Opening ourselves to life means becoming vulnerable, which means that at some point we will suffer loss and pain. Being achingly present to the experience helps us recover.
Grief, rage, and agonizing hurts that are ignored or suppressed will burrow into the hidden rooms of your being and end up showing themselves as chronic pain or illness, long after you think you have moved on.
Often, the pains of life arrive as a deluge. When they sweep into the corners of our soul, we are often left feeling unmoored. Here are some ways to navigate that delicate and vulnerable space.
Your ability to bounce back is impacted by your ability to be fully present with the grief or the emotion that knocked you sideways to begin with. Fully experiencing the emotions that accompany the trials of life is uncomfortable, but to bypass experiencing them does not serve you.
Feel it. Don’t run away. Let yourself be washed clean by the waves of emotions. Resist the urge to tell yourself a story about what they those emotions mean about you and the state of your life. Be fully, compassionately, and achingly present while experiencing the feelings that come up and through you. Light candles, write words, hold yourself where it hurts. Rock your body through the ride of fully felt emotions.
Rest. Wrap yourself in blankets and sit unapologetically in your pool of tears. Sleep and wake and sleep again. Soak your body in baths and invite the stillness, the space you have created in your soul, to expand into every cell of your being.
Ride the waves. Be fully present; this is not a linear process. When emotions rise again, feel them fully. Notice the edges and the textures, the colors and sounds of the rawness inside of you, claiming your humanness. Let yourself repeat these steps as many times as needed.
Invite and allow support. If you have the kind of people who show up no matter what in your life, invite them in. Request time to share a pot of tea or a mug of soup. Share your pain. Give them the gift of helping you shoulder your anguish. Again, don’t make a story of it. Be honest, open, and raw about your truth. Cry together and laugh in each other’s embrace. Know that this experience is part of the truth of life and is at the heart of knowing your soul.
Move. When you are ready, gather yourself and bring movement into your body. Walk in the forest, run through open fields, and shake your body. Allow whatever shakes loose to release and then dance—freely, frantically, loudly, or barely moving at all. Repeat as many times and as often as you need to.
Wash your body clean. Use salts, scents, and anything else you need to cleanse the layers of your being, and then anoint your body with oil. Let your skin soak it in, feeling the love and care you have for yourself. Honor your wisdom; honor your strength, even when you feel the most vulnerable you have ever felt in your life. (Read our story “Full Moon Ritual Bath.”)
Take your time. When grief or heartache have wounded you to your core, you will need to be gentle with yourself. You’ll feel the urge to surge into the next evolution but find the place within you that is patient; the place that is willing to be present. Give yourself the space and time to find normal again—even if it is a very foreign place of normalcy.
Becoming Whole Again
Take small steps toward consistency. Establish routine mealtimes, waking time, and movement time to create the scaffolding for what will slowly build into the next phase of your life. Understand that this creation will be something you may hardly recognize as your own. You will carry that grief, that heartache, that love as an etching on the contours of your soul. There is no returning to what was.
Notice when grace shows herself. One day, you will find yourself delighting in the birds singing outside your window or the faint warmth of a winter sun, bathing you in light. Let yourself be open to the small delights that are woven throughout your life. They will begin to emerge and spark your spirit with hope.
Find courage. Begin to take steps toward life, toward truth. Know that you may still find yourself as a puddle on the floor, raw emotion spilling from you after hearing a song, glimpsing an image, or smelling a signature scent. Again, let those emotions wash over you. Find compassion for yourself and know that each time you feel, you are honoring what is true for you.
Emerge gently. You may feel that you need an ally. Find a therapist—whether movement, talk, art, or equine—to guide you as you emerge from a place of feeling and being into an existence that allows you to connect with others and make some meaning out of your new reality. Get to know your strengths and harness them. Start a journal. Become friends with gratitude. Reach out and help someone else who is hurting.
This is a journey that will carve its shadow into the quietest, softest places of your heart. Your presence will allow that pain to keep moving, to shift, and to ultimately transform into the wisdom of your soul.
Read the first article in Kalia Kelmenson's series on resilience: “Build Resilience by Creating an Upward Emotional Spiral.” Coming later in the week: "5 Ways to Supercharge Your Resilience."
Poems have a way of swirling their way into my psyche, and when one finds a home, it settles in, fortifying that place with peace. I discovered Deborah Anne Quibell's collection of poems Soul Bird: Poems for Flying and found myself returning to the poems often, and sharing them with everyone I loved. Her imagery and sense of presence and hope honor both the truth of the moment and the hope for transformation.
Beloved poet Naomi Shihab Nye told me earlier last year that she was once asked by one of her mentors, “Did my poems ever really serve you when you needed help? Were they of use to you? Did they function as tools when you needed to pry something open?”
Quibell's poems function as such a tool for me. They pry open what is happening in the present moment, however painful, and help me examine the condition of my heart and of my soul.
I hope this tool offers hope for you in your darkest days.
A NOTE TO THE ACHING HEART
By Deborah Anne Quibell
Aching ones, be gentle with yourself.
The heart is a vessel of alchemy.
Place your pain within its chamber,
and whatever you do
don’t close the lid.
The steam must escape.
Breathe tender breaths.
Infused with holiness.
Trust that the angel of love
within you holds a glowing ember
whose flame cannot be extinguished.
Invite the warmth into the painful, aching places
and stay still for a while.
You are whole.
You are healing.
You are divinely resilient.
And this too shall pass.
From Soul Bird: Poems for Flying by Deborah Anne Quibell. Copyright © 2019 by Deborah Anne Quibell. Reprinted with permission of Mandorla Books.
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