Listen to your heart and ignore its requests, and you will experience unbearable suffering.
Listen to your heart and comply with its requests, and you will suffer, but you will not suffer unbearably.
Last night I had awful nightmares about the men who trafficked me when I was a child living in Denver house. The nightmares were so bad that I wasn’t quite sure where I was when I woke up, or even how old I was. I was physically sick and felt exhausted and emotionally drained. My body felt so heavy, and my heart so full of pain that I could barely walk.
As a result, I cancelled my morning training session with my coach and went back to bed. The last place I wanted to be was in my bed, but I just didn’t have the energy to do anything else. A few hours later, I managed to get myself up and dressed and went for a walk with the dog.
On the walk, I recognised that I was being unkind to myself in the way that I was talking to myself mentally. I was judging myself harshly for the way I was feeling. I was telling myself that I was a complete failure because I was not feeling happy.
And then I thought to myself, really? How ridiculous is that way of thinking in the grand scheme of things?
I had to remind myself that although I was feeling ‘bad’, I was actually doing really well.
Feeling bad is not the same as, ‘doing badly’.
I am so very grateful that I have been able to make this distinction today, on a day when I have been really struggling to function.
Over the past week or so I have ‘felt bad’ on a few occasions. My second yoga class left me wondering about suffering and my relationship with it. The nightmares I had last night made think about it again.
In one of the nightmares, I was trapped in a house, trying to find a way to escape from the men who had come to hurt me. I could hear the men slamming doors and up turning furniture, and I knew that it was only a matter of time before they found me.
I was in an upstairs bedroom wondering if I could escape through the window when I noticed a newborn baby, swaddled in blankets. She had been abandoned and I knew that if I abandoned her too, she would suffer the way I had done. I couldn’t let that happen so I took the baby in my arms and hid her amongst some cushions I had noticed.
I then took a deep breath, and went out to face the men, hoping that my actions would save the baby girl from being found. As the men hurt me as I knew they would, I prayed silently that the baby girl would keep quiet and not alert the men to her presence.
I have thought about that baby girl a lot today.
She was only a few days old and had absolutely no idea of the danger she was in, but I knew, that if that child started to feel hungry, anxious or even lonely, she would cry. Suffering is a natural part of life. What is not natural is the way we learn to attach ourselves to it.
I have endured such a lot of unnecessary suffering in my life because somewhere along the way, I ended up believing that my pain was who I was. It became my identity. But the truth is, I am so much more than what I feel.
Emotions pass and change all of the time but who I am, what resides at the core of me, is solid and unchanging.
When I think of myself, and recognise the unchanging part of me, any emotions I experience are just that, experiences. They do not define me. The same is true for physical experiences.
Do not let your emotions or physical experiences define you.
We are not our anxieties or fears. We are not our pain and suffering, we are not even our happiness and joy. We are an unchanging part of the universe.
Nothing more. Nothing less.