Welcoming the Story of PainOctober 27, 2011
I’ve spoken here before about how “what we resist persists“. When we resist seeing or completing an experience, the tail ends cast a shadow over our life. Now sometimes, it’s natural to want to delay processing a very difficult experience. But if we don’t come back to it later, we’ll carry it for the rest of our lives. The solution is to allow those experiences to arise in our attention for resolution. To simply allow the experience to complete or be seen. In Pamela’s Story, I quote Pamela Wilson speaking to this.
This doesn’t mean wading into the mud or reliving the original trauma. It’s just about allowing what is resisted or incomplete to be seen. Often, it will just be a moment of recognition of being seen. Sometimes, it will come over us like a wave of feeling and be gone. But some of our resistance can be held very deeply. We fear the experience and suppress it. That fear can be even greater than what we fear. It’s amazing how much of our energy we can consume just keeping a lid on it. Inversely, how much more energy we have when some of the load is lifted.
In a recent Gangaji newsletter, Barbara Denempont, the Executive Director of her foundation, described an experience on a recent retreat. She wanted to emphasize how there is always the opportunity for a fresh hearing if we are willing to listen.
“Gangaji began the Hidden Treasure retreat with a series of processes that took each one of us through the graveyard of our stories. (I was reminded a bit of the ghost of Christmas past.) The opportunity was to identify any story I was telling, and see through it to the silent core of my being.
What was remarkable was to recognize a dusty old story I was telling—one I didn’t know I was still subtly telling. It was like a background hum I stopped hearing long ago. Then suddenly, without any forewarning, it came into clear focus and it wasn’t at all pleasant.
“I am hideous,” I noxiously told myself. That was all. No other characters or plotlines. Just, “I am hideous.” (Admittedly, a very short story:)) I honestly didn’t know that this “elephant man” story could still play in my mind, but it had me by the proverbial throat that evening, filling my body with terror and shame.
After thrashing about in my bed for a while, at 3:00 in the morning I put on some warmer clothes and went outside to place my attention on literal space, to the stars above. On the ground were fireflies mirroring the stars. It was undeniably lovely and softening.
In that moment, I asked myself, “Is there space for hideousness?” “Is there space for shame and terror?”
Yes. Yes, there is.
There is room for it all.
End of story.
In that instant, my attention turned away from a random story I was telling to the spaciousness of my being. I was freshly at home, where I always am! Just like the stars and the fireflies. In knowing who I am in truth, there is nothing to fear. No emotion, no thought, no loss can trample the truth of my being. The inherent, ever present peace of the open heart is the true sanctuary. Not that I can avoid pain as a human being, but when it comes, I can be true to the recognition—the heart gracefully, peacefully holds it all in love. For me that is living freely, living consciously.”
It is totally amazing what allowing attention can heal.
Here’s an 8 min audio clip on the subject by Gangaji.
Here’s a little poetry by Ameeta Kaul on the same subject.
And a similar discussion around Debbie Ford’s The Shadow Effect