-hearted, vulnerable places? How can we simply recognize that we are having an experience with perhaps a more uncomfortable flavor (and maybe the MOST uncomfortable)? Are we willing to stay totally tuned in to the crazy making of our thinking minds? Are we able to mind the gap just a bit more lovingly from our layers upon layers of stories to our truest essence of a human being?
I have not found answers. I am finding the grace in the experiences of just staying with what is – coming at the level of the body first, but not excluding the heart/mind. I am learning that I will still flail, but there are more moments of surrender, which becomes like a great raft of serenity. I am learning to recognize and shine the spotlight on my great illusion that I will be safer if I bully or degrade myself. What a hoax that if I become the toughest critic on the block, I will be safe. This is Mara in her most fierce costume in my script. So, today, I am willing to invite her to tea and say, “I am ready to make friends with you.” I am learning to love those parts of me that are so tender.
What parts of yourself do you leave behind? Can you shine the spotlight on some of your story lines that keep you mired in the muck and in the darkness? We will all suffer. This is a part of life. But must we continue to suffer our own suffering?
Today, I am going to kiss Mara on the cheek and let her know that I am saying “YES” to my whole being, and “Thank you” for this last big match, for keeping me in the ring of practice.