Humans habitually run from whatever it is that causes us pain.
In doing so, we never resolve anything. We just kick the can a little further down the road. But the pain stays in our path and before long we encounter it again.
The painful feeling that we don’t want to feel, it never goes away. It lingers. Sometimes you feel its presence, other times it recedes into the background. Perhaps it manifests itself as tension, muscle ache, back pain, or restless nights.
It aggravates us. Scares us. Makes us angry. We become grumpy or withdrawn. We may lash out at others, blame them for our unhappiness. Feel pity for ourselves and tell ourselves stories about how difficult our lives are.
Feeling The Loneliness
Letting myself feel what I don’t want to feel may be the most important thing I have ever learned to do.
I used to despise the feeling of loneliness. Hated it. Any number of life situations could bring these feelings on, some I’m very conscious of, others are mysterious.
One thing that happens in the springtime is, with the approaching nice weather, I get anxiety about having nothing to do on a nice day. Happens every year. It always made me feel like a loser. Like I’m the only person not having a party on a beautiful 70 day.
Of course I know this isn’t true. But what I consciously know doesn’t seem to get through to my subconscious. What my subconscious’ problem is, I know not.
I was feeling that way this past Saturday, as it was a really nice day and I had nothing to do. So I cleaned up a bit, did some reading, all the while looking outside my window at the blue sky. Finally I decided to go to the park with my book.
So I sat on the bench and began reading. Then I stopped.
“What am I doing?” I thought to myself.
While reading may be a rather benign way of escape, it’s still escape.
I set the book down on my lap, closed my eyes, felt the warm sun on my skin, and felt the discomfort in the middle of my chest. That discomfort is how my loneliness physically manifests itself in my body.
I did some concentrated breathing, focusing gently on my out breath, and really let myself feel the loneliness. I was essentially inviting my inner being to feel everything the loneliness had to offer. I made friends with it. It became my buddy.
And then it left. The tension eased. I felt better.
Stay With That Feeling
What I did is an essential Buddhist teaching, and something I have found to be amazing truth: confronting what you don’t want to feel, in a compassionate and inquisitive manner, takes away its power over you.
You disarm it.
It’s a fascinating process, certainly one I would have never believed had I not finally tried it last year.
While I still don’t care for the feeling of loneliness, it isn’t such a big deal anymore because I know how to approach it. I don’t give it more power over me by running from it.
I sit with it. Let myself feel it.
Then the loneliness leaves and lets me know it’ll be back next April.
And I’ll be ready.