There will be events that enter your life and rearrange your molecules. And the natural reaction from most people under such pressure is to react or build a wall. It is so much easier to deflect pain and to place blame on other people or events. It feels safer to lock your emotions into a teeny tiny box and bury it under the illusion of happiness. Because under the surface, there is no telling what you’ll encounter. Frustration or anger about having to struggle when it seems to come so easily to so many. Grief if there have been losses along the way. Oh and let’s not forget about fear. Fear of abandonment, of rejection, of whatever emotional boogie monster your mind wants to create. The irony is that the moments in which you want to shut down your emotions, to put up a wall, are actually the richest moments in which to embrace the pain of what you are feeling. This is your time to lean into your sharp edge and evolve.
There is no right or wrong way to be on this journey but I invite you to be in the mush. Let me explain. We’ve all heard the cliche of going through experiences like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. I know, it’s cheesy, right? That’s what I thought too. But then, I read a study in which researchers took 3D scans of caterpillars in the chrysalis stage of development as they turned into butterflies. What they revealed was that during the process of metamorphosis, the majority of the caterpillar's body breaks down into a “soup” before rearranging itself into the structure of a butterfly. In other words, the caterpillar, in the process of growth, rebuilds itself from the cells up. So this is what I mean about “being in the mush”. Take this opportunity to ask yourself how to stay open and curious about what is about to emerge from this painful experience. Give yourself the permission to be broken down to your cellular structure and stay curious about who will emerge once the scary “mushy” part of your story passes.
I’m not going to lie and tell you: “It gets better.” Because frankly, I don’t know that it gets better. What I will tell you is what I know to be true. It changes. Of this I am certain. It might even get worse, but even that will change if you are patient and allow it to evolve into the next moment. Even suffering changes. Your purpose through this, should you choose to accept it, is to feel your feelings. That’s it. You don’t need to come up with a plan out of it. You don’t need to reason your way through it. You may be tempted to make sense of it all. This is because you are still attached to the idea that your mind will be the problem-solver. And therein lies your dilemma. Transformations happen by feeling, not by thinking. Evolution happens within the body and heart, not from the mind.
The first step is to give yourself permission to be in the mush. This is going to be the hardest and most important part of the process. Because we can create all kinds of stories around why we can’t break down. Maybe you are the caretaker in the family so you can’t fall apart. Maybe it doesn’t fit into your identity of strength. Perhaps it’s just so darn inconvenient right now. Whatever the story is, let it go. There is never going to be a convenient time to evolve. Try this exercise with me. Take a breath, step away from your mind and step into your body. How does your body feel right now? Are you confused? Then you’re not there yet; you’re still thinking from the space of your mind, not your body. Let’s try it again. Does your body feel heavy? Does it feel light? Is there pain? How are you holding your body? The only thing you need to do is feel into your body. If there is pain in your body, just tell yourself “I love that”. Maybe you feel nauseous. Maybe your chest feels heavy. Just think “I love that”. Maybe your hands are shaky. “I love that”. Because once we are stepping into a place of love and compassion, even for the pain that you’re feeling, you step into a place of acceptance where no matter what external events happen and no matter how these particular circumstances turn out, you are going to be ok.
Your mind is going to work against this because your Ego is attached to feeling safe. Your Ego is going to try to convince you that you need the attachment to a particular result in order to be safe. Your Ego is going to fight against trust-falling with the Universe. And yet, when we are under stress, it is almost like our bodies are screaming for attention. Shoulders become tight, the jaw clenches, the back aches. Instead of becoming frustrated with your body, take this pain as an invitation. Your body is screaming for attention. And it is working with one of the only languages it knows: pain. So give it what it is asking for. Give it the awareness and compassion that it is inviting in. This is the opportunity to open into your heart a little deeper and say “I love that”.
Now comes the second step which is going to come a little easier if you are operating from a place where you are trusting your body and your heart. The next step is to stop asking “How.” How do I get past this? How do I solve this problem? How do I get over this? Because the “how” voice is your mind. And again, I’m going to encourage you to step into the space of your heart and body. This is done by asking the question “Why?” When my niece was about 3 years old, her favorite word was “Why?” and we would get into these surprisingly deep conversations all because I had a small person sitting next to me who was never shy about asking “Why?” Somewhere along the way, we all forget about our inner toddlers who are constantly curious and asking “Why?” I’m inviting you to step into your own toddler heart and ask yourself “Why?” If you must, imagine that you have a toddler sitting next to you. A toddler asks the question “Why?” from a place of curiosity and intrigue. There is no judgment or resentment when a toddler is asking their questions. So when you are met with curiosity, you can respond to the question with curiosity as well.
There is a purpose to this suffering. In my own life, the times in which I have struggled the most, the times in which I’ve experienced the most pain, the times in which I felt like there would be no release are also the moments of my greatest transformation. These are the juiciest events that I look back on as my greatest periods of growth. By asking yourself “Why?” you are inviting inspiration and curiosity. “Why am I going through this? Why am I being called to learn from this? Is there an old story here that no longer serves me?” These events are the ones that unearth the most genuine version of you and from there, the decisions you make come from a place that is from your highest calling and in complete alignment with who you are.
As I touched on earlier, by living in the place where you are feeling your feelings, you are living in a place where compassion is most accessible. This is the place where the Ego’s strangled grip is loosened because as you ask the question “Why am I going through this?” instead of “How do I get myself out of it?”, you are no longer attached to the result. And this is when evolution happens. This is that final step where the caterpillar who has turned itself into mush and rearranged itself and given itself the structure of antennae and legs and a thorax and wings is ready to emerge. This is that final push that will crack open the chrysalis and allow that butterfly to emerge. Luckily as humans, we don’t just transform once like butterflies do. We have so many reasons and so many opportunities to evolve. But do not be mistaken, evolution is not a passive process. If you’re paying attention, evolution is the most active process that requires bravery. I invite you now to take the plunge, to trust-fall with the Universe, to feel into the edges of your pain and vulnerability and I promise that what will emerge is a strength that has been there all along.
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Kathleen Lee FABORM, RTCMP, L.Ac. MTCM