Many sources will talk about the wonders of the spiritual path. One aspect that is not as often talked about is the purging process.
Everyone comes into this world innocent. Filled with the innocence and wonder of the child, eager to grow and learn and explore the world we call home. We grow up and lose it all, then reminisce about what the good old days were, what it was like then. Somehow, we woke up one day and realised that life felt like shit.
Then some of us come across the spiritual path and decide to give it a go.
My path started our on a journey of reframing and positive affirmations. It worked wonders for me at a time when I was depressed and wanted empowerment. But I can only go so far, then realize that there’s opposing momentum coming from within. I’d do the affirmations and prep work, then show up and still have waves of anxiety cripple me. It’s like climbing a mountain with a ball and chain around both your ankles.
That was my catalyst to look inward, at my own shadow.
What I discovered was that my body felt like a bomb, primed and ready to explode. Roaring migraines, choking sensations, tension everywhere I looked – I was a mess on the inside.
It was an ocean of despair that I found myself in. Unable to focus, feeling hopeless, depressed, and suicidal, that was me half the time. And bouts of murderous rage, usually triggered by well-meaning superior or loved one. Needless to say, it put pressure on many of my relationships. I can only say that I’m glad to have chosen to look inward.
Point is; there’s a lot of stuff buried down there.
Looking in the mirror and admitting that I wasn’t perfect was a difficult process. But I grew.
The negativity inside is akin to a wounded child. The child is angry or fearful, it does not know better, and it don’t give a damn about social graces. It throws a tantrum or wails on the inside, begging to for us to stop and listen for once. After all, we’re taught to suppress/ control our emotions and impulses when we were young so that we can ‘fit in’. Such is the price we pay for socialization.
We seal our traumas in with pain, and the converse is true when they resurface. So what does one do when they show up?
Nobody likes feeling negative. It’s heavy, dense, contracted and icky. I can understand the desire to take action to do something about it, but here’s why you shouldn’t. Taking action from negativity (or under the influence of the pain-body, as Eckhart Tolle calls it) always leads more more harm than good. The nature of such actions tend to be drastic, emotionally charged, and “all-or-nothing”. Here are some examples from my past:
I wake up feeling like crap. Before I know it, life has become a drag, and I hate being alive. Then I’m writing a resignation letter so that I can sleep in and not have to bother with “arduous” work.
My girlfriend disagrees with me in a discussion. I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of loneliness/ being unseen. She’s not listening to me, she doesn’t care about my view, and I ought to break up.
You get what I mean: that negativity re-frames any situation into melodrama. Through trial and error, I’ve learnt not to act on these impulses when they resurface.
So taking action in a negative state is not ideal. What’s the converse then? I can’t take action on the outside, so I have to stuff it all back down when it arises. I’ve got to function and keep on keeping on after all. I can distract myself, or come up with an airtight rationale to manage it will work, or push through it.
I’ll start by telling myself that I should not feel this way, that these feeling are wrong, and that they are not in touch with the reality at hand and that I shouldn’t be feeling this way and I should be feeling anything else really and focusing all my mental energy to this thing that I was trying to do before this stupid emotion came up because this is the rational thing to-
Damn, that’s tiring.
What then? If taking action on the outside and inside does not work, what the hell does one do then?
Nothing. Let it go.
What do you mean by let it go? It freaking sucks, screaming in my face, and I can’t-I’ve got to deal with things, I got to deal with it-
Some call it walking into the storm head-on. Others call it taking a plunge into the darkness. The point is, one only has to-
Let it go.
This simple mantra changed my life. It frees me from the responsibility of having to act on said emotions, and puts me in the position of a witness. I’m not the unfolding melodrama in my mind, but rather, I’m the one watching it. I’m the one holding a compassionate space to let my inner child release the pent-up negativity. In fact, letting the energy behind an emotion unwind itself is the most responsible thing I can do. And that in itself is a non-doing. It’s a fascinating process to observe.
And then, therein come the wonders that folks on the spiritual path talk about.
Clarity. Spaciousness. Relief. Calm. Peace. More energy. Good stuff all round. I feel more alive, more complete, and yet… I’m still me. I’m able to focus. I feel happy, grateful, loving, generous, and more rational. Where there was a problem before, now there’s none- because I invented the problem in my negativity. In my experience, 9 out of 10 so-called problems go away, and clarity resolves the remaining one.
I can write all day about the nature of what it’s like on the other side, but I’d rather you experience it for yourself. So here’s how it goes in a nutshell:
- You see negativity arising in yourself.
- There will be an urge to act on it. Acknowledge the urge and let it be there. Do not take action on that urge, whether inside or outside.
- You become present with the emotion as it is, and let the present moment be as it is. Become aware of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions present right now.
- You are now in the witness position, so sit back and watch the show unfold. If there is resistance to the feeling, let it be there too.
- If you happen to be in a situation where you cannot do so, create space where you become present for it. If the same negative emotion keeps recurring, let it be. It means that it has a great charge to it, but the process of unwinding is the same.
- Back to point 2: refrain from taking action because whatever you do will come from a place of negativity. Truly efficient action comes from a place of clarity, and has no emotional charge to it.
To close off: the fires on the spiritual path may hurt, but they’re burning away the pain in your heart. That fire is the result of your negative emotions unwinding themselves. Over time, I learnt to appreciate them for what they are: an opportunity to let go and grow. And the best part: even if we stumble and fall/ fail, there is always another opportunity. Don’t beat yourself up, just let it go, pick yourself up, and learn the lesson.
And in that regard, through good and bad, through agony and bliss, I’ve learnt that life is always working out for you.