Updated: Jul 30
There are situations in this world and in our lives that at times feel unbearable. The unfortunate thing is that if we try to bury those situations and forget them, they fester and create a toxic internal environment. Furthermore, what we resist, persists.
The more we cultivate the felt experience of love (non-romantic love) - the warmth we can experience in our abdomen, the way our chest feels expansive, and how we feel limitless potential - the more we can begin to heal the uncomfortable memories that cause us so much pain.
The felt expression of love in our body allows it to relax and feel safe. When we feel safe, we can begin the process of healing. Embodied love creates space for the discomforts to surface, gives us an opportunity to tend to them in a compassionate way, and then allow them to transform. The alternative is feeling stuck or triggered by our emotions/memories that we keep trying to suppress or avoid.
My first attempt at using love to soothe my triggered reaction was when I saw a dead dog on the side of the road. I tend to see this often during rainy season in Miami and I always have an intense visceral reaction that feels as if my body has been electrocuted. I decided to activate the felt expression of love within my body and direct intentions from my heart to the dead animal. I couldn't believe that I was staring at the dog and feeling my body relax.
It doesn't work every time. I still cringe when I see suffering, but the more we practice, the more we can hold pain in our awareness without needing to numb ourselves or look away.
It’s not a quick fix and for that reason, most of us don’t even try to heal, instead we choose to attempt numbing ourselves from the pain.
If it is trauma that we’ve experienced, the work is done with a professional that can ensure you only touch the discomfort in doable amounts, they help you access a felt experience of safety, and under supervision so that you don’t retraumatize yourself.
If it is a work/family/political situation that is not traumatizing, we open to the exact point where we begin to feel uncomfortable and in that moment remind ourselves of our safety, try to embody the somatic experience of safety, and then open the heart. We do whatever it takes to keep the heart open when we touch the discomfort.
Touch the discomfort, cultivate the felt sense of safety, open the heart. Repeat 10,000x.
The alternative is to keep trying to run away/numb ourselves/suppress.
Would you prefer wasting your energy burying your discomforts and feeling triggered/stuck the moment it surfaces, or are you ready to begin the process of healing?
One ingredient in a transformed relationship to pain is to have enough light to surround the darkness, openness big enough to hold the pain and not collapse into it. A heart as wide as the world. Suffering is, it hurts, and yet we have the capacity to not add shame, or rage at not being able to control it, or conviction we will never feel anything else, ever. - Sharon S RealChange
How is one to activate embodied love?
Find your refuges. A refuge can be someone that you know cares for you unconditionally, even if they are no longer with us in their physical form. If thinking of this person brings you pain, bring to mind someone else. This person you bring to mind either helps bring a smile to your face or allows you to see the potential for peace - someone you have an uncomplicated relationship with. It may be a child, niece, or even a 4 legged family member.
Alternatively, you can think of a spiritual teacher or someone that inspires you like Jesus Christ, the Dalai Lama, or Ram Dass.
Instead of a refuge, you can call up resources. Your resources are memories of places you've visited that have taken your breath away, the feeling you have when swimming or floating in the ocean, or recalling how you felt when you reached the summit and were able to enjoy panoramic views. Resources allow us to expand our awareness and feel a deep sense of peace within.
For more on how to activate embodied love click here.
Reasons why a Metta practice would NOT work...
Crucial to cultivating the felt experience of Metta is releasing the narrative. "The issue is in our tissues." We have to let go of our stories and thoughts around our refuges and instead let ourselves focus on how the body feels the openness and warmth of love.
We can't THINK our way out of the pain. We begin to grow resources to hold the pain and allow it to transform.
Equally important to note that we are not trying to conjure a feeling of love from nothing to avoid feeling our pain, but instead are remembering the different sources of love in our lives that can support us on the journey of feeling unprocessed wounds and healing.