You can understand a spiritual concept intellectually, which will help you make small incremental changes. It will bring you a certain earthly fulfillment and help you realize the image you envision of yourself. But the deep and lasting spiritual healing, the kind your soul is craving, and that takes you out of burnout and into your full power, can’t happen until you take the concept from the intellect into the body. You have to integrate the process in the cells of your body. This is what you came for. You were made to do this. This changes the fabric of your soul and will stay with you in future lifetimes.
I know from experience that choosing to look in and pay attention to your baggage can be intense, overwhelming, and often feel like you are doing things wrong. At this point in the process, I want you to know that this feeling is expected. The pain has been kept in the shadows for a long time. It is only normal that once you dig in, it will bring up unwanted and unpleasant emotions. In her beautiful memoir Untamed, author Glennon Doyle says, “The truest, most beautiful life never promises to be an easy one. We need to let go of the lie that it’s supposed to be.” I am here to encourage you to stay with it. Because the rewards, which are freedom from burnout, boundless energy, and clarity of identity and purpose, are well worth the work.
We learned how to ignore and keep at bay the uncomfortable impulses and our more “inappropriate” emotions like anger, shame, desire, hate, and resentment through modeling and watching others. This suppression of emotion would become the root cause of our physical, emotional, and mental burnout. The trapped energy remains unprocessed, and we don’t realize how much energy we use keeping it that way. The build-up and pressure create incessant thinking and rumination on loop in our mind. We are consumed by worries about what happened in the past and concerns about what could happen in the future. We focus on things that don’t matter in the here and now. We make futile attempts to address emotional issues with our rational mind. The life-affirming transformation we seek eludes us.
Suppressed thoughts and feelings create the emotional (psychological) equivalent of heat and pressure, like magma swirling around the earth’s core. Multiple layers of conditioning, experiences, trauma, and limiting beliefs act as a mantle or crust, holding it all together. Each layer acts as a fire barrier to not feel the intensity, creating the illusion of coolness. Inevitably that heat and pressure will need to escape, through tectonic shifts and volcanic eruptions. But we have a choice, we can peel back and explore our layers, revisit old fears and unpleasant emotions, change perspective, gain a new understanding of who we truly are. We can bear witness and heal. We can transform.
Many of my clients have described the experience of facing an old wound as being at the edge of a cliff, scared to fall into an abyss from which they may never return. They report feeling overwhelmed by the variety and intensity of emotions they meet there.
While it’s impossible for me to put words to their inner experience, I can describe some of the physical expressions that I, and many others, witnessed as they processed. The intensity of these experiences speaks to the courage that was required to stay with it.
I have seen a man’s body stiffen and his hands recoil like primitive claws as he breathed through a painful emotion. I have seen a woman's flesh shake and undulate as her body immolated a rage that she had long carried for fear that it was too powerful to face. I have held the gaze of a workshop participant, panting like she was giving birth, as her body released an unbearable shame.
I stand in awe of the courage and commitment that it takes to overcome what is often one’s greatest fear. And I’m so grateful for the space it creates for others to do the same. This is an essential part of the process. You must face the core wound in order to bring forth your core essence.
The fear of what will happen if we fully tap into the dark and the pain is always greater than what actually happens when we let the body process. Always. Every time, with no exception, the space, freedom, and peace on the other side rewards the one who is brave and jumps off the cliff, faces the ugly and the shameful, and loves all the present emotions, without judgment. Only the mind can keep you in the dark. If you try to address the emotions only with your intellect, you will feel stuck, because nothing truly transformative will happen. This is what it means to be in our own way. We don’t let the body do its thing and we hold on to the mind’s thoughts and beliefs. But if you bring your breath and attention to the sensation in the body related to the emotion you feel, you will move forward leaps and bounds in your healing and soul realization. The body doesn’t know how to do anything else but process energy in the present moment and release it. It is what it is designed for. The only real way out is through.
I want to reassure you that processing the ugly feelings is the way to feel the core essence. As Bruce Lipton explains it in The Biology of Belief, cells can’t be in protection mode and growth mode at the same time. So when you keep at bay what you perceive as bad and negative, you also keep at bay the real, the good, and the powerful. If you want to fully feel the divine love of your core essence, move beyond burnout, and live from a place of wisdom and limitlessness, you have to fully feel the hurt, the sadness, the betrayal, the abandonment, and the shame you have internalized. This way your body can stop burning energy protecting you from a threat that is no longer there.