I could feel a heaviness in me a couple weeks ago. When I first paused, there was no obvious external reason for this. But in that pausing, I also recognized an inner hunger. Something felt out of balance.
Right away I was curious and began to follow the breadcrumb trail – I noticed a pattern to the places in social media where my attention was being drawn. You may have seen and recognize these. The barely containable anticipation and laughter of Chewbacca lady (Candace Payne) as she excitedly shared with the world her best birthday gift to herself. The unabashed joy in moving that pours out of Tambourine Guy (Tim Kubart) in PostmodernJukebox’s version of Really Don’t Care. And the one that truly captured my heart, the quivering, undefended delight and awe of then 3 year old Madeline as she was about to experience the fulfillment of her dream of riding the train with her Dad!
I love my work – there’s incredible honour in being trusted to partner with others in the challenges and joys they meet as they deepen and true their relationships with themselves, and fully express this in their lives. One of the things I’ve learned is to listen closely – not only to what they are saying, but to what I’m saying – especially if the same thing comes up repeatedly. When that happens there’s often a message for me too!
I realized that in four different circumstances over the course of a week, I’d heard myself referring to some lines in Jack Gilbert’s powerful poem A Brief for the Defense:
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world.
After many years of denying the pain and upset inside of me, I’ve become pretty passionate about the practices that expand our capacity to be compassionate witnesses to the pain in ourselves and the wider world. This kind of presence is crucial to our being able to respond to the call of our lives, and I definitely wouldn’t want to be without the freedom this brings.
This delight I’m talking about isn’t about distancing or escaping or distracting ourselves from pain
This heaviness I was feeling a couple weeks ago was in itself a gift. Although it was uncomfortable to feel, in my paying attention to it and recognizing my hunger for delight, I was further building my capacity for resilience.
It’s not either pain or delight. For our lives to be truly full
We must risk the whole spectrum of feelings –
from pain and sorrow through to delight and enjoyment
The more of this spectrum we can truly be present to, the greater our ability to connect with, and experience the creativity, awe and aliveness in life. As I was reflecting on some delightful high point moments in my life, I noticed how many of them had painful experiences closely associated with them. It’s not surprising, I (like many of us) have unconsciously tended to shield ourselves from too much delight – the preciousness of those moments understandably evoke the fear of loss.
For years I’ve kept this photo of myself in a moment of unabashed and undefended delight in my wallet to remind me of the ‘me’ I want to nurture this experience more frequently. So when I feel heaviness like I did a couple weeks ago, it’s a reminder for me to respectfully practice expanding how much of that spectrum I can comfortably live in.
What evokes moments of unabashed and undefended delight in you?!
One thing for me, the simple beauty of peonies – fresh picked from my garden
What about you? How’s your relationship with the whole spectrum of feelings – from the uncomfortable to the delightful? How are you with noticing what’s happening in you and being present to it all? And what is it that evokes in you moments of unabashed and undefended delight?
Even in the presence of pain and uncertainty in my own life, and in our world, I’m committed to practicing creating space for delight – both in my every day life, and in intentional time set aside for R&R.
There IS pain and sadness AND such beauty and delight in our world. What if you were to allow your attention to have lightness and delight be more of an intentional focus in your life? Could nurturing yourself in that way allow you to be even more fulfilled and effective in all the other things you do, including your capacity to be present to pain?
I continue to wonder what incorporating more lightness in my work? How might we (without losing the depth and substance of our connection) incorporate more lightness as we gather as a Realizing RICH Relationships community? I don’t know the answer to that yet, but if you’ve ideas I’d love to hear them – my ‘inner Madeline’ is feeling really excited about what might evolve here!