The Cook Awakening

The Blessing of Impermanence

March 25, 2019
Posted in: Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Seasonal Change, Spiritual Practice

“I’m afraid if I really allow myself to feel what’s going on with me, the feelings will never stop. I’ll be lost, forever weeping or shaking, and I’ll never feel good again.”

I think we all experience some version of this. I know my clients do. I do! Even though the path through this “resistance to what is” is very familiar to me, I still have to navigate some version of “I don’t want to feel this!” when unpleasant emotions arise.

It’s natural. It’s human. So, before I proceed any further, please know that. There’s no criticism needed in this scenario. My goal is to tenderly support you in being utterly human, in all it’s aspects. It’s what your soul took birth to be.

However, the resistance to feeling can lead us into greater suffering than is actually necessary.

My dad played American football in high school. I remember him telling us the story about the time he broke his arm, and didn’t know it for two weeks. He continued to play during that time.

He broke his arm and didn’t know it for two weeks. Now, that’s resisting pain!

Once they figured out that something was wrong, he had ground the bone around the fracture to little bits. He wore a cast for over a year in order to heal. (He continued to play football the entire time, and broke the cast a number of times. His doctors would replace it, and he’d keep playing.)

He grew up in an environment where it was clear — you do not feel your pain. I won’t go deeper into that, there’s ancestral patterns I’ve been working with for years that led to his high tolerance for discomfort. My point in using this example is simple.

If he’d been able to experience his pain when he first felt it he’d have known something was wrong, and he’d only have had to wear a cast for 6 — 8 weeks. Compared to over a year. My suspicion is that if he’d taken a break from playing football, he would have healed faster, too.

This is a pretty concrete example that carries over into the realm of other kinds of human feelings. How it works in the case of emotions is a bit different, though.

The geese are easy with the day’s end

There’s a core truth taught in many spiritual paths. It’s often experienced as a truth that people don’t like, but it has a vast benefit as well.

“All conditioned things are impermanent — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.” ~ Gautama Buddha

Most people hear this and think, “I don’t want to know that I will lose my youth! That my mother won’t live forever! etc”

But, in the case of our feelings, impermanence is a great blessing. It means this fear or sorrow cannot last forever.

We can make it last a longer time, though. Carl Jung said, “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” So, they’ll still be impermanent, but perhaps not the way you want. They can change and get more intense before they pass. If they’re not allowed and held with love, they may not pass until you do.

My dad later studied at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. As with any good training in psychology, the candidates were required to be in therapy themselves. I remember clearly one day, seeing my father weeping uncontrollably on the balcony attached to our apartment. It scared me. I’d never seen him cry before. I asked my mom what was wrong. She said simply, “He’s remembering some really hard things from his childhood, and it’s making him sad.” Knowing what I now know about his home growing up, I’m so grateful he was finally willing and able to allow himself to fully feel the effects that he’d been, understandably, resisting experiencing.

I also have a funny memory from some time later in his life. He had a headache. His response to it was akin to amazement at how much it hurt. “I’ve never had a headache before!” he said, “My pain tolerance was so high I don’t think I ever noticed it, if I did.” He was … happy about it. He considered it a sign of growth. That he was connecting with his vulnerability, and that was a good thing.

If you have emotions you feel ill equipped to handle on your own, please, get help. If not from me, from another trusted counselor. I assure you they won’t last forever, because impermanence is a central truth in all things. There are techniques you can use to help metabolize unprocessed emotions. It takes courage, yes, but it’s not actually complicated. And, on the other side is often a sweetness that you might have trouble accessing if you don’t allow the pain to be felt, too.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 25th, 2019 at 6:12 pm and is filed under Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Seasonal Change, Spiritual Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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