“You take aspirin for a headache. What you do you take for a heartache?”*
This was a question that stopped the conversation. We are so used to making pain go away. We take pain relievers without looking for pain solvers. We are so used to it being something outside ourselves that we can buy and swallow. Instant relief.
But what about when our hearts are breaking for someone’s child who has washed up on a beach after a failed migration? What do we do when someone has been run over and killed because she stood up for justice and equality in Charlottesville? What about when we hear a four year old comforting her distraught mother as she watches her father figure bleed out on Facebook live?
What do you take for heart ache?
Many of us look for an aspirin equivalent. I, myself, have prayed: “Please, God, don’t let me feel that. I can’t take that!” We resist the ache but that does not mean it goes away. Sadly, it stays with us. When I resisted the heart ache and anger about the killing of Sandra Bland, I went numb. Not only did I not feel “bad” I did not feel ANYTHING.
Suppose that’s what this system of white supremacist capitalistic patriarchy wants. Suppose it RELIES on us not feeling anything too deeply? It want us, it’s opponents to mimic its heartless tactics and ways of being. Maybe it wants us to only feel horny, anger and fear because that can be easily manipulated.
Suppose feeling grief and sadness (not the same thing as numb or dead) allows grief and sadness to move through us and in their place comes love, peace and connection to our Trusted Source? Does that sound unlikely? Does it seem like the pain or sadness is to big for it to ever end?
Let me tell you about an experience.
A few days after the Charlottesville killing and attacking, I sat on the phone with two people I mentor. We felt angry, sad, hateful, and scared. What to do? After we held space for transformation for a few minutes, I said let’s really feel our feelings. Let’s not talk about them. Let’s be with ourselves as we feel them together. Each of us got something to draw or color with, and for ten minutes we just moved our writing implements across blank paper. The only rules: no words, no judgement, just stay with the feeling and express it through this non-verbal, non-linear, embodied action. By the time we completed and shared, we had each come back to our strong, flexible selves. I went straight from that call to a difficult situation and noticed how i felt confident and whole while dealing with the stress in the room.
In contrast the suppression, repression and rejection of these vulnerable feelings keeps us intellectualizing, attacking, critiquing, or other modes which may agitate but not move us to actions aligned with our goal/vision. We need action that aligns with the world that we are creating. You reap what you sow. If you sow hatred, you will reap hatred even if the people you are hating are really, really hateful.
Listen to your allies, your mentors, your sisters and brothers in the movement to create a new world. Are they “hard to the core”? Does their rhetoric feed you? Does it strengthen your connection to your heart?
What about you? How are you allowing feelings to flow through you? Are you resisting or cutting off your heart in favor of analysis and critique? Where will that take us? How far will we travel? What depth of transformation can we effect without being vulnerable?
Don’t take an aspirin. Don’t distract or numb. Express yourself. Let sadness, anger, fear, hate flow through you onto a page, into movement, through sounds. Do it alone or in community. Daily. Do it imperfectly. Without a lot of thinking. 5 minutes. 3 minutes. 1 minute. Whatever sounds doable. Just do it!
Peace and love,
*P.S. — Thanks to David Vita at UU Westport for asking me this question.