Tonight I sat for meditation and a heavy sadness sat with me. It washed over me a few minutes into my practice, my eyes closed, my face unsuspectingly soft. The sadness came creeping in like fog through the gnarly branches of winter trees, naked and shivering in the barren cold. All of a sudden my breathing shifted. The inhalation quickly deteriorated, its quick, jostling nature the familiar precursor to heaving sobs. An increasingly ragged exhalation signaled the arrival of raw, undiluted emotion.
Sadness. We so often run from it, don’t we? We cower under our eyelashes, refusing to look it in its solemn face, we refuse to look up and notice that it, in fact, has a soft face. A forgiving face. A face that says please just see me, acknowledge me. It takes a moment of bravery, in between jostling inhale and ragged exhale, to look up and say okay, I see you.
Tonight I chose not to run. I chose to make eye contact with the melancholy gaze of Sadness. The olive branch of acknowledgment. I chose to sit with the emotion. I chose to feel it, sit with it, invite it into my being and really understand it. I had the meditative equivalent of tea and crumpets with dear ‘ol Sadness.
It felt heavy. Dripping. Like cloth, saturated, drooping from the weight of its contents. The fibers threatening to tear, the fluid sneaking through, the bulging burden of it straining at the fabric. It felt wet like tears, thick like paint, warm like blood. It didn’t feel uncomfortable, but rather familiar. Familiar not in a depressing way, in the oh I’ve felt so sad in my life way, but in a human way. In a natural, nourishing way.
I let the sobs come. I felt the tears stream. I felt the serenity of my expression melt into the ugliness of crying. I observed as every sad experience I’ve ever had washed over me, through me, under and around me. I spun in the whirlwind of my truth, my journey, the steps I’ve taken and the path I’ve walked. I embraced my many moments of sadness, loss, doubt, fear. I felt each one not as an individual experience but as a brief flash, each one adding a little weight to the emotion, tossing its two cents into the bursting, dripping weight of sadness.
And then it passed.
As quietly as the sadness arrived, it left me. Tears still wet on my cheeks, the heaving just stopped. The heaviness lifted. The ache throbbed less with each pulse of my heart. The thickness diluted by acceptance, I noticed my mind’s instant reflex to fill this void of vulnerability with thoughts. I flickered between thinking and non-thinking, mildly overwhelmed by the crash of emotion I’d just encountered in a matter of minutes.
How powerful it is to just sit with an emotion.
We are so adept at doing everything but sitting with our emotions. We’re stellar at justifying, questioning, explaining, analyzing, denying and rationalize our emotions. But just sitting with them? Just looking them dead on and inviting them in? It’s as if we don’t trust that the emotion will leave. If we let it in it will make a home, it will tear us apart, it will fill every crevice of our being and drown us in its enormity.
I’m challenging us to release this fear, and to welcome emotion with the faith that it will be nourishing experience. A blesson – my new favorite word – a blessing and lesson bundled into one.
While tonight’s meditation had a visit from Sadness, the other evening I sat with anxiety. I felt it, fully. I turned it over in the stillness of my open palms, tasted it under my unmoving tongue, lifted it and felt its weight with my beating heart. It felt like cracking, flaking plaster; linoleum peeling away from the floor, old wallpaper curling up at the edges. It felt like a surface that couldn’t bear to touch its interior.
After coming out of each meditation, respectively, I noticed the feathery layers of my reaction. I felt intensely alive. Deeply flawed. Perfectly myself. Cleansed. Validated. Accepted. Honest.
I didn’t feel happy, per say, but I didn’t feel blue either. I didn’t feel proud or disappointed, satisfied or discontent. I just felt…like me. Deeply, holistically myself. Pure and simple. And what better way could one possibly feel?
Tonight in yoga my teacher closed class with the affirmation, “I am exactly where I need to be.” What a blessed mantra to accompany the fostering of companionship with one’s emotions. No darkness could be too dark, no rockiness too rocky, no newness too unfamiliar, if one truly believes this.
I am exactly where I need to be. We all are. Once we grant ourselves permission to not just think the words but feel them, believe them to our very marrow…only then can we begin to deeply acquaint ourselves with the harsh beauty of what lives within us; the exquisiteness of our own true nature. Only then can we see, really see, that we are exactly where we need to be.