Don't surrender your lonelinessSeveral years ago, I was watching a documentary on PBS called The Buddha. Part of the film discussed meditation, and it made so much sense to me that it continues to transform the way I think as well as the way I react in certain situations. Specifically, one of the monks talked about meditation as an avenue for really experiencing emotions. He said, "Meditation isn't about getting rid of anger, getting rid of lust, or getting rid of jealousy. What most happens in our ordinary life is whenever we experience these emotions, we get stuck into it. It starts twisting us, but [meditation] is going through inside it and getting out of it peacefully. And I think that gives us more joy. That makes human life more full, more round. We're not living a partial truth, but it's like the whole of things together."
Let it cut more deeply.
Let it ferment and season you
As few humans
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My need for God
I've worked more and more at practicing this in meditation. If I am angry, if I am sad, if I am joyful, I try to give myself time and space to feel the whole of these emotions. I'm still learning, but I've found it to be helpful in how I react in certain situations. If I understand where and how my anger happens, and have practiced going through it and coming out of it, it changes my interactions with whatever has triggered it. I think we too often try to slough unpleasant emotions. They don't feel good. But not allowing ourselves to experience them comes to seem more and more like a disservice to our fullness - our wholeness.
Life is just sad sometimes. By allowing ourselves to experience all of the nuances of emotion, by going through them, we can help keep ourselves from being swallowed up by them.
I recently made a connection between this type of meditation and Jesus's suffering in Gethsemane. A commonly held belief of Christ's suffering is that during the atonement, Christ was suffering for all of the sins of humanity. He was experiencing all that we would ever feel, feeling the weight of every sin we would commit. As he left his disciples to go pray in the garden, he began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
His soul was heavy.
That's what grief feels like. He experienced all that we would because he took the time, in all of its unpleasantness, to go through it and get to the other side. It was agonizing. He asked, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." And as he passed through the sorrow, both of that night and in the days to come, redemption was on the other side.
The work of going through something and coming peacefully out of it leads to its own kind of redemption. The more we are able to go through emotion, the more we learn to trust ourselves and the belief that it will all work out.
I'm finding more peace in this on my faith journey. I've been angry, sad, and confused at why I didn't feel right in the Mormon church. I spent years trying to dismiss those emotions: I just needed to work harder, and I would be happy - "If I could just figure out what I'm doing wrong, I'd gladly fix it, and then I won't be so conflicted." When I finally started allowing myself to process, without the weight of arriving at one specific answer, I started feeling peace. Realizing that my spirituality wasn't contingent on Mormonism was a huge relief. Understanding that God and truth and love and eternity don't hinge on one church was also a huge relief. The realization wouldn't have come if I would have kept trying to sweep my emotions under the rug. Rainer Maria Rilke said:
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer.While there is still a part of me (a pretty big part of me) that holds out hope that Mormonism will be a choice I make someday, I am at peace with the path I'm on. I'm growing and changing. I'm living the questions and finding answers all at the same time right now. My meditation often takes the form of prayer, and one that I utter often is this: Dear God, I don't know where I'll end up. But I know you're the way.
One final thought on going through emotions: I keep a private blog, and I posted this poem there in March, but I feel like it belongs with this post. It's called Now Let Me be Sad by Emma Lou Thayne. (Thayne also wrote the words to one of my favorite hymns, Where Can I Turn for Peace?)
Now let me feel sad. Impulse, trained in gladness,
Do not try to whisk me away from grief
Like a child caught sulking in a corner
Immobilized by imagined hurt.
Instead, let me grow rich with my sadness.
Let it mellow and strengthen my joy,
Take bold hold of my will,
Give tears permission to water the parch of loss.
Let its music ripple my spine,
Let me give ardent ear,
To what was, to what never will be.
Grief, be my companion in joy.
In the numberless calls acquainting me with the Night,
Bring me to my senses, numberless too
In abandoning numbness and the faint iridescence
Of busyness, crowds, brief entertainments.
Like walking into a sea, only in depth can I float,
Depth, too often feared for its power,
To raise me footloose and struggling
Is all that can gentle me back to the shore:
Safe, breathing in the cosmos of the sweet unknown
Full of the light of having been sad.