Once, at a retreat where I was teaching, a woman came up to the microphone and said, “I feel such immense rage inside me! Even as I’m sitting here at this retreat, where I’m not being disturbed and not being challenged, I just feel so much rage! I look at people, and find myself judging them and being resentful of them for no reason whatsoever. A lot of my life, I’ve walked around feeling really, really angry.”
I could see in her eyes and in the way she held her body that these emotions of rage and anger had really taken over her whole system. What I said was, “I don’t want to talk to you. I want to talk to your rage.”
At first, she looked at me kind of perplexed. She didn’t know what I meant, so I said it again. I said, “I want to speak to the emotion of rage. Tell me how it views life, what it thinks about others. What are its judgments about the most significant people in your life?”
She looked at me with a sense of horror, and she said, “Oh, no! Not that!”
I said, “Yes, yes, yes. That’s what I want to talk to. I want you to give rage a voice. Stop holding yourself as separate from it, stop trying to get rid of it. Just for a moment, let your mind become a reflection of it.”
Fortunately, she had great courage. Because she had suffered so much, she was willing to take a chance, and so she started to speak to me from the emotion of rage. What spilled out were all of her toxic thoughts and ideas, all the ways her mind had formed conclusions about life and the people in her life, many of which were based on some very difficult moments in her upbringing. As I kept encouraging her by saying, “Yes!” and “Tell me more!” and “Tell me more!” she became more and more willing to let this voice of rage speak. As she did, all of the judgment, blaming, and condemning came out of her. Then, after she spoke in this way for a while, a softer voice began to emerge. It was the voice of deep hurt and sorrow. It was a more intimate, less guarded voice. She was literally giving voice to her pain and suffering. And as she did, I began to see exactly why she was suffering so much.
ALLOW YOUR SUFFERING TO SPEAK
Our suffering consists of two components: a mental component and an emotional component. We usually think of these two aspects as separate, but in fact, when we’re in deep states of suffering, we’re usually so overwhelmed by the experience of emotion that we forget and become unconscious of the story in our minds that is creating and maintaining it. So one of the most vital steps in addressing our suffering and moving beyond it is first to summon the courage and willingness to truly experience what we’re feeling and to no longer try to edit what we feel. In order to really allow ourselves to stay with the depth of our emotions, we must cease judging ourselves for whatever comes up.
I invite you to set some time aside—perhaps a half an hour—to allow yourself simply to feel whatever is there: to let any sensation, feeling, or emotion come up without trying to avoid or “solve” it. Simply let whatever is there arise. Get in touch with the kinesthetic feeling of it, of what these experiences are like when you’re not trying to push or explain them away. Just experience the raw energy of the emotion or sensation. You might notice it in your heart or your solar plexus, or in your gut. See if you can identify where the tightness is in your body—not only where the emotion is, but what parts of your body feel rigid. It could be your neck or shoulders or it might be your back. Suffering manifests as emotion—often as deep, painful emotion—and also as tension throughout the body. Suffering also manifests as certain patterns of circular thinking. Once you touch a particular emotion, allow yourself to begin to hear the voice of suffering. To do this, you cannot stand outside the suffering, trying to explain or solve it; you must really sink into the pain, even relax into the suffering so that you can allow the suffering to speak.
Many of us have a great hesitancy to do this, because when suffering speaks, it often has a very shocking voice. It can be quite vicious. This kind of voice is something that most people do not want to believe they have inside them, and yet to move beyond suffering it’s vital that we allow ourselves to experience the totality of it. It’s important that we open all the emotions and all of the thoughts in order to fully experience what is there.
When you notice some emotional hurt within you, allow your mind to speak to you, inside your head. Or you might even speak out loud. Often I’ll suggest to people that they write down what the voice of their suffering says. Try to keep it as short as possible, so that each sentence is contained in and of itself. For example, the voice of suffering might say something like, “I hate the world!” “The world is never fair!” “I never got what I wanted!” “My mother never gave me the love I needed!” and so on. Often, if it’s all kept in your head, it just turns into a big muddle. So the first step in releasing this muddle is to speak or write these voices of suffering.
What you’re looking for is how your suffering, how the particular emotion you are experiencing, actually views your life, views what happened, and views what’s happening now. To do this, you need to get in touch with the story of your suffering. It is through these stories that we maintain our suffering, so we need to speak or write these stories down—even if the stories sound outrageously judgmental or blaming or condemning. If we allow these stories to live underground, in the unconscious mind, all the painful emotions will continue to regenerate.
So now take a moment to allow a piece of your suffering to tell its story. First, name the emotion, then let it speak. What does this emotion think of you? What does it think of others, of your friends, your family? What does it hate most? Why does it appear in any given day? What is underneath these emotions? Let your suffering tell its entire story.
Excerpted from Adyashanti’s book, Falling into Grace, 2011.