Today I am preparing for a podcast I am doing tomorrow and the topic is suffering. Undoubtedly knowing that I have suffered, as most of us have, I began to reflect upon what felt like the greatest sufferings I had endured. The very word suffering as a verb means just that, to suffer through a happening.
There are many forms of suffering…from pain to agony, grief to chronic depression. One thing about my journey is that some of my greatest moments of suffering were not about what one may assume. I have lived through obvious pain and various degrees of suffering 20 years with an autoimmune disease, having kidney failure, years on kidney dialysis, and having had 2 organ transplants.
When I dial in on my greatest moments of suffering, it wasn’t physical body pain, the months in the hospital bed, or meditating over if I would live another day. The worst suffering I have endured is the kind when I've felt separate from what I desire. The feeling of unfulfilled potential and disconnected from true connection. A longing for who I knew I was but didn't quite know how to get to "her". When I knew I was living something untrue and accepting it. Often even convincing myself out of my heart felt truth for various reasons, mostly all outside of myself for the benefit of others, at my own health expense.
Embodying inner strength is different from knowing it temporarily and I feel this is where as a society we are getting trapped in loops of what can only feel is a multi-frantic, polarized, bi polar mind trap.
Cognitive dissonance is the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes as relating to human behavior. There is no greater suffering when the head and heart are in an epic battle, my friend once said. And he is correct. Inner war, can be seem as the opposite of what it takes to embody inner strength. But it is this war we must go though to come out with accuracy and wisdom.
What does embody mean? The state of embodiment only occurs when the knowledge and experience is realized to a degree where the information is now a part of you creating an inner knowingness. Knowingness is a form of total conviction in the truth and this offers peace in what is and resilience to the degree where you now are one sided. One person. One thought driven by the feeling of knowingness, only when right action and wholeness can ensue.
True inner strength is consistent and unwavering. It is sustainable and based in love and wisdom via experiential reckoning via the ability to not resist what is but to endure it no matter what. It is not fleeing, inconsistent, or braggadocios.
Developing inner strength has not come easy for me and my emotional suffering has far outweighed the surface pain related feelings -which have been many. When any form of pain becomes chronic, something is askew and is rooting. Our pain has enmeshed within our physical being-ness and structure. I feel here we have missed an opportunity. If the appreciation to our emotions and feelings was honored, we may have been able to catch these seeds and examine sooner. A potential worth a concerted effort in our current epidemic of chronic health conditions.
One thing about suffering and its many aspects is that I see it as in relation to time and degree of unity with it.
One of my greatest gifts was to understand how I relate to suffering and pain. Due to many years of studies in christian mysticism, tao, and yogic philosophy, I had already been steeped in the notion of “you are not the thoughts and you are not the body”. Neti Net practice, not this not that. Meaning you are the awareness behind the thoughts or story.
Innocently I can recall in the wake of my studies, sitting in a meditation class. The teacher instructing to close our eyes, take a deep breath, and with eyes closed look at the back of the eyes. I could do this immediately and then gleamingly she said, “who is that looking behind your eyes?” We all laughed realizing, there is something more to us that what is “seen” and “felt”.
When having a feeling that we are unclear about, it crucial to become aware of what it is we are feeling. I recall the day when a friend admitted, “I don’t know or understand what I am feeling” frustrated as she was in the throws of a life event.To truly ask ourselves, is this me and where might this be deeply coming from is crucial in beginning the process to truly know oneself. When we do not self reflect on our feeling states we become susceptible to out of control feeling states, that may or may not be true, run amok within the mind. Unchecked mental thoughts often become a mine field, not knowing when an explosion will arise or a complete shutdown.
The power of this inner reflection comes when one can consciously choose to be with the feeling states. We then begin to mitigate an engulfment to the degree where we become the feeling. The emotion gains momentum and energy. This makes it easy to merge with. This is when we make absolute statements that make it more challenging to decouple from.
This is a process of permitting our feeling states to be felt coupled with periods of self examination to discover the underlying truth. Emotions are a guidance system to help us live in truth and a more consistent healthy and balanced feeling state. Side note: It is crucial we do not become a victim of practices such as the law of attraction where we skip the self examination and overlay repeated positive patterns to change our story. The deeper work on the self will always arise if it’s something requiring a healthier thought pattern, integration, or healing.
In my experience, this was part of my process to embody inner strength. We often have a proclivity to go through one tragedy or hardship and stop the work following the relief or reprieve of the trauma or hardship. For example, I have seen this narrative dominate in the world of organ transplantation. Often the journey to an organ transplant is riddled with complex various micro or macro traumas…When that fateful day arises for a patient, the sense of aww and wonder can blind many to the reality that will continue post transplant. With every high comes with an equal and proportionate low. The law of cause and effect.
Committing to relationship with ourself and developing a true understanding of our strengths, bias, history and shadow is the key to inner wellbeing. Working on our strength and awareness will prepare us in times of trial. Obviously this has potential to reduce the major ups, downs, and feelings of stuck-ness, for instance in the post transplant patient. To go through a bout of illness or life change without it produces higher anxiety and depression rates not to mention the inability to realize their life and potential. Nothing is worse than fighting for your life, tooth and nail, to come to find out what you were fighting doesn’t feel like it was worth it. We must create our meaning and re-establish ourselves and this takes more work, the inner work. I love the idea of inverting how it’s often accomplished now, inner work post outer event.
To become a warrior of peace and resilience, we must continue the journey to seek our own inner truths by truly assessing and examining our feeling states. It is an opportunity.
Imagine a medical world where it’s not only accepted but encouraged to say, “I am experiencing anxiety” or I am sitting with cancer”. This minor yet powerful shift of perception and language leaves SPACE.
Space amongst suffering or even bliss permits one to not become attached to it- as we all know life is ever-changing. Becoming "feeling states" will always prove to create further states of high or low end spectrum emotions.
Balance is a property to be able to work toward when embodying inner strength. A sense of mature perspective even when emotions arise to be sat with.
I will leave with 3 perception shifting tips to developing inner strength. I feel we can all admit during these times we call can use balance and inner strength as a means to offer more commitment to ourselves and our communities now more than ever.
When you feel negative emotions, acknowledge them. Don’t normalize feeling bad. Accept and sit with them in the right time and investigate with compassion where they are truly coming from and what action steps, if any, can be taken.
Understand when you are frustrated with the world, your partner, angry or apathetic, that this is the perfect time to step behind the veil and go within,
Be patient, gentle, yet not avoidant in taking the correct steps to uniting the head and the heart once again. This is the only way to feel at peace and offer love to oneself and then outwardly authentically.