Our pain is valid and yet, we shouldn’t forget that other people are suffering as well.
We need to tend to our pain, not to let it grow, but to listen to its stories, realize they do not define us, and let them go. Yes, they are part of us, for it is human experience to go through joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, but it does not fully make up our humanity.
With all the heaviness we carry, there is a strength within us to bear them. And with all the darkness we live in, there is light to guide our way. As much as we see the suffering within, the answer is not to run away. Rather, the pain asks us to listen and sit with it. Sometimes, it just wants to be heard – to tell its story then pass away. To make sure the lesson is remembered before creating space for growth and new wisdom.
It is in honouring our pain that we learn how to love very deeply because we become unafraid of whatever else may hurt us. It is in welcoming the unknown that we become brave for it instills in us a deep trust in our strength and capacity to bear witness to the unfolding mysteries of life.
– February 3, 2019
One evening on February 3, right before I went for my 10-Day Vipassana Course, I did a meditation on pain and suffering. Tears flowed from my eyes as my heart spoke its sorrows and grief. I sat, listened patiently, and held the heaviness in a gentle embrace.
This method of meditation is something that just came spontaneously to me. I always thought that in meditation, you watch things arise and fall and you remain equanimous – no reaction – no clinging, no aversion. I found this technique too rigid and unnatural for my sensitive soul. During the Vipassana retreat, we were forced to face the truth of “anicca” – impermanence – to which we react and develop attachments. However, as SN Goenka reminds us, this is madness – to cling to which is ever-changing. This is what causes our suffering.
The Vipassana technique has its own merits but my soft and battered heart craved for a more compassionate and gentler approach to meditation. I needed to be held and caressed and cared for like the frightened child that resided within me. I did my best during the 10 days of Vipassana meditation but on the 8th and 9th days, I could not bear it any longer. The repetitive and strict commands of meditating without reacting started to suffocate me and I felt like I was being controlled. Of course, this reaction of mine stems from my own set of aversions and past life stories and I acknowledge that but the more that I tried to follow the technique, the more resistance raged inside me. I naturally fell into my open-hearted and open-ended meditation practice of sitting, watching, listening, and releasing.
Though my meditation practice does not stem from a traditional approach, I have found that this style is exactly what I need. It helps that I have been listening intently to Jack Kornfield’s podcasts and his gentle and loving discourses encourage me to be open to both the joy and sorrow that I experience. Instead of controlling my meditation, I have decided (almost a week since finishing the course,) that I will simply let go and let be. Since then, I have found meditation to be such a safe space for feeling and healing.
I respect the different styles of meditation and different paths towards liberation that are available now. I believe they each have their own merit and potential to truly set us free from the prisons in which we reside and allow us to flow more naturally with the vicissitudes of life. I also realize that exploring different styles can inform you of the one that suits you best – your personality, your inclinations – and can help you tend to your own measure of pain at each stage of life.
And so I encourage everyone who are seeking their path to be open and to explore. There is no need to compare your journey with others for our paths are never a straight line. We each have our own moments of joy and sorrow and they manifest at different times, in different relationships, and in different ways. What matters is that we can honour our own experience of life and learn to hold it with compassion and dignity. We are all worthy of deep and open caring. We are all worthy of being understood. We all deserve to be given the time to uncover and discover that ultimately, we are all love.