“Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

This is perhaps an oxymoron of a post. But what is coming clear to me is that feeling our emotions including, and maybe even especially, our painful feelings is actually a very positive thing. There is a rampant confusion between feeling our emotions and suffering our situation, and because we are often terrified by the prospect of being overwhelmed by our emotions we often fall into a default mode of suffering through days, months and sometimes years of holding our pain, fear, sadness, and grief at arms length, preferring instead to numb our selves.

Jim Morrison, the mythical rock icon, lead singer of the Doors, was once quoted as saying, “People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all… Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous… Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters…” These were wise words for a young talented guy who didn’t make it to his thirtieth birthday. I don’t think it was his pain that ended his gifted life, but the flowing psychedelics that simultaneously numbed and exaggerated it. 

With the help of a small daily meditation practice, leaning into the pain in whatever form it takes; anxiety, fear, grief or despair and opening up to the experience, what you realize is that the emotions are formless, they have no weight or density. Once you fearlessly let your attention rest on them, they dissipate. Tears may roll, sobs may rock your chest, but emotions felt are emotions freed.

It is carrying our pain day after day that wears us down. Holding our feelings at bay, always keeping up our defenses, this is exhausting. So many of us plan our lives around our worst fears. We postpone our love, we sabotage our businesses, we bail on our relationships all to keep our pain at bay. The ironic thing is that instead of avoiding the pain or fear, we create it. It is the shadow side of whatever we focus on multiplies. Our drive to avoid what we fear in the end creates it.

No one can teach this to anyone else. This is the most personal growth there is- Kenji Miyazawa, a 19th century Buddhist social activist wrote “”We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” We get wisdom as we heal our pain.