When sitting with a friend who is feeling down, we can become convinced that something is wrong which we must urgently correct. It can feel as if we must do something, anything, to remove them from their experience and replace it with another, ideally one which cuts into our own anxiety alive just under the surface.
We move quickly to put them back together, remind them of all the gifts in their life, tell them how everything will be okay, and that things will be better soon. All the while remaining mistattuned to the intelligence which may be unfolding in front of our very own eyes.
Of course it is natural to want to help a friend in pain. But we must see to what degree this activity arises from genuine compassion or from a dissociative turning from our own discomfort and rejection of the darkness within, from the shadows of our unlived lives.
The achy feeling and surging vulnerability is not a mistake, but is sacred. It is not pathology, but path, a long lost friend. The orphaned pieces of psyche and soma are gathering around us, longing not to be “healed,” but only finally to be held.
Perhaps the kindest thing we can offer our friend is to sit in the unresolvable complexity, groundlessness, and hopelessness with them, doing whatever we can so that they know we will not abandon them even if they do not conform to the cultural fantasy that they be happy, grateful, and hopeful all the time. Let us remove this burden so it is safe enough for them to open.
The invitation is to trust in the unfolding of their experience and no longer pathologize the appearance of the dark, for within it is a light burning with a billion suns. With the entirety of our presence, make it clear to them that they need not “get over it,” change, “raise their vibration,” or convert their experience to happiness and light in order for us to hold them and stay near.
Love is the totality. It is whole. It is raging and alive in the darkness, shining brightly in ways the conventional world may never understand. Within the confusion, heartbreak, loneliness, and despair, there is something very real attempting to break through. There is a richness here, but what that is may never support the consumeristic spell of consistent feelings of happiness and certainty.
Here, in the very core of your friend’s experience – which is utterly inseparable from your own – everything is alive, everything is path, and everything is holy. The divine is not only the joy and sweetness, but comes at times as Kali to reorder your world. Let us step out of the trance and into the fire with our precious friend, hold hands with him or her and keep them near. We can then turn toward Kali together, create a sanctuary for her wrathful wisdom-essence to unfold in our hearts, and finally see what she has to say.
My latest book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available
The next book, The Unfolding Heart, will be published by Sounds True in early 2020, details to come
My next event:
The Great Befriending: A Five-Day Journey of Self-Love, Deep Rest, and Coming Alive (with Jeff Foster), September 21-26 in Loveland, Colorado