When I was a kid I was horrified to hear that wheat was being dumped in the ocean to drive up food prices while people were dying from lack of food.
Today I wonder if there is a dumping of emotional pain into some inner psychic ocean when that pain holds hidden nourishment that could revive dying parts of the soul. In other words, pain is rejected, run from, hidden, dumped onto some "bad guy", etc. but not metabolized, not received, not acknowledged, not integrated into the whole. Externalized pain turns into paranoia. It turns into blame and resentment, it crusts into mistrust and an intensifying sense of alienation.
What doesn't run away from pain?
What can meet pain truly, remaining unshielded by judgment, condemnation, rationalization, or any other armor of the mind?
I've wondered about this for a long time in my work as a psychiatrist. I've seen and felt my own heart clamp shut in the presence of pain many times, passing the box of tissues, wanting the tears to turn off.
It's shutting out the pain that causes pain. Closing the heart hurts; it doesn't block out hurt. It shuts it inside. When the heart opens wide enough for me to fit inside it I disappear.
Sometimes it seems like we're a planet gone mad in our rush to run from pain-- turn on the TV, turn up the volume, order another helping, plan another project, buy another gizmo, throw another bomb, but for God's sake, keep all the pain at bay however you can. Maybe each day we are being backed up closer against the wall of our own avoided pain.
How do we avoid pain and what are the costs? And what is the alternative? And are we running from a hidden wealth? And can we feel mercy for the way we shrink away from pain?
There's only one thing that can meet pain and it is not a thing.
Let pain be an invitation to the one thing (non-thing) that can meet it.
Gratitude for photo: Steve Satushek/Getty images