DEAR FRIENDS -- On my journey to heal and free myself I struggled for decades with an overwhelming burden of sadness and despair. I was deeply afraid of my sadness, because at the bottom of it was a terrifying sense of isolation -- and the pain of a broken heart. The experiences that create such lifelong sorrow and depression always stem from intense losses and disappointments during childhood and adolescence -- the times when one's heart is the most pure and open. This was certainly true for me. Among the experiences that left me with a life-long, broken hearted sorrow were my father's beatings of me and my siblings; my mother's suicidal depression and abuse of alcohol; the complete lack of touching and physical affection in my family; and the cruel suppression and denial of my need for love and the expression of my feelings. The authentic me was brutalized, stifled and put to shame -- and my broken heart over all of this and more was stored subconsciously in my body by tensions so powerful that I could barely breathe. It was only after I turned within and learned to cry again that I was restored in my ability to breathe freely and fully. My return to myself -- via the process that enabled me to cry and breathe deeply -- was the key to the resurrection of my spirit. Today I experience deep inner peace and happiness on a daily basis, as a direct result of the self-love that enabled me to face and fully release the pain I had carried for a lifetime.
Each of you is capable of reaching this inner peace and happiness, and to have the joy of completely loving and believing in yourself. You were not born to suffer in sorrow, you were born to open your heart and succeed in your quest for happiness and inner freedom!
The journey to happiness is grounded in self-acceptance, and in order to fully accept yourself you need to completely accept your feelings. This is a simple thing to say, but not an easy thing to do! Our families, culture and religions taught us to mistrust and be critical of our authentic emotions, so there is work to do to re-connect to your feelings, your body, your true self.
To love and heal yourself you need to take a fearless and positive approach to your own feelings of sadness. The key to the process is learning to bring tenderness, compassion and healing energy to the pain you carry.
There are four basic processes -- or steps -- that will enable you to face and release the accumulated sorrow of your lifetime. They often need to be taken simultaneously, but for the purpose of explanation I will describe them in sequence.
First, you must admit to yourself that you are carrying unhealed sadness and disappointment. This brings you out of denial and activates your inner forces of healing.
Second, you must investigate what you are sad about and why. Working with an experienced therapist is often called for at this point, since the origins of life-long sadness are often related to childhood experiences that have been deeply suppressed.
Third, you must develop a courageous and unconditionally accepting relationship with the pain and sorrow in your heart. This is the essence of self-love -- the willingness to touch and hold your authentic feelings with the devotion you would give to a helpless child. It is this "motherly" commitment to yourself that enables your "inner child" to finally let go.
Fourth, you must learn to skillfully release the pain through full and free crying. This will involve working with your body to free your breathing in order to have full release through uninhibited sobbing and sound. To get a clear sense of the kind of release you will need to develop, observe newborns and very young children as they cry. Their entire bodies are involved, their breathing is completely free, and they hold nothing back. You were born with the same freedom of release, which has since become suppressed. By regaining it over time, you will successfully free your heart of the sorrow and make room in your body for your spirit to soar in joy!
In my personal journey through heartbreak and despair, and in my work with my clients in therapy, I have found that people are often reluctant to engage with their sadness for fear of getting "stuck" in it. They fear that once they start crying they will never stop! Let me reassure you that this didn't happen to me, and it has never happened to a single one of my clients and students. This is because when you learn to work with your sadness in the correct way you feel a consistent sense of progress and release.
As proof I offer my own experience. During a pivotal seven-year period I consciously worked with my sadness -- and cried! -- every day. Doing the daily meditative and bioenergetic work that released my breathing and crying ever more deeply was the core practice of my spiritual path. Every week, month and year of this liberating work awakened my body and spirit and resulted in greater energy, aliveness, inner peace -- and joy! Yes, the ultimate path to your joy passes through the loving and dynamic encounter with your sorrow.
Here is a simple exercise that prepares you to work with your sorrow in an attitude of trust and acceptance. When you are feeling sad or depressed but are unable or afraid to cry, you can use this exercise to develop the feeling that it's safe to let go.
1. Stand in front of a mirror. Look yourself in the eye . As you do, imagine that you are the kind of mother or father who is always encouraging and knows exactly what to say. Or, imagine that you are speaking with the kindness and certainty of your own soul . The basic concept is that the person in the mirror needs support and reassurance, and you are going to supply it. As unnatural as this may feel at first , I promise you will get the hang of it very quickly!
2. As you keep eye contact with yourself, one-by-one say these phrases to yourself. Say them out loud (this is essential) and say your own name at the beginning of each phrase (also essential).
- "I see that you are sad".
- "It's safe to feel the sadness".
- "There's no need to feel ashamed".
- "It's safe and good to cry".
- "I love you and I'm holding you".
3. As you work with each phrase, stay with it and repeat it a few times. Try to find that place in you which sincerely feels and believes what you are saying. If you are frightened of your sadness and crying, that sincerity may be difficult to find at first. However, it won't be long before the "inner child" in your heart senses that you are truly there for her/him, and your tears (and sounds!) will begin flowing spontaneously and naturally. Remember, the release of crying is always good for you -- so trust your body and let go!
4. You may also find that some phrases are easier to say, feel and truly believe than others. There is much to be learned about your attitudes toward yourself by contemplating which phrases are difficult for you -- and why!
5. Finding the Special Words You Need
Lastly, say something to yourself that you really need to hear right now. The more you need to hear it, the greater the growth that results. Find the words and attitude that are nurturing/encouraging/loving/healing.
You have absolutely nothing to fear from working with your sadness on a consistent and regular basis. Ultimately, it is the key to your ability to live and love open-heartedly and joyfully. The key to prevent "getting stuck" on the journey toward permanent release is to develop the attitude of self-trust and self-tenderness that this exercise is based upon.
There almost certainly will be times when -- to face and work through a primal level of your sadness -- you need the extra measure of support and training that a skilled therapist can offer. Listen to your intuition about this, and don't hesitate to love yourself by reaching out for the help you need.
LOTS OF LOVE -- BRYAN