One of the most painful 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, frustration, and anxiety – whew, it’s super uncomfortable.
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.
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 was simply another facet of my wounds and shame.
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 relax within the squeeze.
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.
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 – and yes, painful patterns with food – can gentle and soften. In widening circles of mercy, we find rest.