09/03/2009 03:53 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

When The Heart Breaks Open

As human animals we naturally avoid sources of pain. All animals do, as whatever causes pain could threaten survival itself. In that very practical sense, sensing pain is a signal to move away from something. Fire burns, burns hurt, fire can kill you.

Emotional pain hurts deeply too, with many different sources, some minor and some major. We can feel hurt if someone slights us, intentionally or unintentionally; or we can hurt if we lose our job. We can feel the pain of those who are suffering everywhere on the planet; we can hurt when we face our own certain mortality. Emotional pain also can be a practical signal to move away from the source of the pain. In only one example, if someone is emotionally abusing you, the intelligent action is to stop the abuse or to move away from the cause. The complication arises because obviously emotional pain is simply not as clear-cut as physical pain. What if we actually love the source of our emotional pain? What if it is more painful to move away from the source of the pain than to stay and feel it?

And there is the often horrific emotional pain of losing someone altogether, through death or loss of relationship. Ed and Deb Shapiro's excellent blog last week addresses clearly ways in which you can be supported in healing from such devastating events.

There are many support and self-help groups that can assist you with your particular emotionally painful situations whatever the cause. I laud and support the care and help these groups offer.

In addition to supporting you in taking necessary steps to heal from loss or to correct abusive situations, I would like to offer a simple, yet radical, invitation: take a moment, by yourself, without fixing or avoiding the pain, and fully open to it. Allow it totally into your whole being. Give up any story or internal narrative of who's to blame and how it could or should be or have been different. Take an instant to fully surrender inside the pain. A surrender so complete that even the word "pain" is left behind.

When the word is left behind, only an energy field remains. When you are not resisting that energy field, there is an unexpected treasure discovered. In that moment, the pain itself is a conduit to a deeper experience of love and freedom.
The situation that caused the pain may or may not be different (or in the case of death even have the possibility of being different), but the pain of the situation is no longer the problem. Then pain, or what is discovered in the willingness to fully and directly experience the energy field of "pain," is no longer a signal to avoid. It becomes a signal to take a moment and simply be completely present in the depths of your being.

At first this invitation may seem counter-intuitive. There may be a sense that you will be swallowed whole by the immensity of your emotion. Yet if you are willing to let your heart break completely open, with no internal narrative controlling the opening, you will discover the pure, innocent love that is alive in the core of every emotion, every feeling, everybody. It remains pure and spacious regardless of change or loss.

It is discovered freshly each time any hurt is fully and directly met, because it is out of the realm of memory, and with each discovery there is more courage for allowing pain to be an ally rather than an enemy.

If there is any emotional pain (new or old) being avoided by you now, and you accept the invitation to completely open to it, free of the story normally attached to it, what do you discover?

Gangaji will hold her next public meeting in Ashland, Oregon, August 16th. She will be in Boston for a public meeting September 12th, and in Woodstock for a public meeting September 14. She will hold a seven day retreat in Garrison, NY beginning September 16th. Read more about Gangaji's events and catalog of books and videos online.