This has been a difficult week. That is an understatement. Regardless of your feelings about the state of affairs, we are facing division and uncertainty. My heart has been cracked in half by the pain of seeing people I love experiencing fear, distrust, and even hate. I am so very fortunate in my life to hold people close to my heart whose lives before our paths crossed may have been very different from my own. Whose lives now may be very different from my own. My connection with them gives me the opportunity to experience empathy at the highest level – to understand that when one of us suffers, we all do.
As a woman, and as a human being, I have fears of my own. But as I wrote on Wednesday, I am trying to acknowledge my negative emotions without fully engaging with and absorbing them. I am trying to be mindful. I am trying to cultivate love – to find it and create it and yes, contrary to what many mindfulness teachings tell us about emotions, I am holding on to it. Clinging to it, attaching myself to it, holding it close and spreading it as far as I can at the same time.
However, I know from my experience studying, practicing and teaching mindfulness that pushing difficult emotions aside only feeds them. As Jon Kabat-Zinn said, It’s not a matter of letting go – you would if you could. Instead of ‘let it go,’ we should probably say ‘let it be.’” The hope is that through being able to be present with the experience of your emotions, you can intentionally determine how to respond – how to move forward.
Forward is exactly where we will need to go. Each of us will get there in our own time, but when we do, we will go together. We have to. We will be stronger for having felt the pain we feel now. As Pema Chodron wrote, the path to enlightenment goes “right down there in the thick of things.” It does not pull us away from suffering, it drives us into it. The experience teaches us, and helps us learn to be better.
Yesterday, the world lost songwriter Leonard Cohen, whose song “Anthem” gave us one of my most treasured pieces of wisdom:
“Ring the bells that still can ring; forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”
If you are seeking a mindfulness challenge this weekend, let it be this: be where you are, mentally, physically, emotionally. Feel what you feel. And as you do, may you also notice the light. It is still there, and with what you choose to do next, you can – at your own pace – let it shine.
Photo credit: Seth Doyle