Right now in Year of Inquiry, we’re looking at what we believe is the worst that can happen.
When I first read Loving What Is by Byron Katie, my brain went on alert when I read the part about considering your worst nightmares, and inquiring into the truth.
I don’t want to look at that.
Death, physical impairment, crushing abandonment, whole countries being devastated by earthquakes or volcanoes, suicide, losing everything, the horror of war and cruelty, bizarre and sick abuse, death by fire, death by drowning, death by falling, death by car accident, death by cancer.
Do I have to look at all this?
But I must confess….even though I didn’t want to really think about this, I saw a theme there.
Pain and death.
It was obvious I had a few beliefs about these two things.
As in…..run for your life!!!!!
Do. Not. Go. There.
But then, I had to admit.
Avoiding any thought of death, ever, had not particularly taken any of my sheer terror away.
Being completely against pain (including emotional pain) had not exactly made it easy to face pain.
What if looking more closely at situations that created and generated terrible pain…..assisted the healing process?
I had learned long ago in therapy that the only way to really sort out my feelings about events I didn’t like, or situations I found troubling, was to talk about them honestly.
This step was a huge one.
I began to have conversations about things I found really hard and difficult, in therapy, long before I encountered this self-inquiry process called The Work.
Talking about hard times was a huge relief. Wise mentors and therapists, by listening alone, brought a new acceptance to what I had gone through that felt like crap.
By reviewing a terrible story, with good questions, the story felt more bearable.
Relaxing happened. Acceptance happened. Connection happened.
But I still had strong beliefs that I’d be better off without those things every having happened at all.
THAT would have been the best thing. Any ordeal actually NOT happening.
Good thing I bumped into self-inquiry and The Work later on, because it has been amazing to continuously investigate suffering, pain, death and loss.
It doesn’t mean you have to like these things.
I prefer happiness, no pain, life and abundance (or, my mind does).
I like the idea of my dad living a much longer life, rather than dying of leukemia close the age I am right now and never meeting a single future grandchild.
However, all the stories I see about death in my life, in others’ lives, are more blended, unknown, strange and mysterious. And I can see incredible benefits sometimes. Shocking.
So once again, I get to visit the planet called The Worst That Could Ever Happen with the brave inquirers who do their work in Year of Inquiry.
Here’s a powerful underlying belief I notice still re-emerging the other day.
There is such a thing as unbearable pain.
Any of those tormenting images of death, loss, horror…they are unbearable.
Is it true?
Deep breath. I can hardly believe it, but my answer is “no”.
Because I notice, even if I am raging and screaming on the inside (or outside) with fear, even if I see terrible visions and pictures, even when I haven’t been able to sleep at night because I am afraid of the nightmares, even in the depression….
….none of it has killed me. Ever.
It has all been bearable.
When I believe this thought anyway (despite the facts) I am careful. I try to be super healthy, I keep a little safety zone around me, I try not to think of “bad” and scary stuff, I feel inadequate helping others who are suffering.
But who am I without the belief that nothing is unbearable?
Something deep within down to my bones just lets up a little.
Maybe it lets up a lot. It loosens. It doesn’t have to try to control anything else or feel worried about all the tough things that happen in life for no apparent reason.
Something begins to sink into the idea that I’m willing to have anything happen.
Or the ultimate turnaround idea that seems so crazy when you first encounter it in The Work…..I look forward to this scary thing happening.
I can handle it. I will survive.
I might rage and scream, but I’ll still be here in this life on this planet earth, even if I’ve visited planet The Worst That Could Ever Happen.
If I lived the turnaround…..all pain is bearable….
….what would that look like?
Even in thinking it as I write, in this moment, something opens up even further than it’s ever opened before. Everything is welcome here, in this moment.
Even a meteor hitting my cottage from outer space. Or frightening news from a phone call.
My thoughts are welcome here. They are all bearable.
I know what to do with them. Listen. Do The Work. Meditate with them. Watch. Feel.
And in being with other people, I notice a deep gratitude and love…..when I don’t believe the thought that there is such a thing as unbearable pain.
I used to feel so cautious with people. I still have an impulse sometimes to be careful, or be quiet, or to feel a little nervous…but soooooo much less than ever I once did.
Without the belief that anything is unbearable, I say yes.
Yes, I can do The Work with you. Yes, it is possible to stop suffering even about that terrible experience you had. No, you can’t move in with me. Yes, I will travel to be with you and your group. No, I don’t know what any outcome will be.
Guess I’ll just be here, living this life, sticking around and being here and noticing how so far….everything that’s ever happened has been bearable.
Including other peoples’ death. Including my own brushes with death. Including my thoughts about death. Including the inevitability of death.
Could this be true for you, too?
“Health is not the absence of disease or hardship or brokenness. Health includes all of that. It includes dying….Grief and the praise of life, side by side.” ~ Steven Jenkinson of the movie Griefwalker and founder of Orphan Wisdom.
“If you don’t know how to die, don’t worry. Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do this job perfectly for you: don’t bother your head about it.” ~ Michel de Montaigne