Real quick, on handling the pain of the world
When there are horrifying events around us that are intensely overwhelming, it can be really hard to figure out how to try to manage our…
When there are horrifying events around us that are intensely overwhelming, it can be really hard to figure out how to try to manage our own experience of those events without giving in to despair, anger and hopelessness.
I got some really helpful advice about ten years ago from my friend Elke. It was late 2012; I had been working with her on some healing stuff for a couple months, when Superstorm Sandy blew through New York. My roof nearly came off that night, and the following days were filled with story after story of people who had died in horrible circumstances, elderly people who were trapped in high-rises with no power, pictures of wreckage everywhere… it was a lot. I lived in NYC for both 9/11 and the 2003 blackout, so I wasn’t new to trauma here, but this felt different. I couldn’t stop thinking about everyone who was suffering; I cried nonstop and felt unable to complete even the simplest tasks. I know this level and worse levels of suffering happen every day on this silly planet, but the acuteness of this storm left me raw.
I’d had a scheduled session with Elke already, so when I got there, I blubbered out through my ugly-crying how upsetting it all was. The whole session was transformational, but I wanted to share this one bit with you.
Elke asked me, “Have you ever seen dolphins surf?”
I blinked. “No, I don’t think I have.”
“Here, look at this video right now.” I did.
“Do you see how they handle the waves? They go charging straight into them, and then they *pop* out the other side.” It was so mesmerizing to watch them do this.
“That’s what you need to do with the pain of the world,” she said. “Go straight into it, let it wash into you. But don’t let it get stuck inside of you — that’s where it festers into suffering. Let it keep going and you, you have to pop out of the other side.”
You can’t entirely reject the pain of the world, just like you can’t reject a wave coming at you. If you can do everything in your power to let it go through you and not get stuck, that’s what makes us be ok enough to stay a little sane, to be able to keep going with what we need to do.
How you pop out the other side is, of course, a million dollar question for everyone. I don’t think there’s one answer or one key to unlocking that. For me, I find meditating helps; it’s the flip side of prayer, in a way. An Israeli Hare Krishna yoga teacher (we can all pause for a minute while you imagine that) once told me, “Prayer is when you’re talking to God; meditating is when you’re listening.” Prayer helps me, too. Finding a way to help others within my means can help, but can also sometimes contribute to the stuckness. Finding a very good thing to focus on, as slowly and for as long as possible — a cuddle with your favorite creature, a piece of nature that’s right next to you, savoring what you’re eating or drinking — is another one.
How do you let the suffering wash through you? Sending you love, comfort and strength through these maddening times. ❤
PS — Elke, I’m writing this from memory, so if I’ve misremembered anything, let me know. Love you!
PPS — Still behind on several delightful replies you’ve sent. I promise I’m reading and definitely replying! #slowbutsure