Suffering is a part of life. We need not add to it by imposing the expectation that we can or should abolish it. Ironically acceptance of our suffering is the way to be free of its hold on us. This is not a passive or defeatist mandate to wallow in misery but rather an invitation to connect compassionately with the parts of ourselves that are suffering. Love is the greatest healer.
It seems to be a characteristic of humankind to construct and take refuge in personalities to avoid exposure to disagreeable feelings or the memories that feed them . Our primary persona filter out what we share with others and even conceal vital parts of who we are from our own conscious awareness. The result is what we call our shadow or what Eckart Tolle calls our pain body. It is not a curse from outside of us. It is our own creation in an effort to cope with life’s challenges.
Last night I watched a moving and inspiring documentary on Netflix called Stutz. It is a homage by Jonah Hill to his therapist Phil Stutz. At one point Phil instructed Jonah to close his eyes and think of a part of himself that has caused him a lot of shame and pain that he has been struggling to overcome throughout his life. Then he asked him to imagine that he is brilliant sun and shine his light into that deep and dark place and embrace it with the sunshine of his love. Sit with it and feel it. Feel the soothing warmth of the love. Feel that love expanding and filling your whole being. Imagine that love radiating beyond your body out into the world around you. Imagine that this world, the entire universe, is filled with suns radiating love. Now think of someone you have judged, despised or resented and love them. My addition: Take your time and don’t judge yourself if this is not happening easily for you. Embrace them, let them in, knowing that they too are fundamentally loving suns but their light has been obscured by the damage they have experienced. You can sit with them and let them into your heart without being taken over by their disagreeable characteristics. In fact their energy will be consumed by the fire of the sun in your heart so that your love will shine more brightly.
I closed my eyes with Jonah and allowed myself to be guided through this exercise. I did it again this morning and when I got to the last part of loving someone who I have felt did not deserve my love I had an interesting insight. Loving that person does not mean that I accept any abuse or bad behaviour on their part. On the contrary, I can be more open and honest with them about what I cannot accept when I allow myself to open up to the part of me that is triggered by their behaviour. In other words, I can only effectively make my boundaries with others by dissolving the internal boundary between my primary identity and the part or parts of me that I have confined to my shadow. We are triggered by the energies that reflect an energy inside us that we have denied or disowned. Only when we feel safe enough to fully embrace our own vulnerability can we allow ourselves to share our vulnerability with others, and trust that they will accept our need to have our boundaries respected.
So many of us are striving to be better persons. We are at our best when we can accept ourselves as we are, all of ourselves. To be true to ourselves we cannot be partial. A healthy individual and a harmonious society is one in which all parts are allowed to participate in the dance of life. We can only love thy neighbour as thyself when we fully love ourselves. The first one to entrust our vulnerability to is ourself.Then the walls of division will come tumbling down and wholesome love will abound within and without.