“The world is going to break your heart.
We get to decide if it breaks us open into empathy or into sharp little pieces”.
We are living in tender times. Life is heightened for so many on a personal level and as a collective. Illnesses, health crises, death, birth, rebirth, heartbreak, loss, life changes, letting go of jobs and relationships... are all significant and prevalent during these times bringing with them choice and opportunity.
We are all trying to find our way in this new paradigm of human existence. We are being asked to continuously rise up and meet life exactly as it is with the whole of who we are.
To be a human means to have moments and opportunities to experience a wide array of emotion and to choose how to respond accordingly. Giving oneself permission and creating the space to feel the full range of human emotions is so critical to living a whole and embodied life.
So often we avoid feeling the harder feelings for fear that they will consume us, engulf us, and break us down. There is a fear of the unknown when faced with the opportunity to feel the grief, the sadness, the heartbreak, the anger – not knowing if we will ever come through to the other side. We avoid, we distract, we numb, we engage in addictions, we escape in any way that we possibly can to turn away from the discomfort.
Choosing to be a fully feeling and embodied human is messy, uncomfortable, painful, joyful, vulnerable, and incredibly beautiful.
Giving ourselves permission and creating the space to actually feel the whole spectrum of human emotions is a gift to ourselves and ripples out to those in our lives.
In my own life, I have found that depending on what has surfaced or occurred informs what I need to do to take care of myself. I am not afraid to feel all of the human experience, yet certainly have moments of not knowing if they are ever going to pass or move. I have learned over the decades that I have been seeped in personal growth and healing that different times require different responses.
The amazing thing that I find over and over again is that when I allow the feelings to come up and out, they shift and move and I am propelled into more clarity and connection with myself and with the world around me.
When we hold ourselves in those places of vulnerability, of pain...in the whole range of human emotions and experiences and we invite them in and welcome them all…we are whole. When we run from the discomfort, use addictive patterns (people, substances, work, food, exercise, social media, sex, technology, etc.), we are suppressing the natural flow of life and we become fragmented.
When we give ourselves permission to feel the whole range of human emotions we are dropped into a new plane of existence.
Moving these emotions through the body and with mindfulness is, to me, the most effective and palpable way of shifting whatever it is that we have going on in our lives. Our cells carry the imprint of the entirety of our human experience.
When we just talk about our life challenges we cut off the possibility of real healing and growth. Mindfully bringing the body into the picture is essential in creating a sustainable, effective, and embodied path towards healing.
Suggestions for navigating challenging terrain as a fully feeling human:
Keep It Moving: Do not allow yourself to collapse. There is certainly a time and place for stillness and quiet (see below: Rest ). It is a fine line of when to embrace the emotion and hold yourself in it and when begin to coax yourself back into motion and give yourself that gentle push outward. Coming into gentle movements of the body such as a slow, mindful yoga practice – tuning into your breath, honoring your body, and allowing the emotions to move as they arise and need to. Taking long walks with a focus on deep belly breaths. Include listening to sacred chants in headphones, taking in our natural world, and remembering the interconnection of us all.
Meditation and Mindfulness in Action: Quite often when we are going through something challenging it is hard to sit still in meditation. Bringing our practice into action through meditative walks, mindfulness in our day-to-day, free writing/journaling with intention, and working with the mind as we move through our days are wonderful ways to bring the practices into action and effectively navigate challenging terrain.
Rest: Creating experiences of intentional rest rather than collapse are proactive ways of working with uncomfortable feelings and challenging emotions. Putting your legs up the wall or lying over some bolsters and covering your eyes with an eye pillow or scarf are effective ways of being intentional in your rest time. Sleep more! Put yourself to bed earlier and gift yourself with a minimum of 8 hours of sleep during these times. Take naps! I am a big fan of the 20-minute reset nap. It can do wonders for your entire system. The most important aspect of all of these options is to let your system rest and renew. When we are moving through challenging times we need the extra rest. It is an opportunity for some of the work to be done without your effort. So much healing occurs when we are in a state of intentional rest as it provides the platform for a deeper unwinding of the nervous system.
Nourishing Foods: Feed yourself. Our bodies need the fuel to move through challenging states. Choose foods that are grounding and nourishing to your soul. I find that when I am moving through emotional times, my preferences shift as to what my body is actually needing. Perhaps use this time to tune into your body in a deeper capacity and check in with what your body is calling for. Listening to our bodies messages on every level is an important aspect of navigating this human life so open your inner ears and respond with honor.
Connect With Those You Can Be Authentic and Real With: Finding our people during these times is tremendously good medicine. Connect with those that you can be completely yourself with. Those you can laugh with, cry with, share your heart with…those who love you and accept you for exactly who you are.
Trust the Process: When we choose to feel our feelings and allow them to cycle through our systems, it is a process. This is not an overnight, quick fix approach. This is an invitation to truly be with the whole of the human experience – to feel the fear, take those deep breaths, allow the emotions to surface, and hold ourselves close. It is an opportunity to release outdated belief systems, trauma, and to open up to new possibilities of living and being. And, it is a process. Anything that you can do to remember that and to consistently remind yourself of that fact will only serve your capacity for navigating challenging terrain. Be gentle with yourself. Find and embrace the comfort in the discomfort.
Find Gratitude: When you are in the throes of a challenging situation, emotional upheaval, or anything that is bringing you to your knees, feeling grateful is the last thing you feel. These are the moments to dig deep and to find gratitude for even the simplest of things. Feeling grateful for simply being alive, for morning coffee, a roof over your head and access to delicious food, clean water, the sound of laughter, hugs... anything and everything you can focus your energy into a place of gratitude will support you in moving through these times. When we can remember the true blessing it is to be alive it puts everything into perspective and gifts us with the experience of the present moment.
There is not one way or path or formula. Everyone has their own unique journey and way of living and being and feeling and experiencing.
Honoring that these moments of challenge could require support. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. We do not always have the the inner capacity to hold ourselves during times of intense sorrow, grief, anger, heartbreak, or any other challenging emotional state -- no matter how much work we have done on ourselves. This is when we seek our people, our community, and professionals who are skilled at holding the space for whatever needs to arise to arise.
We are each gifted with this precious life and all of the experiences that come with being a human… messy, lovely, and heart-breakingly beautiful.
May we use the whole of our experiences of life as fuel for our growth. For the opportunities that they are to become more connected to our own bodies and hearts, to ground deeper down into the truth of who we are, and to open ourselves up to the unpredictable waves of love—within ourselves and with others.