Listening to the much loved and admired Tibetan teacher Pema Chodron today, I was reminded of how emotions are never wrong or right, nor unique, despite our deepest assumptions to the contrary. In the recanting of a story, about a student who sincerely believed that he was the first and only one in the world to feel as he felt, she responded in quintessential Ani Pema style, i.e, with the most gentle yet devilish smile as she assured him that he is not, nor would ever be, ‘first’ or ‘only’ when it came to emotional suffering.
When we surrender to this truth, we surrender to what equates to a glorious gift –one that we inherently and persistently fight receiving. The gift is the reprieve from our aloneness. We are never truly separate from the suffering of others; past, present, and future. A continuous thread moves through us and while each and every one of us feels like we are isolated in the uniqueness of our pain, in reality, we are all re-spinning the same collective experience. Who among us has been spared feelings of guilt, shame, anger, hate, resentment and the like? And how truly different are the stories told eons ago, from ones we saw in the theater last night? The stories are always built upon the same foundations; love, hate, fear, jealously, betrayal…..
Yet, when our hearts get broken, as they inevitably do, we tell ourselves that others couldn’t possibly understand. We hang onto thoughts such as “But their love wasn’t like our love…”. Perhaps in this way we feel special or more entitled to our despair, but in doing so, we also feel lonelier. When instead, we remember that we are but one of the same collective spirit, we can appreciate that while we feel incredibly deserted in our suffering there are those around us who know our pain intimately and who have endured despite their own hopelessness.
The metaphor of emotions as weather patterns is useful in opening our hearts to accepting life organically. Our emotions are like fronts that continuously gather, accumulate, release and gather again. We feel emotional discomfort and pain because along with the rest of the universal timepiece, we tick and tick again. We never stop ticking. And there could never be right ticking or wrong ticking just as there could never be right rain and wrong wind. It is simply rain and wind.
Someone said to me today “never apologize for your feelings”. I had to pause for more than a moment because as easily as I could have rushed right past the sentiment, I was struck by its magnitude. What an amazing gift indeed – one we should re-gift again and again.