Today I am choosing to see all of the colors with courage.
Do you remember the a-ha video – Take On Me? Do you remember when Morten Harket, the lead singer of the synthpop rock band, was trying to bust out of his black and white, cartoon boxed in life? If you don’t it is the final 10 seconds or so of the video and you can re-live its awesomeness here. He was pushing on the black drawn lines, slamming against the walls, fighting with determination to join the world of color. In the final moment, all is resolved and the colored world invades as truth, love and happiness.
This is reflective of how I look back on my life. Only now, after being in monochrome for some time, can I see in color. We need pain and suffering in our life to wake us the heck up. And now, I choose to live in color.
Many times in my teenage and young adult life, I felt that I must have been dropped into the wrong family, and many more times, I felt like I was dropped on the wrong planet.
I was always searching for the colors, but I could only see my life and the people around me living in black and white. Like the tuna caught in the net with Dory.
I was always searching for the colors, the truth, the real life. I wanted to pull the curtain back on people and coax them out of the charade, and I wanted desperately to lure myself out of misery. And in this mission work, I didn’t always follow conventional, right action. I took the middle finger path. I pushed buttons I wan’t supposed to. I broke hearts without sympathy. (Still Making Amends and taking stock of the damage I caused.) I spent a lot of time in detention, stubborn and unwilling to apologize. I poked and pulled, I travelled, toured, ate, swallowed and inhaled… but it would soon go back to the colorless, boxed in doldrums. There is a palpable stickiness to the doldrums. They feel familiar, so you choose to stay there. The entropic pull downward can feel good sometimes, but it is a slippery slope.
It took something really critical to unstick me.
When my mom died I came unstuck. Unhinged more like it. I felt like my feet that had once been securely attached to the ground, were now floating in groundlessness. It was frightening. But it cracked me wide open and woke me up. It busted me out of the black and white. It shattered the haze of the mundane routines of little league, classroom birthdays, and gymboree meet-ups. Something for the first time in a very long time felt really real, but also overwhelming. A cascade, or more like a fire hydrant of repressed emotions and STUFF came gushing out. I had tapped into the one thing that makes us feel alive. Death!
I didn’t know what was happening, how to feel what I was feeling. One of my darkest hours. But confidently knowing it would not be my last. I didn’t know how to meet myself there. Or how to prepare myself for the next time I found myself there.
My doctor prescribed an anti-depressant. Why? To not feel what I was supposed to feel. We are built to feel all-of-it. We already have everything we need to get through it. We don’t need additives, supplements, or vices, we just need the courage to feel it. What we need for the doc to prescribe is bravery.
We are very good at abreacting our emotions, but we are rather unskilled in actually feeling them. I allowed myself for the very first time to feel the energy in my body. I ran, danced, sweat, shook, sobbed, heaved, spit, and I smashed things (see Kintsugi workshop?). I vomited out all of that stuck energy amidst the sobbing and crying and yelling.
It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Powerful grief energy was actually transforming into aliveness! It was scary and overwhelming to tap into feeling all of this. I was exhausted, but somehow lighter and freer and happier than I have ever remembered being. The maelstrom of emotions were of course confusing. I had just lost my mother, my marriage was rocky, I couldn’t connect to anyone, I felt alone. But somehow in this surrealistic experience I was able to release all of that energy that I had been repressing since childhood. Part of me was feeling the incredible pain, loss, grief, rage and terror of feeling out of control. Another part of me was watching myself on the floor in a heap helping that little girl release all of that burdening energy. Falling apart. On purpose. What a crazy idea!
What I began to realize is that I didn’t know how to live! Really live. Without additives, supliments, herbal remedies, crutches, vices. To just live with rawness. With vulnerability. With pain.
I didn’t know how to feel and live with all of this pain without trying to mute it somehow. We often don’t. This is our current training in this culture. Feel. But not too much. Get it under wraps. Feel. But don’t make others feel it too. Contain it. Don’t show it. All of that energy will just freak someone out. And they can’t handle it. But what about me? Am I handling it?
I went to churches, monasteries, temples. I took training after training after training after training. I collected certifications, degrees, titles and alphabet soup behind my name. All in the search to learn how to feel better. Not to feel better. But to be better at feeling.
Have you noticed how scarce the instructions are in learning how to feel? Especially in learning how to feel pain and suffering?
I took ahold a rope. A lifeline. It was deeply spiritual which surprised me, because that revelation was choiceless. It was not up to me. It felt like life or death. I was choosing life. And in this life, we need help. Ego crushing realization that I cannot “pull myself up by my bootstraps” like I had been told. We cannot heal in isolation by ourselves.
Up until that point, I was spiritually undecided. If it were a check box on a Census Bureau document it would read, “unidentified belief system.” If I couldn’t answer this question, “Who the heck was I?” Then I certainly couldn’t answer, “What do you believe in?”
This momentary lapse of collapse forced me to examine my lack of spirituality and non-existent connection to my self, to others, to spirit. Broken-connection to everyone, and everything. Fact, fiction and truth. This is the defying moment of trauma. Deafening. But not defeating. During this refractory time it can literally be impossible to see the boat. We cannot see or feel when others are trying to connect to us. And we cannot connect intimately with self or others. During this time, start by staying with yourself. Notice that you are in only one feeling, of which there are endless. It is not a life sentence, but it can be if we choose to stay with only one or two limited emotions (black and white colors). Go for a walk, and try to take in six other colors. Connect to something larger than one narrow emotion.
I began to open to something larger than me. Something greater than all of us. An energy, a source, whatever you want to call it. I began rebuilding a connection with my Self. Body to mind to soul to spirit. And what I began to understand is that the message coming in was always the same. I discovered some new truth that is ancient.
“We are spiritual beings living a human life.” (Burney)
All of the teachers before me taught me to see this message. Have you seen Mallrats? It’s like the repeated scene which shows Ethan Suplee’s character Willam, striving with effort to see the hidden image of the boat in the “Magic Eye” stereographic image poster. He becomes increasingly distressed as people walk up to the poster and with confidence and ease share how they see the hidden sailboat instantaneously. And he still, of course cannot see it. I resonate with the act of obscuring out of my own confusion. Or maybe, was it my own unwillingness to see?
A pause of gratitude for all of my teachers not giving up on me, patiently waiting for me to see not only the boat, but a whole world more.
We are supposed to feel. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! All of it! Pain and grief are a huge part of this life. Why would we try to eradicate what we feel the most? For many of us, suffering is an everyday experience. What would happen if we chose to feel it instead of escape it? Could we use it to benefit us? To motivate us? To become someone we are proud of?
Pain is the call of the wild.
If I break it down with complete emotional honesty, I became addicted to the pain. I tried to stay in that small space in my throat and above my heart. Where pain resides. But life is not only pain. We cannot stay there.
Collapsing on the ground felt real. It felt really, really good. I had never allowed it before. It felt new, and right, and liberating. But only feeling the pain is choosing to stay in the black and white a-ha video, boxed in. We need to thrash against the wall and get out to see all of the colors. Joy, happiness, love all exist outside of pain, but not without pain.
Staying in our suffering creates a false permanence. It doesn’t take much reflection to conclude with conviction that everything is impermanent. Even the worst kind of suffering. Trauma is conditioned stuck-ness over time. We are holding something in, and by doing that we are staying stuck. We become blind. We go back to the gray. Living a monochrome life. The upside down world of darkness and without a voice. Motionless. Lifeless.
Befriending fear, distrust, anger, blame, shame, remorse, regret is only part of it. Feel them! Absolutely! But with caution to not stay there. They are only dinner guests. We have to expand out of these contrived boxes to see all of the colors! Take ahold of the rope. It is there. See the sailboat. I will wait patiently until you do.
We need to thrash, shake, dance, feel, move! With determination we need to get to the world of color! We need to find that childhood pluck and get up. Spontaneous. Free. Bold. Inquisitive. Not aftaid to fall again and again and again.
Like a toddler, learn to walk fearlessly and finally let go of the coffee table.
We can allow emotions to carry us to ashes, but then with determination we need to emerge from our suffering and do something meaningful because of it. This is the experience of life. This is compassionate action. Without a middle finger I might add.
I had to bring color to others. I had to stop waiting for the world to change. What do you need to do?
Only you know, from the inside out.
Keep dancing! Light it up! Whatever it takes!
We can die happy. I’m sure of it.
With love and light,
Home Fun: Don’t talk about your past in any context today. Keep moving forward.