This is an image from the bulletin board that long hung in my office. The poem behind the heart is from Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
One of the most painful, confusing and often frustrating parts of the healing journey is what Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön calls the ‘big squeeze.’
We feel the squeeze when we ‘know better’ – we have the tools, awareness about our wounds, and zest for growth – and yet our ‘knowing better’ hasn’t translated into healing.
This gap between where we are and where we want to be is felt as a painful squeeze around the heart. We can feel shame, fear, impatience, anxiety, and more.
If you’re sincere and heart centered, your response to this gap might be to try really hard: you may try to make your healing happen with your effort and good heart.
This efforting can feel empowering, like you’re doing something. But over time, you may feel exhausted and stressed from working so hard on recovery.
It’s a tender irony that our desire to heal can keep us from the very healing and rest we’re so desperately wanting.
I hear this over and over from people who sincerely want to heal. They feel exhausted, discouraged, and frustrated.
I can look back on my own long, winding journey of recovery and see how I was chronically trying to move my healing up the mountain.
It’s taken me many years and many rounds of tears to understand that this drive to ‘push’ my healing is simply another facet of my wounds and shame.
When we feel outside of the circle of love, we fervently pursue the love and goodness we think we lack. This often arises as a very well intentioned quest for healing.
This exhaustion from trying so hard is one of the reasons why at Growing Humankindness we focus on listening to ourselves and nurturing the safety that supports our unfolding.
Rather than working hard or trying to push out of the big squeeze we bring care to the parts of us that feel so scared, anxious and driven. This helps us relax the squeeze. And it helps us relax within the squeeze. We feel more settled and trusting of the healing process rather than trying to control, force or make it happen.
We can feel ok being in the squeeze, being in the healing journey, where parts of us have received healing and other parts of us still ache. We can hold this mix with levity, patience, understanding, and compassion.
And when we don’t there’s levity and acceptance for that, too – acceptance for the impatience or anxiety.
This month I’ve been reading therapist and spiritual director Jim Finley’s memoir, The Healing Path. Jim’s work might be known to you through his work with Father Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation.
He writes “the healing path is not a linear process in which we can force our way beyond our wounding….it is a path along which we learn to circle back again and again to cultivate within ourselves a more merciful understanding of ourselves as we learn to see, love and respect the still-confused and wounded aspects of ourselves.”
Yes. Yes! Healing is a journey of mercy – of looking at ourselves with greater mercy, which also allows us to look at others with greater mercy.
Bit by bit, with as much warmth and compassion that we have available, we offer hospitality to the hurting places inside.
In widening circles of mercy, self hatred, shame, judgment, painful patterns with food – and yes, our avid pursuit of healing – can gentle and soften. In widening circles of mercy, we rest.