Pain, suffering, growing and dying: another taboo. And yet, we all go through it all – if we are fully alive, that is. These are the real issues we all deal with and that should bring us together, and yet we see the opposite happen.
Most of the time we suffer in silence. When we get growing pains, we ask the doctor for a pill. We turn to professionals to deal with the body, to others for the mind, and some even have a boss for their spiritual needs. But shouldn’t we all be experts of our lives? And learn to knock on our neighbor’s door when we can not handle the pain by ourselves?
I am going to reveal a bit of my flipping out here. Life can be freaking terrifying when change is pointing its cute little puppy nose. And yet, what is life, if not change?
These days I have been confronted with some old stuff. Issues I used to deal with in a dysfunctional way, or not at all. In the center of them lies a major issue: ‘people pleasing’. Trying to be ‘good’ to people, even those who were not ever that good for me. And boy, did I judge them! I even got irritated. I just kept repeating the same old mantras and facing myself with stories of old abuse and its ever renewed episodes. But I refused to learn the most important lesson from any of them. Until I said “Stop”. I listened to my anger, and realized who I was really angry with: me.
I was the one who agreed to play the game. I was the one who needed approval, and to be thought of as the Good One. So I agreed to be hypocritical, and even though I was walking on egg shells most of the time, I patted myself on the back telling myself how good I was, how willing to help and forgive. And how superior I was, by being so good.
And then BAM! The truth popped up, right in my face: I had been making two big mistakes. First of all, I had been a hypocrite by trying too hard to be liked, and second mistake: I omitted to forgive the most important person in my life, i.e. myself.
When there is no way of being good, there is always a way of being true. And in these cases it meant ‘letting go’.
For a couple of days I had been thinking about the times I had felt bad, and what these moments had meant: I can identify most of them as turning points, occasions of deep inner change and growth. Some people get a cold, a stomach ache, a depression or any other ailment. I used to get panic attacks. They felt like I was going to die instantly, or lose my mind, which is about the same thing to me. They made me feel powerless and fragile. But in fact I was not. They were a proof of my sanity.
Today I know that these episodes of unwellness are signs that something old is dying – an old belief, an old pattern, and sometimes simply old crap. And that it is beneficial. It means that mind and body are responding to something that is not supposed to be there any longer. In Vipassana meditation, they talk about ‘sankaras‘, or samskaras: (bodily) sensations that pass, and that are like (physical) imprints of things we have gone through. Remaining calm, equanimous and observing them when they occur is the best way of not letting the old patterns stick around. And eventually we will find a way to go through even the biggest transformation with a smile.
I wonder how similar these physical and mental manifestations of losing ‘control’ are to the sensation of dying to your old ‘self’. If we see them as a sign of evolution and open up to what is happening at that particular moment in life, maybe we no longer need to repeat the same situation over and over? Today I believe that these moments of transformation are not about death, but about life in a truer form. Most big evolutions happen in crises, just observe the world around you. Today there is a lot of dying of the old systems, the financial, political and social structures are challenged and need to be reinvented. World economies collapse, and there is a lot of pain before a new level of consciousness, a new society can manifest itself.
A while ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with heartbeats rising to 200 per minute. I felt I was going to faint. It was 3:30 in the morning when I hobbled down the stairs in my pajamas. Without hesitating, I knocked on my neighbor’s door. She’s a retired nurse I never got along with. We even used to avoid each other in the stairs. But I needed help. So I kept knocking. The white haired lady opened her door and made me sit on the couch. She took my blood pressure, and as I was shaking with cold, she gave me blankets. She talked to me, serving me cups of hot chamomile tea. We chatted until 6AM. Now we are becoming friends. A lot of good has come of this nightly crisis. I learned about how beneficial ‘reaching out’ can be.
For years I knew about this phenomenon theoretically, and although having gone through some, I only ‘got it’ superficially. Today I know from first hand: evolving, growing, is dying a little. And it is OK. These little moments of ‘dying’ do not mean the end. They are new beginnings. They remind us we are alive, and not numbed out. I am going to try to welcome them with a smile from now on.
Look at nature. Spring is coming.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves” is a popular C.G. Jung quote on Facebook 😉