Surviving the Cyclone ~ emotional pain, anxiety, and depression (Part 1)

A few weeks back I wrote about pain, and told you about my mother’s experience with acute pain after her surgery, and the power of meditation to effect this. I also made a guided meditation, you can access it here. While I touched on emotional pain, and relayed how meditation is good for both emotional and physical pain, I wanted to go a little deeper, because I believe this is an important topic. 

Emotional pain can be complex, and potentially one of the most challenging territories we navigate as human beings.

To recap from my last post, our experience of pain includes primary pain~ the pain itself, and secondary pain ~ which is the brain trying to understand our experience.

Secondary pain can get a bit dubious when it comes to emotion. This is because internal and external stimuli from our environment can trigger neural pathways in the brain that make old and unresolved pain feel as if it is happening in the present moment. I’ll get into this more next week, and explain how meditation is particularly suited help.

This week, however, I’d like to focus on the cyclone of emotional pain that happens in the here and now, and what steps you can begin to take to move through it.

Last week, I experienced the deaths of a close friend , 27 years old, a beautiful mother of two small children, as well as my uncle, father of 7, and head of our family “clan”. Emotional pain can rock us to our core. It ruptures our sense of meaning, and challenges our understanding of the world as we know it. 

There is a secondary loss that occurs when we experience grief. It is the loss of what we know to be true and how we come to identify and understand ourselves in the world. This is the cyclone. It is all of the pain of our direct experience, together with the brain's amplification of our agony as it seeks to comprehend our loss. Try as it may, perception has been ruptured and the brain cannot understand. Our emotions become all consuming, they boom so loudly there is scarcely room for anything else.

So, What do we do?

There I was, after putting Francesca to sleep on Wednesday night with my insides screaming. How could my friend be taken from us? How is it possible that’s she could be gone? None of this is fair. She was just here. Flashes of her face, her laughter, her wisdom were all around me. This cannot be. My uncles passing aches, it feels like the end of an epic era for our family. There are many ripples, cascades of reference points of what it means for him to pass. I am not ready for any of this to be....

Mind, Body, Spirit, all of me was in direct revolt of reality.

I returned to my practice. I sat down in meditation and I let it all be. I breathed as I let the emotions envelop me, feeling their pull, feeling all of the most painful parts. I let it go on - for hours, not rejecting reality, my grief toppled over into the next day and I suspect it will continue to wash over me for quite sometime. What changes with meditation is that I enter a space of allowance. I experience the full breath of what is happening without turning any of it away. This permits me to see what is there, it concedes for the activity, the questioning in my brain, to recede into acceptance for what is without having to understand.

Just as you could imagine the flurries in a snow globe settling at the bottom, thoughts and emotions settle as we capitulate to their need to be. This allowance is akin to a gateway. It is pivotal, a transformative step, and ultimately an act of love. When we embrace the totality of our experience, when we stop fighting, labeling things as good and bad, our brains weave new perception. Our understanding of all that is expands, and what comes from that is a far greater capacity for love. 



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a series of step by step videos to lay a beautiful foundation for your new house. Learn techniques to relax the hips, protect the lower back, strengthen your core, support your neck, address tight hamstrings and keep your shoulders aligned. 

"The Mind when housed within a healthful body possesses a glorious sense of power." - Joseph Pilates