I struggle sometimes to balance my ego and my heart. Okay. A lot.
There’s always this voice inside whispering…. What about me? What about me? Sometimes, it doesn’t just whisper. It stomps its feet and flails about in agony, seeking recognition, acknowledgement, applause.
And then, there’s my heart. It wants to breathe freely. It wants to feel deeply and be at peace. But it’s hard to be at peace when my critter mind is nattering about what ‘we’ need to feel happy, satisfied, enough. To not hear my critter’s mind, I protect my heart from its constant whining in the belief, if I just turn my back on it, I’ll be okay.
It is hard to be at peace, if I am constantly expending my energy resisting part of who I am.
Last night as I sat in a circle of four women, listening to RamDass’ teachings on aging, I felt embraced in grace. And in that grace was the suffering that is included in all life. In that grace is my struggle, which is part of our collective struggle, and my ease, our ease, of being at peace.
For in all things, there is balance. It is the way of the world. Where there is sadness, there is joy. Where there is darkness, there is light. And where there is suffering, there is grace.
And when I become out of balance, so too does my suffering.
It is in my mind’s desire to understand, to stay attached to, to make sense of suffering, loss, pain, grief, that I remain stuck in my own suffering. Caught up in my need to make sense of my suffering, I block my heart from being free to feel deeply for fear, to feel the suffering will only make it worse. With my heart blocked off, I cannot be vulnerable. And without being vulnerable, I cannot be of loving service to the world.
And so I create my own unbalanced wheel of suffering, constantly seeking to resist that which I fear, and avoiding at all costs, that which will make my heart be open to the pain of suffering.
Avoidance strengthens fear.
When I was released from a relationship that was killing me, I was terrified that if I started crying, I would never stop. I wanted to avoid tears at all cost because to me, allowing the sadness in, risked being consumed by it.
My avoidance and fear were making me sicker than I already was in the aftermath of an abusive relationship.
I had to teach myself that I could cry without drowning in my own tears.
To begin, I gave myself permission to cry for 10 minutes on the hour, every hour. The rest of the hour had to be filled with doing those things that healed and supported me on my recovery journey. Reading. Meditating. Writing. Going for a walk in nature. Sitting quietly in the presence of my own heart…
Gradually, I decreased the time permitted to cry until I no longer felt consumed by my fear of tears and sadness. In the absence of my desire to avoid my fear of crying, joy slipped in. What a beautiful gift. To feel joy amidst the sorrow and sadness of all that had happened in my life to bring me to that moment where I was lost and found.
Sitting in that circle last night, it was beautifully clear to me. I cannot avoid aging. I can do things to mitigate the impact of the aging process on my body and mind, but I can’t avoid the constant march of time and my body’s evolutionary process.
Giving into nature’s way, finding peace with the passing of time, does not mean I do not feel the aches and pains of my age. It does mean, the aches and pains are not all of who I am. Within those aches and pains are the joy and freedom of being my age, in the presence of grace.
I do not need to give up on being present in this world, doing the things I enjoy, or even give up on me to become my age. I simply need to give up on believing suffering isn’t part of the journey. And in those moments when I am acutely aware of the suffering that is within me and all around me in this world, to breathe into the pain of feeling stuck in suffering, so that I can be free to live my life, with grace, amidst the suffering and the joy, the sadness and the elation, the hatred and the love.
The gift of aging is that the light becomes brighter in the darkness and the pain becomes more acute in the ease of living with grace. And in that space, I am free to choose loving awareness, again and again.
Thank you Wanda S, Judy A, Marilyn W, for creating a circle of loving kindness.