September 14, 2016

6 Lessons on Handling Trauma from an Unlikely Spiritual Teacher.

Alexandre Pereira/Flickr

I embarked on the spiritual path four years ago.

Prominent gurus and Lamas permeated the greater part of my spiritual practice. However, long before being introduced to the realm of spirituality, and way before studying the philosophy of Buddhism, I was introduced to Frida Kahlo.

I first learned about this iconic Mexican painter 15 years ago. Her sorrowful life opened my eyes and introduced me to the reality of our existence.

When I look back now, I would say that Frida Kahlo was my first spiritual teacher.

In fact, she can be anyone’s spiritual teacher. Our Gurus don’t need to be “enlightened” or living in India. Sometimes, they can be painters, singers, football players, friends or family members. They can be trees and flowers, ladybugs and monkeys.

Spiritual teachers are everywhere at every moment. We just need to be aware enough to spot them and extract the lessons they have to offer us.

Frida Kahlo didn’t practice meditation or yoga. Religion and spirituality were the least of her concerns. Her life centered on art, tequila, cigarettes, communism, Mexico and Diego.

Nevertheless, I believe she was more spiritual than the most of us. Those familiar with Frida’s life acknowledge the intensity of her traumas. But through those traumas, she helped me find spirituality.

Here are some of the most important lessons:

1. Suffering is inevitable.

Frida contracted polio when she was six and grew up having one leg shorter than the other. She was involved in an accident at 18 that left her with chronic pain for the rest of her life. She also endured miscarriages, abortions, countless operations, and the amputation of her foot.

Not only did she suffer on the physical level, but also emotionally. She married Diego Rivera and shared a dramatic relationship, as he was a womanizer who considered sex to be the same as shaking hands.

I was only 12 when I read Frida Kahlo’s biography. I was startled to learn that suffering is the ally that doesn’t leave our side. We can’t escape it either—it’s inevitable. No matter what we try to do to avoid calamities, our life will still contain elements of suffering.

2. Use pain as a steppingstone.

It is true that Frida suffered on all levels, but she used her suffering as a steppingstone to create art that’s still inspiring millions of people around the world. When I saw Frida’s paintings for the first time, it felt terrifying, but Frida painted her pain. She translated it into colors and shapes on her agonized canvas.

Frida taught me to never perceive suffering as bad. Thanks to her, I now take whatever pain I am experiencing as a chance to create and delve deeper into the present moment. I use it as a tool to deepen my spiritual practice because without suffering there would be no consciousness.

3. Acceptance.

Despite the pain and sorrow, Frida Kahlo had a sense of acceptance about the misery in her life. Although she recognized her condition wasn’t pleasant, she accepted both physical and emotional pain as part of her journey on earth.

To this day, I remember Frida whenever I am faced with trauma. I remember how much she endured and the way she accepted what destiny had in store for her. At the end of the day, acceptance is the only solution to our problems because whether we like it or not, we just aren’t in control.

4. Unconditional love.

Frida is mostly famous for her unconditional love for Diego and for this, I have an undeniable respect for her. Although she did ask for loyalty at the beginning of her relationship with Diego, she kept on loving him even though he failed to meet her expectations and needs. Even during the four years of their divorce and despite all the flings she had, Frida loved Diego till her last breath.

Seldom do we experience unconditional love in our life. Frida has intimately opened my eyes to the idea of true love as she perfectly portrayed it throughout her lifetime. To love without asking for anything in return is the highest form of love we can experience.

5. Tolerance.

Frida tolerated her volatile marriage, the dire physical complications she experienced and the lonely moments of being bed ridden.

Frida proved how much we can endure at the end of the day. We are truly blessed by a body and a mind that can withstand pain to a great extent. With tolerance and acceptance of situations, we have the capability of transcending any sorrowful event, the same way Frida transcended her pain.

6. Letting go.

Frida is best known for the last words she wrote in her diary: “I hope the ending is joyful and I hope never to return.” Frida is the icon of letting go. Her pain was too intense, so she let go. But she knew that she didn’t want to go through this suffering again.

Frida taught me the authentic truth of letting go. And sometimes, enormous torment teaches us to loosen our grip.


Author: Elyane Youssef

Image: Alexandre Pereira/Flickr

Editor: Nicole Cameron

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