November 29, 2020

What Eckhart Tolle teaches us about Heartbreak & Unhealed Trauma.


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I couldn’t stop the bleeding.

The oversized picture frame slipped from my grasp, crashing to the floor, launching a thousand glass missiles into the air. I watch a large piece slice my hand.

A hand that once held a love so strong now drips a steady stream of crimson red. As the faded, white pine floor slowly fills with splatters of blood, I slump to the ground, as my heart unravels into a mess of tears and broken memories. 

For a moment, I pray for the pain of laceration to mask the searing ache in my shredded heart.

I sat motionless on the floor, wondering why my relationships always ended the same way—with painful heartbreak and the love I so desperately crave remaining beyond my reach. The years roll by, marked by deepening wrinkles and touches of grey, but my story never changes.

I lay in a pool of blood on the cold, hard floor of rock bottom, shivering with the realization that I am the only constant in my parade of failed relationships—the faces and names of partners revolve, but I remain the same.

I’d fallen so far from where I’d hoped to be. I wondered if this was my fate, that maybe I didn’t deserve the love that others seem to find so easily. But if it was true that I somehow attracted chaos and dysfunction into my life, then perhaps I could do something about it.

And on the floor of rock bottom, my awareness became a match, and I found the courage to strike a light in the heart of my darkness. With eyes wide open, I took my first step toward healing, daring to take an honest look at the part I played in the story of my life.

I wanted so much more for myself, but first, I would have to heal, which meant finally facing the demons I’d run from for so long.

My healing journey led me to the work of Eckhart Tolle, the wildly popular, soft-spoken spiritual teacher and best-selling author. Tolle had experienced his own struggles with depression until he was 30 when he had his inner transformation. His teachings on emotional awareness and healing were exactly what I was looking for.

Three quotes, in particular, helped me learn the power of awareness:

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”

We repeat self-defeating patterns when we live in avoidance. I was terrified of facing the unhealed trauma of my dysfunctional childhood in an alcoholic home. Instead, I instinctively practiced denial—the brilliantly seductive defense mechanism I employed to protect myself from feeling painful emotions. If avoidance is a lifestyle, I lived it to its fullest with only disastrous results.

We’re never going to change our patterns until we’re willing to unmask the unhealed wounds that undo us. We have to take the blinders off and face the scary, dark, murky parts of ourselves we’ve avoided. Only then can we accept and embrace who we really are.

It takes courage—the darkness can be terrifying. Awareness is the razor-sharp edge between emotional trauma and healing, and we can feel an awful lot of pain when we brush up against that edge. But as scary and painful as it can be, bravely facing our issues is what allows us to process our pain and heal.

“With awareness there comes choice. And so you are able to say: ‘I allow this moment to be as it is.'”

Awareness is what allows us to learn to sit with our feelings, especially the painful ones. It’s the essence of living in the present moment—becoming aware of our feelings and honoring them.

Some of us live in reverse—believing that numbing, avoiding, and shutting down our painful, unhealed wounds helps us stay present. But all that really does is keep us tethered to our traumatic past.

We don’t allow our uncomfortable feelings the freedom to exist as they are because we’re always running—away from trauma, away from ourselves. We’re never sitting still long enough to live in the present moment.

Ironically, denying our emotions around our unhealed traumatic wounds is exactly what keeps us trapped within them.

Awareness gives us the choice to embrace all the parts of ourselves instead of selectively trying to eliminate and compartmentalize the parts we’re afraid of.

“You are the sky. The clouds are what happens, what comes and goes.”

Feelings and emotions are temporary. But instead of allowing them to pass, we hold on to them, spending so much of our time trying to control how we feel. We fight and struggle, exhausting ourselves in an endless battle to shut down and avoid our painful emotions.

But there’s another way—learning that we don’t have to control our feelings and try to force them away. Learning that we can be the sky, whether our emotions are soft white clouds or raging dark storms, we can sit bravely with an open heart, inhaling fear and anxiety, exhaling trust and faith that the storm will pass, as all storm clouds pass through the sky.

Eckhart Tolle teaches us that awareness gives us that choice. Rather than living in avoidance of our feelings, we can trade our fear for courage and the power of awareness. Instead of shutting down, we can open our hearts and experience the joy that comes with loving and trusting ourselves like we never have before.

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