Most of us as children experienced situations where we felt overwhelmed by our emotions. Maybe a parent yelled at us or hit us, projecting their own emotional traumas onto us. Maybe we met our parents with wide open hearts and they weren't able to meet us back in that love, leaving us feeling unloveable and unworthy. Maybe it was something seemingly small like another child not wanting to play with us. And our gentle hearts were so open. We were so sensitive, innocent, pure, and oh so sweet, and our tender little nervous systems didn't know how to handle these situations.
That little one wasn't taught how to be present with emotions, how to gently feel and allow the sensations in the body with unconditional love. In fact, most of us were taught that our emotions are bad and that there was something wrong with us for feeling what we were feeling, that our sensitivity was in fact a sign of weakness and that we should hide it and 'be strong.' And so feelings were repressed and emotional traumas were born.
Different nervous systems respond to these emotional traumas in different ways. Some shut down and became numb, some put up walls of protection around the heart and most develop coping mechanisms, behaviours which allow us to keep on surviving despite the agony we feel.
When we begin to mature spirituality, part of that process means meeting the emotional traumas from our past. We have to remember how to feel again in a healthy way. We have to learn how to hold gentle, unconditionally loving space for ourselves and our old pain.
For many people it is scary to open up to these feelings. "What if I open a can of worms and I can't handle it? What if it's too overwhelming? What if it's too painful? What if I open up and then lose my capacity to shut down again? I might have to live in a state of constant overwhelm! Then how will I function in my life?" These fears are a by-product of past emotional trauma. The nervous system remembers how challenging it was to feel overwhelming pain as a child and the mind produces thoughts to try to protect us from feeling that pain again.
The 'spiritual ego' may decide to open to feeling but this is another form of identified ego which wants to control our experience, "Yes, ok I will open to feeling, but not too much, just enough to feel without getting overwhelmed. Then I won't have to experience the suffering that I felt as a child. I'll just be a balanced person with healthy emotions instead of being totally numb." This is actually not true balance and these thoughts are also a form of protection based on fear.
Part of the process of maturing spiritually is the transcendence of mind, seeing the bigger picture. We open to that which lies beyond the mind and beyond the world of duality, which includes emotions. We open to that which is constant, untouchable, formless, without preference, without desire. That which simply IS. Opening to this ultimate truth means surrendering control of which feelings arise in our experience. We no longer identify with or try to control our emotions because we know ourselves to be that which lies beyond emotions, the formless, open space of awareness from which emotions arise.
True dedication to the path of spirituality doesn't mean partially opening to feeling so that we can control how much pain we feel. It means allowing ourselves to be totally ripped open and surrendering everything to truth. It means living in 100% raw vulnerability. It means having the courage and willingness to feel whatever arises in the moment. In doing so we don't become over-reactive and manic with our emotions, screaming and wailing. We become deeply present with whatever arises and we gently open deeper and deeper to feeling and allowing all sensations as we dive into the infinite void of peaceful, transcendant Being.
Like with everything, as we practice being present with our feelings and opening to them with love, our capacity to do so increases. We are able to stay present with larger and more intense waves of emotion. We don't try to avoid emotions, and nor do we get taken over by them. We surrender to the emotions and become one with them, and by doing so we walk through the gateway of truth, the gateway to our true self, the gateway to the infinite oneness, our true nature, pure awareness.
So don't aim to 'half-open' to feeling in order to stay safe. Dive in head first. Let your heart be smashed into a million pieces. Let it be ripped and torn and broken and shredded. Feel the rawness and the vulnerability. Surrender fully, and what you will discover is that you cannot be broken. What you will discover is that you cannot be hurt. What you will discover is the truth of who you are. Eternity itself. ~ Louise 💙
Photo credit: Caleb Woods