Growing and transcending

I’m aware that each time I write a truly vulnerable account of how I’m feeling about my disabled son I probably lose a few readers – understandably so because not everyone wants to read about someone’s suffering, especially those seeking a more uplifting story – so I’m drawn to say thank you to those who are drawn to read my experiences and feelings, regardless of reason. Sometimes I feel very alone and it helps to write it down and know people are reading my words, even when I am going around in circles with the same feelings and issues, or at least seem to be. I really do appreciate it.

I know in my heart that each of us is on a spiritual journey to realising our true self – our Christ self, Divine indwelling, soul – whichever term you feel most comfortable with -and we can’t drop off the path no matter what we do or feel. Sometimes life can feel completely unbearable and I think it is important to be honest about the suffering because it is the freedom of speaking the truth that ultimately saves us. As Carl Jung (I think) said, ‘suffering can’t always be worked through, only transcended.’ I cannot escape my pain. It just is. It exists in a state of consciousness that is fully human and I love and respect it. It will never leave me for it is part of me. But it is not ALL of me. And therein lies the answer.

I think it was Mother Teresa who said ‘when you know better, do better.’ We experience life in accordance with our level of consciousness, so once we grow spiritually, we experience life, and God/the Divine, from a higher state of awareness. However, growth is not a linear process, as I know all too well. I have meditated and prayed for years and feel I have a healthy relationship with my spirituality and the Divine. I am always growing and evolving and increasing my capacity for unconditional love. The difficulty is when old wounds get activated, or, as Eckhart Tolle says, the pain body, and once again I am lost in the pain of wanting what can never be. The pain body is the emotional element of the conditioned self – who we believe ourselves to be in relation to the outer world. Some people call this the ego, and indeed I have done sometimes, but I dislike the term, maybe because it reduces it to an unpleasant sounding entity rather than being part of my being which evolved to try and help me live in this world, however misguided it has been. It also seems to suggest that my emotions are ‘wrong’ on some level. My emotions over my son and wishing things were different are not ‘wrong’; they simply are. I can’t imagine anyone in my situation not feeling this way; at least, not without a huge and permanent shift in consciousness to the extent that one’s personal history just doesn’t matter any more because one abides purely in a state of love. This ideal was perfectly executed in the story of Jesus.

Regardless of what I, or anyone else, think about the whole mystery of Jesus, whether he was real, a myth, whether he was the only ‘son of God’ or pointing to the potential that exists in all of us, it highlights that Jesus was both fully human AND fully Divine. He often referred to himself as the ‘Son of Man’ i.e son of humanity, rather than God! He fully embraced his emotions, his humanness, his fear, anger, reluctance, sense of abandonment etc. He befriended the hurting, lost and broken people. He must have felt terribly alone in a world that wasn’t ready for him and did not understand him. He suffered unimaginably horribly in the hands of others, feeling betrayed and alone, all the while trusting in God’s plan for his life.

The most important part of the entire story: Jesus was not left to die; he was resurrected into his Christ self which transcended all his pain and suffering and restored him to his Divine identity. His old self had to die for the new self to be born. Whatever one believes about this, there is a lesson in letting go and having faith, that our suffering does not have to define us, even if it is part of us for a time (even a long time; indeed, some of us live with deep hurts our entire lives and only find relief on physical death). The story of Jesus has always brought me comfort because this is a man who went through the worst torture that I imagine is possible to man, all the while feeling abandoned by God, yet loving and forgiving those who inflicted such suffering on him, who then transcended it all; a personal reminder of the renewal of all life and our own eternal nature.

When I feel crucified by my personal circumstances and unable to find relief in any of my life’s blessings due to feeling consumed by wishing things had turned out differently, I remember that fighting against my suffering will not work. My suffering results from a part of me who understandably feels devastated and angry and let down by life. I also know that I carry within me some part of the Christ mystery – my Divine spark – which both encompasses and transcends this human life. It is a daily juggle, holding those aspects of my being, but maybe knowing they are there and perfectly okay, is enough.

Being the awareness that holds it all

Yesterday was not a good day. Some heavy emotions had hold of me and all I could do was let them have their way. Sometimes distraction works but this time it didn’t, and I felt intuitively that I needed to be with what was happening, that it was not an episode of depression that I could pull myself out of with some uplifting words or music. It was grief determined to be acknowledged and heard.

The challenge was letting the emotions be without identifying with them. I was tempted to revert to familiar narratives such as ‘my life is pointless’ ‘my opinion isn’t worth much’ and ‘this is all hopeless.’ They took me further into the cycle of pain until I realised what was happening and re-centred myself in the present moment. Because the key to healing is being fully with what is happening, accepting and being compassionate towards it, but not losing oneself in it.

I don’t reject those narratives because I understand why I’m experiencing them, I just don’t lose myself in them. My wounded inner child felt pointless, worthless and hopeless for many years. Unfortunately, she has had many reasons to feel like that. She has a voice that demands to be heard. She is part of me, but I am not her. This means I can learn to integrate her within me as I offer myself a loving space; embracing everything and rejecting nothing. Eckhart Tolle calls this the awareness or presence but it may just as well be seen as the Divine within, the Higher Self, or the Soul.

Emotions are energy that is moving through us for a reason – to make us aware, to wake us up, to transform us. They are meant to be felt and embraced as the messengers they are. But they are not who WE are. Like our thoughts, they exist for a time, then they move on. My challenge is to let them be without losing myself in the story around them and believing the story again. It FELT true once, but that doesn’t make it true then or now. Anchoring myself in the present, in my body, I can feel that truth and become the awareness that holds all of it.

Coping with disappointment

Image from https://businessingmag.com/

I probably speak for almost everybody when I say I don’t cope well with disappointment. It’s such a crushing, sickening feeling that makes me want to scream at somebody or rage at the injustice of life itself. Quite often there’s nowhere for it to go, thus compounding feelings of helplessness and hurt. But like all emotions, it has something to teach us.

Perhaps more than any other, disappointment is an emotion that brings forth the wounded inner child and reminds me that it is still alive and kicking within me. If I listen, really listen, to that child, I can hear her pain and know that it’s valid and understandable, even though my adult self is tempted to try to escape those feelings or criticise myself for ‘being silly’ or even bypass them with spiritual teachings.

Years ago, when I was married, my ex husband proudly told me that he was starting a new healthy eating regime and was making himself a salad to take to work for his lunch. That evening I asked whether he enjoyed his lunch. My ex told me that he’d mixed the dressing with the salad while preparing it so when he opened his new lunch box it had all gone limp and horrible and he’d had to throw it away. Not a pleasant, yet very unremarkable experience, but the pain in his voice revealed the hurt and disappointed little boy who was crushed by the loss of not just his lunch but the excitement and plans for a new diet. It brought tears to my eyes as I empathised with just how upsetting that experience had been.

The disappointed child within us needs to be listened to and validated. This child carries our deepest wounds and the difficult and often painful work lies in understanding what they are. Even if it seems utterly inconsequential on the surface – such as my ex husband’s lunch – it often points to a deeper loss and sadness that needs and deserves compassion. Ironically, while I was empathic on that particular occasion, it’s only many years on that I can see how wounded my ex was – we both were – and how often we ‘triggered’ each other’s pain. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle calls this the ‘pain body’ which I really like and resonate with.

Despite my years of intellectual spiritual study I am only recently learning how many of my childhood wounds still exist in me and how emotions such as disappointment serve to make these wounds known. As painful as the experience is, I am trying to take a small step back and notice what’s happening – remain in presence as Eckhart will say – and not resist, deny or lose myself in it. In letting every moment be my teacher, I can learn how to embrace the disappointed little girl and let her know she is seen and heard, as well as accepted and loved.