In my acting class we have this exercise called “speaking out”. Before saying a line, you must state something that you feel, followed by the reason you believe you feel it. You then recite the line combined with the same gestures and emotion that you used while stating the feeling. The idea is that the body is always in the moment and will speak the truth. It’s our mind that gets in the way.
Tonight I am speaking out. I feel heavy in my heart and a bit overwhelmed because I feel sad. I don’t know why I feel sad, I just do. I had a crazy, busy day and when I came home and plopped down all my stuff and sat still for a moment…. the sadness came. I was meaning to get on here and write some beautiful glorious life affirming post, but I logged in and just couldn’t write about something that I didn’t feel.
I think we tend to push ourselves through moments when the rawest, truest emotions arise. For some reason we are taught at a very young age to associate negativity with feelings of sadness, hurt, anger, etc. The lesson is that we must push them away, fight through them, struggle above and beyond them. I mean even the words used to describe getting over these feelings are exhausting! FIGHT, PUSH, DROWN, STRUGGLE, OVERCOME, and on and on. There is no love, acceptance, or nurturing. It’s all about getting past them. And yet, when we are happy or excited or content…. we try to stay, to absorb, to live in that moment as long as we possibly can.
I would like you to try an experiment. The next time you feel angry, or hurt, or anything that you find yourself by instinct turning away from, try to instead meet it head on. Sit still, take a deep breath, and as you inhale imagine you are pulling your breath INTO the feeling. Don’t judge it, don’t try to fix it or make it go away. Practice having complete compassion as you continue to inhale into the anger, into the hurt or sadness. And when you pull in the breath, imagine it surrounding the feeling and comforting it, holding it, allowing it to just be. I think you will be very surprised at what happens.
Even just writing about this now, the heavy cloud above my head has abated some. Sitting tonight helped it a bit as well. I feel so grateful to have a practice that I can turn to when life gets a tad hard for me to handle. Something that doesn’t involve taking a pill, or a drink… something that allows me to meet these moments head on without numbing the pain or attempting to cover it.
Brings to mind another beautiful Rilke piece. I should start hording these a bit, I won’t have any left soon! But I can’t help it! The man so brilliantly captures feelings for me that in any situation I can always find solace in something that he has written. I wonder if he had any idea how much his thoughts would help people…. I’m sure he was just trying to make sense of it all himself.
We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abuses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. “
– Rainer Maria Rilke
I cannot tell you what comfort that last line brings me. In moments of terrifying darkness and solitude it has brought me such reassurance. There is nothing you can’t sit in and learn from, it is simply a matter of having the courage and the strength to hold still.
I can’t believe how much I have learned already as I complete my first full month of sits. It is exciting to think about how much farther I will go. As Emerson stated “what lies behind us and what lies before us, are small matters compared to what lies within us.” It is truly, the last great adventure. xxB