Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually living authentically, as I strive to do, or am still people pleasing and rushing into the idea of forgiveness and acceptance. As a yogi, meditator, writer and single mom navigating this planet, I hear messages constantly that are meant to help in times of crisis. Sometimes these messages fall flat—as there is an underlying note of criticism. For instance, if I can’t forgive and forget instantly—does that mean I’m less evolved, or am letting others down? Does that imply my “energy or vibration” will attract more negative experiences if I can’t immediately accept that “everything is happening exactly as it is meant to, for my highest good?”
Why am I exploring these yogi and self help sentiments? Well, there’s nothing worse than a healer who just throws platitudes against the wall when someone is truly suffering. Since I’m now teaching students who are fighting cancers and living bravely with chronic pain and debilitating injuries, it’s critical that I dig deep and try to relate to their struggles. For that reason, I’m starting to re-examine how I deal with my own struggles. Five months ago I was hurt physically by someone I thought was my friend, and someone I thought I was in love with. In my attempt to heal emotionally, I rushed toward forgiveness and acceptance—instead of allowing myself to feel the pain: the emotional hurt of betrayal, sadness, anger. When I reached out to a few well-intentioned friends, I was told things like: “everything happens for a reason,” or “maybe you needed this to wake up and be done with bad boys,” or “you have to forgive in order to heal,” or “on some level you knew he was like that.”
And then later in yoga classes, I heard these platitudes over and over again: “everything that happens to you is for your highest good,” “you are responsible for everything and everyone in your reality,” “forgiveness is the attitude of the strong,” or “happiness can only exist in acceptance,” or “when you keep your vibrations high, you only attract those on a high vibration.” That one really cut to the core, as I know that I’m insanely kind, forgiving and giving. Too much so…
I almost gave up yoga during this time of healing. I ran a lot to very loud music in my ears. I biked so hard I thought my chicken legs would explode. I also immediately forgave the person who hurt me and then, when I started having flash backs, I wrote a scathing letter crucifying this person’s character.
It’s the perfect example of why no one should rush into forgiveness without working through feelings—without recognizing them and honoring their soul. It’s okay to be damn angry when someone treats me like crap. Who deserves that? And it’s also okay to not understand what the lessons are in the experience right away. I try to remember this when with my students. How can I say everything happens for a reason to a student who is dying and will never see her daughter get married? What good will that do for her to hear a statement like that? None.
So, instead, I meditate for allowing a space to heal. I meditate with my students for love. I give lavender shoulder and head messages. I tell them they are strong. I tell them they are loved, infinitely. I tell them they are brave. They are beautiful. They are deserving of love and light. I tell them that shitty things have happened to them and me, but we deserve better and they have the support they need. We meditate on letting healing light in—letting it penetrate the cells of their body to wash away all the scars, the hurt, the cancer. And at the end of the class, I realize that while I may be providing a service, they are actually saving me.
I ran across this brilliant post “How to Hurt” by Angry Therapist team member Padhia Avocado.
It’s worth reading the entire post, but I’ll quote a few paragraphs that resonate deeply for me:
“We need to shift in the way we judge pain. It is not possible to simply “get over something” that affected you in such a way that it changed who you were and the understanding you had of your world,” she explained.
“Time does not heal all wounds. Wounds can heal on their own, but only if they are superficial. Deep ones need attention and special care. The parts of you that hurt can’t see the outside world and use the logic of comparison to heal. Shame and judgment of pain only makes the injury worse. That forces you to hide your own truth from yourself and that leads to many other problems.”
Amen to that. Her next paragraph makes a lot of sense, too. I know that I sometimes get frustrated when I’m not healing fast enough. I recall feelings of bitterness springing forth, surprising me, as I thought I had “already dealt with this!” Well, it’s time to let the perfectionist go. Everyone heals at a different pace. And as long as I am not marinating in the feelings, dwelling in them, recalling them often, I’m just honoring my existence. I feel because I exist. It’s that simple. And it involves no one else.
Padhia wrote: “Other’s judgment of how “you should feel” is irrelevant. … Our inner time is very different than external time. Years may pass between things that happen in the external world, but time doesn’t work like that on the inside. … You can’t talk yourself out of the things that hurt you deeply. To be free of them, you have to learn to hold space for your feelings. Allow them to be what they are in a way that you are not feeding them (so that they gather more volume and take you over) but rather letting them bloom, so that they can then die down. Listen to the messages in them while they are blooming, and go down the paths they are calling you to go down. Only then, can they evolve into lighter feelings of acceptance, healing and gratitude.”
And that’s really the key. As a good friend and therapist told me, there’s a fine line between self exploration and self absorbance. To allow my feelings to exist—no matter what they are—without blowing them up into something bigger, or hiding them and shaming them—I will heal. I feel it already. I’m on that path. And what I’m learning, is that when I allow myself to be okay with feeling angry, sad, disappointed or angry—when I sit with it, recognize it—I begin to acknowledge my worth and honor myself. I don’t need to rush to forgiveness and to “finding the lesson” to prove that I’m evolved. First, I need to sit with the feelings, tell myself that it’s not okay for someone to hurt me and that I’m going to grieve first.
This process doesn’t create victims, martyrs or self pity party holders. In order to let these feelings morph into acceptance and forgiveness, they have to be seen and heard and felt—like a dear friend who listens without judgement. I’m convinced that those who don’t allow themselves to grieve will get stuck in a life with unrelenting bitterness and fear.
As Khalil Gibran so eloquently wrote: “your joy is your sorrow unmasked.”
The only path to joy is through feeling and acknowledging sorrows. Once recognized, the sorrow can be let go—allowing space to live again, to try again, to love again, and to let joy float back up to the surface.