February 8, 2012

What to do when it becomes unbearable (don’t run for the hills).

“What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.”
~ Rumi

Fiona writes: An organisation I am very deeply and personally involved with has (and is) going through a terribly difficult time.

It has caused me and others a great deal of sadness, stress, anger and disappointment. It has led me to question my involvement with the organisation at all, which feels almost unthinkable.

When I’ve asked the Buddha (or the Universe) for guidance during this time, I keep getting the same answer – ‘stay open’.

Not ‘run for the hills’. Not ‘do something’. But ‘stay open’. Not the answer I really wanted (the last thing I want to do), but there you are.

I often tell my psychotherapy clients in our first session that the times when they least want to come to their sessions are the times that it is most helpful to do so. If our work together gets almost unbearable, then we are definitely onto something.

In my experience things often get more difficult before they get easier. A spot needs to burst, or something bubbles up asking to be healed. A situation repeats itself despite our best efforts. At these times, it is supremely tempting to think that ‘the other’ is bad for us, that it is all their fault, and that we’d be much better off without them (or any of the rest of the disappointing human race).

I wish there were some other way, I tell my clients. I wish there was an easier way.

What helps us to bear this difficulty?

Chocolate cheesecake was helping me today. Talking to friends. Spiritual practice. Taking one day, one hour, one breath at a time. Knowing that you are not alone.

This blog post should be small proof that you are not alone.

And faith, too. If our faith in a person or a group of people is failing, try to remember that there is something much larger that holds us. If you can’t believe in it, believe in the possibility that it exists. This might just be enough.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
~Pema Chodron

Sometimes we have a soft landing when our nests disappear from under us with no warning, and sometimes we fall far and hard. It hurts. Ouch.

As Rumi reminds us, what hurts us also blesses us. (How hard it is to remember this, in the midst of our hurting). The deep deep darkness is the (only) way through to new light.


Photo by lynnmwillis via Creative Commons, with thanks.

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