In the beginning of my journey to self-discovery and self-love, I was spent a lot of time trying to practice detachment. That is, I wanted to reach a point where I would remain un-phased by any negative situation that might arise in my life. That is understandable, as the event that triggered my quest to befriend myself, was a crushing heartbreak combined with the inability to find a job after college. So I battled feeling purposeless with the feeling of worthlessness that comes when someone tells you they no longer want to love you. It might seem like such an appealing place to be, to be able to come to a point where you transcend emotions and no longer get your feathers ruffled by anything, but you begin to lose touch with yourself as well.
The result of that instead, was me running away from anything that might shake the fragile wall that I had built up to guard my heart. Not only did it keep a lot of people and experiences out (good and bad alike), this also resulted in me not being able to be honest with myself. So I would walk around carrying a heavy burden of unchecked emotions, sometimes not even knowing why I was angry or so sad. And the accumulated feelings would eventually hit me like a brick wall and I would feel down for days because my entire self would shut down for recovery. This isn’t a practical way to live because each time it becomes a little more difficult to recover, and you carry around a sense of shame for not being able to get a handle on yourself. So I decided to try something else instead. I decided to
Let go of the shame of feeling negative emotions (jealousy, fear, sadness)
Get honest about what I’m feeling
Learn to befriend my emotions
Learn to listen and hear what they want to bring my attention to
Proceed with kindness and Self Compassion.
That’s where this Rumi poem comes. It so simply encapsulates the necessity of making friends with all the parts of you, the good and the ugly. And instead of working hard to be above it all, learn to sit with it and be a better listener to yourself. Here is the poem:
This human being is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi
Imagine how different things would be if you meet your painful emotions with an open heart and just hear them out. Hello Sadness and fear, what have you come to teach me? Getting honest with myself and becoming kinder with my emotions has allowed me to manage my aches and fears much better. Because I realize that I was spending less time hating myself for feeling so down, and much more time asking myself “where does it hurt darling, what do you need? what are you bringing my attention to”? I treat my negative emotions the same way I treat physical pain, by asking where is the pain, what caused it, how do I fix it?
Give it a try, let me know how it goes won’t you?
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.