Moving towards connection
One of things we least desire to do is look at or be with suffering, both our own and others. We often do our best to avoid, not feel, stop, alleviate or eradicate it. Understandably so. The large majority of people do not enjoy suffering. It does not come with pleasurable sensations, feelings and experiences. Rather it comes with a sense of disconnection, separation, aloneness, uncomfortableness, angst, fear, restlessness, powerlessness, helplessness, terror and more. There really is no way to make suffering rosy, soft or nice. It’s not. Our minds nearly automatically want to fix it, change it or make it go away because it is such an unpleasant experience. We do our best to push away suffering because the intensity of it is so uncomfortable. Yet despite our attempts to somehow control or manage our experience of suffering, it remains and visits our experience time and time again.
At the core of suffering is a sense or feeling of disconnection. We develop strategies to survive and cope with disconnection and the conglomerate array of other feelings that come with it. These strategies are called protective mechanisms. These mechanisms allow us to not feel the full intensity of suffering that we might otherwise feel. These strategies are smart, intelligent and well intended. Without them we might very well not be able to function in the world. They work by cutting us off from fully feeling or processing experiences of suffering, which then gives us the ability to participate with the other happenings of life to some degree. Yet the effects, or perhaps downside of these mechanisms is that while we can function we often don’t feel fully alive, integrated, joyous or connected. Protective mechanisms compartmentalize our experiences and/or completely disconnect us from certain aspects of experiencing on purpose, that is their job so to speak. They are a good short-term survival strategy, however they don’t allow for the fullness of life to be experienced or expressed through us.
When people seek for healing it is often because they know that there is more to life than what they are experiencing. To even begin the healing journey one’s protective mechanisms have to soften slightly in order for them to recognize that there is more going on than meets the eye. This allows them to embark on the path. Healing isn’t necessarily about feeling great all of time and only experiencing pleasurable sensations. It’s about feeling whatever is present. Sometimes that means learning how to be with uncomfortableness, aloneness, separation, terror, powerlessness, angst and the like, because this is what your protective mechanisms have been keeping at bay so that you could function. The paradox of sorts is that as you allow those feelings to be felt it feels good in a way. Good to no longer be keeping them outside of your experience, and no longer utilizing energy and inner resources to avoid suffering. Though you may not feel pleasure or joy in the moment, you do feel more connected.
SPACE OF THE HEART
The more willing and able we become to feel suffering, and as we have the inner resourcefulness to do so, the less defended and more open we become. Protective mechanisms only engage when they perceive that there is something to protect, but if you walk towards that which you’ve avoided, protection is no longer needed. As we open to disconnection and all of the things that come with that, we open into the heart. The heart is the natural space that always is and when we stop separating and pushing away certain parts of our experience, we naturally experience the heart. The reason that suffering is so intense is because it is the experience of disconnection from love. Even though disconnection from love is not possible, the experience of it is. It’s what we call suffering.
Accepting suffering as an experience, of which we have all experienced, is fundamental to transforming your experience of it. As long as we remain separate from suffering, we will continue to experience it. Only once we look at it, acknowledge it, feel it and let it move us, will we be able to change our relationship with it. Only then will we be able to feel our heart open without needing to try to make it open. Accepting suffering is pretty much the last thing that all of your protective mechanisms want to do, yet without your protective mechanisms up and running to show of your life all you experience is love. It’s confusing to the mind to accept that which doesn’t feel good or desirable inside of its experience, yet in the arena of healing that’s where your freedom lives.
When we are in nonacceptance of suffering we often feel internally cold, withdrawn, frantic, disassociated, overwhelmed, distraught, heavy, stressed, alone, restricted, not belonging and wanting out even if we are living a good life. We can be experiencing the appearance of all the good things of life, yet internally we are disconnection from the source of life itself, which is our heart. Even though your mind will look for a million ways out of your inner experience of suffering, you won’t come up with any that can get you out despite your endless attempts. The only direction is in. To be impacted, to feel, to fall apart, to let your heart be broken and then to be moved. Moved to integrate all of the pieces that fell apart into a new configuration. That new configuration is a new relationship with your life experiences, which offers different perspectives and ways of being that can only be known through impact and acceptance of suffering.
If you’re still reading this article then kudos to you. Suffering is the absolute hardest thing to be with and accepting it takes everything you’ve got. Yet the gift is opening into your own heart. That is the healing journey, back home to where you began, before you knew anything of separation or disconnection. To be open in your heart is to be fearless and to know the power of love is stronger than anything else.
Dr. Amanda Love, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration