By Ruth Lera
Here are all the things I have done this morning to try to feel better:
- ate a banana
- drank Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar
- blamed my spouse for everything
- thought up ways that I’m a good person
- kept busy, busy, busy
- tried to make a decision
- cooked too much food (part of the busy, busy, busy)
- ate a piece of chocolate and then a mango, ginger candy and will probably eat more
- wrote this article
- checked Facebook, twitter, e-mail and page views neurotically for something exciting!
Basically, I’ve been normal.
But in this case all these activities have been wrapped up hoping they would shake a sad feeling. You see most people spend most of their time just trying to feel better or get better and be better. And this kind of drives me nuts, which makes no sense to many people, because isn’t it better for things to be better?
My answer to that is if I thought that the fight for better was working, if I thought people healed and transformed through the quest for better, then I would jump on the better bandwagon, too.
But I don’t care about better, I care about what works.
This act of making our whole life about being a self-improvement project just doesn’t work.
We don’t become more compassionate through trying to feel better, we don’t heal our physical, mental and spiritual pain through trying to feel better, instead we usually just end up being more consumeristic, jumping on more airplanes and going into more debt, as we run from one solution to the next looking for something to make us feel better.
But there is another way we can use to approach our life beyond this sense that we need to make things better and that is: Staying with whatever is.
Just looking at however things are and asking, “What is this here to teach me? What is under this grumpiness, crankiness or pain that I need to see so that it can be healed?”
We ask these questions to get a little insight into what the deeper issues are that are making us feel bad, not to get better, but to get informed.
To find out what is really going in our being and then as some answers and information about the root cause of our suffering arise we still don’t try to get better, instead we just feel whatever there is to feel and we notice whatever there is to notice.
And often what we find is self-hate, and a sense that we’re a failure and a wishing that everything was different and a big story about how we kind of just wish we could die.
And just staying with these hard feelings is where the real healing lies.
Just accepting the hard stuff we are feeling and seeing them for what they are, just belief systems that formed at one time or another in our life and now no longer serves us, is the process that can start to shift everything for us.
These hard feelings aren’t the end of the world. They aren’t true and they aren’t our identity. They are just habitual patterns that need to be shifted. But I know that isn’t how the hard feelings feel.
They feel real and spikey and like they will kill us if we have to spend any time with them.
And that is why I know what I am suggesting here isn’t easy. That is why I hate this advice I’m giving to you to just stay with the hard stuff without trying to make it all better.
I hate it because I know it’s going to hurt.
I know you’re going to cry and rage and wish all the pain would stop. I know when it gets really hot and strong you will be willing to give almost anything to make it stop.
I know in giving the suggestion to just stay with the feelings I am suggesting something very hard and insanely courageous and brave and that not everyone is going to be able to stick with it. Most people are going to reach for the TV or some alcohol or a nice, fat joint.
Because we’ve run from the hard stuff for a very long time and for good reason. The feeling part, the just staying with the hard stuff part, isn’t pleasant. It is dark and scary and unfortunately even though someone can hold our hand in the end we go into our own horrors alone.
We can get help, yes, and we should reach out for help.
But no one can actually go there with us, which is why many people will never go to the depth of their own darkness at all.
Many people will never even skirt the edges of their own darkness. They will eat more chocolate and play another game of candy crush on Facebook and blame everyone else for their pain, and that is just fine. It is more than fine. It is the way it is. It is reality.
But each of us has to make our own choice. How far do we want to go on the journey of self-healing?
Do we just want to feel better? Do we just want little fleeting moments where everything feels okay interspersed between the feelings that we aren’t enough and we can barely handle our lives?
Or do we want to heal it all? Be open to all the light and all the darkness and everything in-between and be willing to be grateful for anything that arises- even the really horrible stuff, because everything is an opportunity to look into our own consciousness and accept and relax into whatever is there.
This is where the transformation lies, in the relaxation.
Relaxation doesn’t mean feeling good or feeling better (you know by now I never mean feeling better). It means not feeling good and not feeling better and not looking for an answer to solve this. It means not thinking feeling bad is a problem. It means not contracting when we feel bad and searching a quick fix.
It means just saying with whatever is.
This is mindfulness. This is healing.
Ruth Lera is the friend you turn to when your world has gone all topsy-turvy. Not because she tells you it’s all going to be alright but because she reassures you that not being alright is just part of the whole process of being human. And she might even give you some ideas about how to feel better, too. Find her at her website, her Facebook page or Twitter.
Editor: Daniel Scharpenburg
Photo: Gioia De Antoniis/Flickr