As the world around us seems to unravel and come apart at the seams, what are we to do to find peace?
Stop Stuffing the Pain
I grew up believing I was supposed to be “tough,” that asking for help was weak or an intrusion, that crying was unnecessary, and that the pain of others was none of my business.
As an adult, I remember riding in a car with a friend, pulling up to a stop sign and seeing the pain on a homeless woman’s face. I expressed to my friend that it hurt so much to see her pain. His response was, “I just don’t pay attention to it.” I was startled by his response at first, but then I asked what he meant by that. He replied saying, “I can’t pay attention to it because it’s too painful.”
We’ve all experienced physical pain, whether in stubbing a toe or recovering from surgery. Even physical pain is often something we try to ignore, push through, hide with steroid treatments, or berate ourselves for feeling.
These common experiences of ignoring suffering are a result of a patriarchal dominance culture that focuses only on the “prize” and not on the impact, pain or learning in the journey to get there.
When the only focus is the destination, we’re bound to repeat our mistakes as we take no pause to learn from them.
We’re bound to become weakened and exhausted as we disregard our bodies and our need for connection. We’re bound to become anxious in anticipation of the next quick fix that will numb us out, or in fear of the next painful moment we might have to endure if we don’t numb out fast enough.
Anxiety and depression have grown at a staggering rate, yet we continue to do our best to push through or numb out, hoping we won’t have to face these painful emotions. Psychiatrists are getting training on when it’s appropriate to offer children as young as age 2 an antidepressant.
When are we going to look at the deeper roots that trigger our pain? What will it take for us as a culture to allow for and learn from this pain?
What if the tremendous pain we keep trying to avoid is exactly what we need to navigate the world in new ways, to teach us new approaches, and to help us see from new perspectives?
The Mess May Not Be a Mess
What if instead of looking at the so-called “negative” emotions as “messy” or something to avoid, we could embrace all emotions as messengers?
The original definition of the word mess is “a supply or provision of food for one meal.” When I was in the military, we went to the “mess hall” to gather and share a meal.
Perhaps the mess we see in the unraveling world before us is simply a “provision of food for one meal” that we can learn to digest and integrate into our being before the next provision reveals itself.
In seeing a mess, we tend to see something unwanted, and we either do our best to quickly clean it up so no one else sees it, or we ignore it altogether pretending we don’t see it. The quick clean up leaves the mess undigested, often swept under the rug only to cause heartburn another day. The ignoring of the mess leaves us malnourished, unable to gain wisdom from our mistakes and experiences.
When a mess is digested and integrated, we’re offered nourishment to grow, just as the wind and rainstorms offer strength to the trees.
A message is a form of communication, with “mess” coming from the Latin mittere, “to send” (as in to send the provision to the table) and “age” being “to make old.” When we receive a message, we are making the mess old.
The most important messages are those from our Soul, and emotions are one of the most powerful ways the Soul communicates with us.
If we see difficult emotions as being “negative” or “messy” as opposed to fully receiving them as messengers of the Soul who are trying to communicate with us, we miss out on tremendous gifts that help us to move forward in our lives. We fail to digest important information that helps us stay aligned on our Soul’s path.
When we can embrace life’s messes as offering something valuable for us, we begin to see the beauty in them. When we can see beauty in the messes, we’re able to see beauty in all of life.
Beauty Is a Healing Balm of Rejuvenation
When life feels messy to me, and I feel that the unraveling is too much to bear, the first thing that brings me back to my Self is beauty.
I can be in the most depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed state, and in a brief moment of connecting with beauty, I can find peace.
Sometimes we can find beauty in the mess itself. We might hear messages being offered out of the mess, teachings we’re meant to learn in order to grow.
We might also find peace in the understanding that Nature operates with periods of messes that are necessary for life’s unfolding. After all, the seed that will grow into a new tree must first come completely undone in order to sprout and reach to the sun, and this undoing is rather messy and yet so very beautiful in its purpose.
With the world around us seeming to unravel so quickly in so many ways, we might ask ourselves, “Where we can find beauty?”
There is beauty in the soft, aged hand of our dying grandparent.
There is beauty in the comradery and collaboration of communities torn apart by war.
There is beauty in the strengthening that comes as a bone or a heart heals from a break.
There is beauty in the new growth that emerges after the devastation of a forest fire.
There is beauty in the stillness required when we are ill with fever.
There is beauty in the laughter of a child able to find joy in the most depleted circumstances.
There is beauty in the song of the birds and the brightness of color after a long gray winter.
If you take a moment to look around, no matter what you’re feeling or experiencing in this moment, you’ll find something beautiful to revel in.
Beauty can fill our hearts to the brim, breaking them open with love and compassion for all. Seeing, creating, and appreciating beauty will allow us to digest the mess of a world gone mad.
Where is your beauty?