I have been doing a lot of research for my next writing project during lock down. The phrase ‘lean in’ has come up surprisingly often.
The message I am receiving from the universe is clearly to ‘lean in‘. Accept the good, the bad and the downright painful. Take the disappointments and breathe. How does it feel, and what changes when we move into into pain?
We are not meant to swallow emotional pain, to choke it into the backs of our throat and pretend it is not there. We are not equipped to ignore ongoing emotional pain. It will sneak up on us in the middle of the night, it will keep us waking, tossing and turning and praying uselessly for the oblivion of sleep. Emotional pain will close our muscles tight to our frame, numb our nerves, tighten our chest, our jaw, our temples. Stomach juices will churn, appetites will shift in extremes and our concentration will vanish. There are too many manifestations of emotional stress on the human body to mention here.
Naturally we want to push the painful thing aside, rub our wounds and search for why it happened. Time and time again we will take the blame upon ourselves. A friend could comment that we look tired, and we will think it is because you have not put yourself to together enough, you are wearing the wrong clothes, you are too fat, too old and too past it. A lover may be unfaithful to you and instantly you think that it was because you were lacking, you are not enough and you failed to satisfy him/her. A parent may have neglected you and so you tell yourself that it was because you were unlovable. I call this surface blame, and I have wasted a lot of time trying to fix myself up as a result of the behavior of others.
Emotional pain takes time to fester, we need to sit with it and lean on it to get through. It requires faith to get us through to the other side. On the way there you will beat the brow of insecurity, fear and self-betrayal. You may never forgive the people that drove you there, but you can come out of the other side a stronger and more resilient manifestation of you. But only if you do the work and lean in, take a deep breath and dive through the pain.
When I was a child I use to climb on the roof of our stilted house and hide from the world. I could hear the busyness in the house below and the traffic running along the main road we lived on. I could also see the down through the tops of the trees and into our neighbours manicured yards.
One day I was sure I could reach down and pick a red hibiscus flower from the tree that grew next to the house. I was sitting crossed legged and reached forward down past the gutter towards the flower. I stretched my arm, leaned forwards and reached in with my whole body. The flower was much further than I anticipated, it didn’t matter how far I stretched myself, or how hard I tried in that moment to be more than I was there wasn’t enough of me. I tumbled forwards and landed heavily on the paved concrete path below. My foot caught in the guttering and pulled it down. The crash of the gutter caused my dad to come outside. This was back in the seventies before everyone knew first aid. I was winded. He picked up and held me, rubbing my back, encouraging my lungs to breathe. I was left with some bruising and scratches but nothing serious.
That fall, that tumbling, that feeling of having all my breath my prana literally knocked out of me, is what my emotional pain feels like and why it is so hard to lean into it. Self preservation kicks in – “everything will be alright if only I…”
- Be quiet
- Try harder
- Make a promise
- Pretend to understand
- Whatever else it may take for peace…
How often do we fall, hit hard, loose our breath and dust ourselves off as if the blow didn’t strike home? We ignore the pain, we are only human and will do whatever we can, to make it go away. However, the answer is to lean into it. Imagine stepping into a cold ocean. Inch yourself into it. Through the waves that will shock you, the rocks and shells beneath the water sticking into your sinking feet, and the something that slimes past your leg that your eyes didn’t catch. You have to keep your wits about you. There are actual sharks in the ocean, real dangers and things that will bite you. There is also beauty, calm and reassurance in the reliability of the ebb and the flow of the ocean, the cool water on your skin, the salt air in your nostrils.
You don’t have to lean in by yourself, seek help. Find a counsellor, use a journal, draw, write, practice meditation and yoga. Take steps to take care of yourself. On days where it all seems too difficult to explore do simple things, take a shower, sort a drawer, cook a meal from scratch, go out for a meal, sleep, watch a movie, walk the dog or stroke the cat. What ever it takes to remind you of a simple pleasure in life.
There are no quick fixes. It is only when you begin to breathe again that you can let go, move forward and keep going. Yes, like it or not you have to lean into the pain to find out what is on the other side of it. Changing yourself will not make a person faithful, a parent love you or a friend like your freaky taste in clothing. Leaning in to pain will help you to become more authentic, to trust in yourself and your decisions, to learn that you are enough.
“Let yourself be seen. Love with your whole heart. Practice gratitude. Lean into joy. Believe you are enough” Brene Brown.
Practical help is always available:
Yoga – find a teacher, look out for my online classes coming soon, contact me, reach out, leave a comment below.
Listen to music
Pray, meditate, practice heart yoga.
Counselling – start here at https://www.beyondblue.org.au
Overall, practice loving kindness to yourself.