Facing Pain—Embracing LoveExcerpts
From the Preface:
As this first edition of Facing Pain—Embracing Love goes to press, our world is in crisis. We are confronting economic, environmental, and ideological challenges of unprecedented scale and gravity. Sadly, the noble focus of recent generations on progress, comfort, and our right to happiness has bred entitlement, greed, and isolationism. Consequently, we are now reeling from the worst worldwide recession in eighty years. We’re finally acknowledging an ecological fragility that threatens the existence of life on our planet. Deepening ethnic conflicts and unconscionable terrorism sabotage the tenuous stability of major geopolitical regions and foment an ongoing and crippling global anxiety.
Safe havens no longer exist. Every human being on earth is affected. Most of us are scared. I know I am.
We can choose to view this fear as a catalyst for self-discovery and transformation. We can wake up from our stupor of indulgence and privilege, self-pity and blaming, and cynicism and judgment, and take full responsibility for our own actions and state of being. This angst urges us to probe the realities we usually resist–the difficult truths related to our identity, relationships, beliefs, and life purpose that fuel our confusion and depression.
It’s time to face our pain.
For both nations and individuals, the era of “I can go it alone” has ended. It’s time to accept that we need help and we need love–and we need one another. It’s time to drop our façades of control and self-sufficiency, and give voice to our fears and vulnerabilities. It’s time to fulfill our innermost longing to commune with others on an intimate, transparent level. It’s time to give and receive compassion, kindness, forgiveness, appreciation, and support, without restrictions or agendas.
It’s time to embrace love.
Our world is urgently calling upon us to grow. We need to move through our pain to a place of clarity and authenticity. We need to explore the frightening unknown of genuine fellowship. This book provides a map to guide us. There are no shortcuts, and shedding ingrained habits can be arduous. But, continuing to deny both our painful truths and our yearning to be loved will sentence us to a joyless, lonely existence.
We cannot change the world until we commit to changing ourselves. Let’s decide to seize this pivotal moment in history to chart our own personal journey to truth and compassion. Then, as we reclaim our awareness and aliveness as individuals, we can work together to create a vibrant, loving world.
On Mapping Love and Pain:
This book offers you a map of what you experience (your State of Being) based on how you choose to interact with the ever-present life dynamics of Love and Pain. The map helps you identify where you are at any moment (your current state). Residing in a particular State of Being is your choice–no one forced you there. It’s up to you to make the conscious choice to move to a different location. My intent is to encourage you, perhaps inspire you, to seek the state of Authentic Living, achieved by your willingness, intention, and commitment to cross into–and all the way through–Pain, while fully giving and receiving Love.
The State of Authentic Living:
Authentic Living is the paradoxical coexistence (not equality) of Love and Pain … In Authentic Living, we experience Reality, celebrate it or weep with it, while not allowing it to overwhelm us. The mantra of Authentic Living might be “I accept things as they are, and I choose to love.” Or, more simply, Authentic Living allows us to “Love what is.” We allow our Ego, with its need to compare and be seen, to recede so our True Self may emerge.
The State of Comfort and Playing Safe:
In our twenties and thirties, during the make-my-mark stage of life (at least in Western culture), many of us are driven by a quest for happiness, material security, career advancement, and personal power. In this stage, we “play offense” in the competitive pursuit of financial security and recognition for our accomplishments. In so doing, we fall prey to the twin fallacies that “There is never enough” and “More is best.” Later in life, in our forties, fifties, or sixties, when we have achieved some level of notoriety and material security, we switch to the preserve-and-protect mode and “play defense.” We have entered the state of Comfort.
In Comfort, we measure achievements and relationships relative to some external standard, as if life is one big scoreboard. We’re “better than,” or “not as good as,” but rarely “good enough.” Friendships and intimate relationships are fun, engaging, and pleasure filled, yet with some level of guardedness.
The State of Numbness and Cynicism:
This state represents a denial of both love and truth, a soul-level void of being. Our inner longings are still present, just entombed in denial, rationalization, bitterness, or victimhood. In Cynicism, we take little responsibility for our own lives, especially our own malaise. All fault for our discontent resides out there, as our interactions with others become a litany of blaming and complaining.
In this state, our relationships become perfunctory or transactional, and we avoid any contact in which we might become vulnerable. Life is staged, calculated, executed, and bemoaned, but not lived.
A guide for the Journey:
Wise mountain climbers or river rafters, exploring terrain for the first time, retain seasoned guides who have already scaled the peaks or navigated the rapids. These guides know the risks of the journey and the fulfillment and exhilaration at its end. They also know the exact places en route, where new adventurers may tend to be too bold when the risks are high, or falter when only a little more perseverance would allow them to surmount an obstacle. Guides know when to challenge and when to encourage; when to be flexible and when to draw boundaries; when to push on when the goal is near; and when to retreat, reflect, regroup, and rest when adventurers are exhausted.
Likewise, your journey into resisted truths calls for a guide: a professional coach, counselor, mentor, therapist, advisor, sponsor, spiritual director, or friend. These guides will listen and care, offering neither judgments nor quick solutions. Choose experienced guides who have navigated, and continue to navigate, their own awareness journeys. Their role is to provide the encouragement, compassion, discipline, and accountability needed to help you navigate your own denied realities.
Seasoned guides shine the light of truth and affirmation on your personal pain. Having made the journey for themselves, they can forewarn you of drifts back into your old behaviors and can encourage you to keep going, to face, explore, and transform all you have avoided or denied.
No more excuses:
Stop the excuses, blaming, and complaining. You are committed to and responsible for whatever is happening in your life. Only when you take full responsibility for your life do you have the opportunity for sustained transformation.
The surrender of ego:
The surrender of ego requires a disconnection from the strictures of Comfort and Playing Safe that may have served you for a lifetime. These include control, comparison, measurement, independence, and material security. It’s like you are swinging on a rickety trapeze bar that represents your ego. It’s comfortable, familiar, and going nowhere. And you have to kick and push just to keep the bar moving. Ahead of you, foggy in the distance, is another trapeze bar representing your True Self and Authentic Living. You must release the comfort and familiarity of the current bar, float through the void between the bars, and grasp onto a new, transformed life adventure. Any major life transformation boils down to the same basic question: Are you willing to let go of one bar to reach the next?
Forgiveness is a required part of letting go. Forgiveness means granting yourself an unconditional pardon, and also one to those who have betrayed you. It means refusing the poison of resentment and vengeance. Only through forgiveness do you open yourself to receive the unconditional pardon (and love), both from others and also from a transcendent, loving Spiritual force (energy, entity, being, space), whatever you perceive that to be. Granting forgiveness, loving ourselves, and receiving others’ love dissolves the mind-set of separation, isolation, and independence that governs the dualistic “me versus them” universe. This is usually a scary process, though typically cathartic, emotional, and cleansing. Forgiveness, coupled with a belief in your own worthiness to receive love–without having to do anything in return–births (or rebirths) you into your True Self and an Authentic Life.
More on Authentic Living:
Authentic Living embodies the lifelong paradox of simultaneously giving and receiving love, while facing and accepting Reality. Once in this state, we recognize that pain is simply a necessary part of living. And as we navigate pain with equanimity, we begin to open ourselves to experiencing the goodness, wonder, beauty, and magic of the universe. With this acceptance comes discernment about when to express compassion and when to enforce boundaries. In particular, we note and have compassion for the hurtful, selfish, or narcissistic actions and behaviors of others that tend to draw us away from Authentic Living. And while we remain present to and aware of these painful truths, we also establish boundaries on the level of engagement we choose with others. On the receiving end, we invite our friends and guides to lovingly, yet directly, tell us when we drift into our own hurtful, selfish, or narcissistic actions and behaviors, and then to challenge and encourage us to shift back into Authentic Living.