February 12, 2015

This injunction to immerse ourselves in our own pain (primarily the psychological kind) is a tough pill to swallow, but it is meant mercifully, not punitively. Here, pain is not depicted as an obstacle (as we often view it) or an illusion (as spiritual texts seem to tell us it is), but as experientially real, and so “potent and life-giving and full of blessing”.

“Returning to yourself requires, not that you touch into your pain, not that you dip in with your consciousness hovering above, but that you become it, that you immerse yourself so completely that there is no distinguishing yourself from your experience of it. Your identity should get lost in the consummation of that pain. Your sense of yourself should drown; that is exactly what is supposed to happen. And the pain that you become, as it becomes you, should overwhelm you, it should fill your senses, bewilder your mind, and disorient you.

You believe that if pain is always other than you, always held at a distance, always kept apart from the core of you, then it will not damage what is precious, what is sacred to you. But it is exactly this risk that you must take, the risk that the pain will, indeed, damage something, the risk of subjecting that very preciousness to the depths of experience you have always tried to protect it from. If what you love is so feeble that it can be burned away by the fires of pain then it is too weak to deserve its place in your heart, it is too small to be sacred. But if that preciousness, in all its tenderness and vulnerability, survives the fires of your deepest pain and comes through that, as I assure you it will, not scathed but purified and all the more beautiful for it, then will you not see that it cannot be damaged, it cannot be lost, it cannot be consumed? There is nothing inside us so rotten or so intense that it can hurt our truest selves. But to find this we must submit ourselves fully to that fire so that whatever is too feeble, whatever it is that we never needed, can be taken from us mercifully and for good.

We have never succeeded in protecting ourselves; every attempt to hold back the tide of that pain only prolongs our discontent and our disappointment. Everything great in this world is accomplished through fearlessness, and submerging yourself into your own pain is the most courageous act possible.”


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