I found Sorrow on the tundra. She shivered and struggled to surround herself with stones much larger than her body.
I bowed to her and asked, “Tell me, Sorrow, how can I help?”
“The emptiness, it’s consuming me. I must fill it,” she answered.
“I see,” I said. I knelt and showed her the grass growing beneath her feet. “This is not emptiness, but a space awaiting your expansion.”
I found Fear cowering in a cage. She locked the door behind her and swallowed the key.
I bowed to her and asked, “Tell me, Fear, how can I help?”
“The danger, it’s surrounding me. I must keep it away,” she answered.
“I see,” I said. I released her from her cage and built her a palace with wide-open windows. “So you may look upon the world with security and freedom.”
I found Anger pacing across hot coals. She hurled one at me and shouted as I approached.
I bowed to her and asked, “Tell me, Anger, how can I help?”
“The pain, it’s destroying me. I must fight it,” she answered.
“I see,” I said. I took her hands in mine and listened until I recognized myself in her. “I hear you, and I understand.”
I found Love sitting beneath the willow tree. She sat still and silent, watching over me with a smile.
I bowed to her and asked, “Tell me, Love, how can I help?”
“The truth, it’s restoring me. We must share it,” she answered.
“I see,” I said. I sat beside her, writing down all she had to tell me until her words had become my own. “I will.”
When you meet pain, bow to it with a yes in your heart.
Yes, this feeling is understandable.
Yes, this feeling is allowed.
Name it without attaching a story to it and tell it, “I can be with you, what do you need me to know?” Then, listen.
We so often try to skip over this part. We’re so sure that the situation isn’t okay. That we don’t agree with what’s happening around us. Or that our reaction is “silly.” Illogical. Too much.
So, we jump in to soothe it – not out of love but out of the desire to escape the pain. It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine. Or we distract ourselves because being present with it hurts even more deeply. Or we reason it away, hoping that our intellect will help us avoid the discomfort of pain. Because that’s what strength looks like…right?
But what if you could say yes to your internal experience?
What if you could give yourself a little space to bow to it and ask what it’s trying to say?
What new possibilities would emerge in that space?
When you encounter fear, sorrow, anger, resist the temptation to push them away. Notice and release any judgments you have about them. And just when you think you understand, ask again, “What is it you need to tell me? How are you trying to help? What are you afraid of?”
All pain will tell you what it needs if you are willing to be with it as it finds the words.
This is how we meet pain with what I can only call love, and it’s through this love that all that hurts can teach us to heal, all that has broken can be rebuilt, and all that has weakened can be restored.
It’s when we meet pain with resistance and insist, “I will not have this,” that our greatest suffering arises. But with the courage to be open comes our freedom.
Leslie Ralph is a psychologist, writer, and artist who hopes to leave the world a little brighter than she found it. Her people are creative, sensitive spirits who crave love and peace, inside and out. Leslie is the author of There, I Might Find Peace: Poetry and Prose, Mantras and Meditations for Peace, Love, and Strength. Download her free gift, a ritual for receiving, a daily ritual for bringing more love and light, clarity and confidence, meaning and connection to your life. You can follow Leslie on Facebook or Instagram.
Image courtesy of William Farlow.