Thursday, May 2, 2013

Through the luminous doorway of emotion...

I was speaking with a friend who was feeling so much anger; he was so frustrated and upset with himself, and with a person in his life that he was struggling with. He asked me to help him understand what was going on and how he could get rid of his anger as he could see clearly how it was destroying him, eating him from the inside. He had also heard that if the anger remained in an uncontrolled way that he could even develop cancer or heart disease. He was worried. He knew that anger was not a spiritual quality and that it was really important that he work with it, transform it, forgive it, turn it into kindness, and so forth.

For all of us, there are times when that energetic quality of anger explodes throughout our bodies, our minds, our hearts, and it can be so destructive, especially when we act it out and say things or act in ways that lead to great suffering for ourselves and others. It is of course very natural to want to get rid of it, change it, spiritualize or meditate or pray it away. But the one thing that I’ve seen about anger over the many years in speaking with people about it is that it is most often a cover for deep hurt, grief, shame, and sadness. In many ways (not always), anger is a very surface-level experience for people, a defensive reaction to protect ourselves from deep unmetabolized hurt. It is rather easy for most to feel angry, but very difficult to embrace a deep sense of hurt or shame. 

So with my friend I suggested that we could go into his anger and talk about it and really try to figure out what was going on, the historic causes and conditions of this particular feeling state; we could learn more about it and we could explore behaviorally-oriented strategies for how he could manage it, act differently, etc. But first, I asked him: have you actually ever turned toward your anger? Have you ever actually made contact with it, somatically, inside your body, and opened to it all the way through? Have you ever been so curious about the actual nature of this passing energy we call “anger?” It was then as if time stopped. He looked at me and started to cry. In an instant of going so far inside his own anger, loving himself so much, being so courageous to turn into the anger and allow it to reveal itself to him, he allowed himself to fall apart. In that falling apart, he could no longer find the anger; it was no longer there. There were rising and falling sensations in his body, but the “angry one” was no longer organizing the show. He touched something so deep and at the same time was even a bit disorienting for him.

When we can somehow find a way to turn directly into our emotions, into our feelings, a tremendous freedom is often waiting for us. When we can stay at the sensation level of our experience, we may become bewildered as we are no longer able to find a “problem” there. Our feelings and emotions are not what we think they are; they are not nearly as solid, continuous, and endearing as they appear. Like all form, they are made of light and, ultimately, of love. They are our long-lost friends, just waiting for us to take a moment out of our busy lives to touch them. Once they are seen, heard, validated, held, they are then free to share their gifts with us, and to serve the purpose for which they came… to be radical vehicles for our own freedom and luminous pathways through which love can express itself in our world.