I believe in non-stop learning and growing. Even my chosen playground for contributing to the world—psychology—is all about the art and science of change. Maybe what drew me to this arena was the sense that I needed it for myself. (I will admit to moments of envying people who can live a satisfying life without worrying much about self-reflection, thinking deep thoughts, and changing themselves.) But I digress.
Recently I was communing electronically via Skype with my friend Cindy. This experience gave me more food for growth and learning. Have you noticed how, when a little child falls down and hurts herself and she runs to her mother, perhaps screaming all the way, and her mother holds her and murmurs comforting words like, “Oh, that must really hurt. I’m so sorry.”, there is a magic that occurs? I don’t understand how this works, but that’s what happened to me when I told Cindy I lost my mojo and she just let me cry. I told her about how I felt like a bicycle tire that someone had let the air out of. Neither one of us tried to pump me up again or fix me. I simply held focus on her ice blue eyes that were watering in resonance with mine. They were like reflecting pools calling me to rest in them. Falling further into deep emotion myself, I saw that she too was immersed in this pool, this experience without words. It felt to us both like a numinous, holy space.
Soon after this, I noticed that the heavy fog of despair that had ambushed my spirit, loosened its grip and dropped its demands for ransom. I broke into a clearing, a widened space of possibility and openness. I breathed.
I can’t help but want to understand how and why this shift came about. I’ve known for a long time—and tell my clients—that the way out is through. Avoiding suffering by detaching, throwing yourself into action or trying to “figure it all out”: these are the useless strategies. They might give some instant relief, but they don’t really get you free. Instead, we need to relax the thousands of tiny, fear-clenched muscles within us and let the qualities of presence and care circle their wagons around our pain. Then, we can reach that tender part within ourselves that sees who we are through a lens of love.
After my communion with my friend, I wanted to live for the rest of my life in that feeling of freedom and OK-ness I’d found. But, even after a healing experience, we can’t assume we’ve seen the last of the disappointments or hurts that threaten to dim the spark of aliveness. Nor can we say a final goodbye to our favorite defenses that come to the rescue when things get rough. But maybe we can waste less time there. Maybe we can follow a new north star–one that reminds us of the power of softening and points us toward reaching out for support.