Yesterday was a hard day. I was experiencing a good amount of sadness with regard to a relationship with a loved one. To care for myself, I did something I don't do too often: I went and got a facial. That is, I paid a lovely stranger to rub my face for an hour while I lay in the cozy darkness and tried to forget about it all.
Except, I couldn't forget. I'd be trying to focus on how good the aesthetician's fingertips felt as they slid across my forehead, and then I'd get this nauseated feeling in my gut. Anxiety. Grief. Thoughts racing.
Then I wondered something. What if I try to be present to the goodness of the face massage along with the badness of the emotional pain? I tried it.
What happened next was a little bit magical. I somehow found a way to extend hospitality toward my suffering. While the aesthetician's fingers encircled my eyes, I stopped trying to run away from the pain, and instead, I moved toward it:
"Hello, pain. I am glad you're here. You probably have something to teach me. Welcome." This is what I heard the wisdom within saying to the hurt within.
It was wildly freeing. Instantly, I wasn't caged by the sadness anymore. It didn't hurt as much. And I had the odd sense that my sadness would turn out to be ally rather than foe.
One of my dearest friends loves to remind me: "Andrea, there is only fear and love. Choose love." I have her words on a post-it note on the side of my computer.
Relating to our pain with fear by ignoring it, numbing it, minimizing it, or judging it is a surefire way to make it bigger and badder. The way to healing (and relief!) is to relate to our suffering with love rather than fear.
The next time you are emotionally distressed, try to (1) intentionally relax yourself with healthy self-care (facial or otherwise), and then (2) turn toward your hurt. Look at it. Bid it welcome. Ask it what it might be there to teach you. You might be surprised.