“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass.” (Isa 66:13,14)
“But if we are not willing to experience our own hurt and grief, it can never be healed. Fortunately, our Creator supports us in this difficult process of exploring the pain and fear underlying our personality.” (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 360)
I’m finding that a big step to progress in the spiritual journey is to be aware of and acknowledge the pains of our past.
This can be very hard to do, especially if we feel shame in naming emotions. Why would we want to go to these places? Isn’t it just better to forgive and forget, many would say? But the problem is that our unconscious self has not forgotten. And it’s nearly impossible to forgive what hasn’t been brought to the light and healed.
Added to this challenge, forgive and forget is code in many faith traditions for deny emotions. To be fair, the majority of faith leaders I come across, including myself, have not been trained to live like this.
A big part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been hidden from our left brain teachings. However, note these places where Jesus expressed his right brain feelings: disappointment with disciples in Gethsemane, grief over loss of His friend Lazarus and cousin John, misunderstanding from family members, comfort He received from Mary’s anointing, joy over seeing His disciples bear fruit. Naming his positive and negative emotions, Jesus stayed securely attached to the Father’s love.
Our ignorance, lack of self-awareness and stunted emotional (right brained) growth are literally keeping us from what our soul longs for: intimacy and union with God.
James Finely (Christian psychologist mentored by Thomas Merton) tells this parable to help us accept our emotions and feelings as part of our faith’s inner journey:
“Imagine that you have a dream in which you are climbing a high mountain. The valley below is where you grew up, where you experienced pain and made many mistakes. You were trying to transcend and leave this place by reaching the summit, on which you will be more free and one with God.
As the summit comes into view, the wind rising from the valley brings with it the sound of a child crying out in distress. You realize that there is no (good) choice but to go down the mountain to find and help the hurting child.
Turning back, you descend into the valley. Following the child’s cries, you arrive at the very home you tried to leave behind. You gently open the door and look inside. Sitting in the corner on the floor is your own wounded child-self, that part of you that feels powerlessness and shame.
You sit down next to the child on the floor. For a long time, you say nothing. Then a most amazing things happens. As you are putting your arms around this child, you suddenly realize you are on the lofty summit of union with God!”
Today, I invite you to take time to sit quietly. Be aware of your breathing, sensing your feet on the floor. Check in with yourself. You might become aware of thoughts, or some internal dialogue. Whatever is happening inside of you, bring some awareness to it. Do not try to change it, just try to see it. You may need to talk with a soul friend to receive empathy with what comes up.