When I was 18 my best friend James died. He was one of the best friends I've ever had.
I remember answering the phone that day. I heard James' girlfriend Mary say to me "Michael, I think you'd better sit down. I've got some bad news". I sat speechless as she told me how he had taken a taxi to Archway bridge and at 4am that morning, jumped off.
For at least a year I struggled to even take in what had happened. I was in shock. Inside I was pushing down the feelings of loss and grief. Like many people I believed in "negative emotions" and "positive emotions". On a subconscious level, I made a decision not to let myself feel these feelings of enormous sadness.
But the grief had to come out somehow. It started to manifest as insomnia. I'd wake at 5am every morning feeling exhausted but no longer able to sleep. Endless fatigue plagued me.
Then someone suggested something that would transform my whole experience.
It was actually my mother who suggested I try acupuncture for the insomnia. I didn't really know much about acupuncture but I thought "Well I guess it's worth a try". I probably would have tried anything just to cure this horrible insomnia.
On my first acupuncture session with Dave I remember leaving feeling somehow lighter and more alive. Was this real or just placebo? That night I got home and cried for James' death for the very first time.
Over the next 6 weeks my sleep started to return to normal. I started to feel like myself again. But there was a difference. I actually felt more alive and at peace than ever before. I realised that by avoiding "negative emotions" all my life, I had not only cut myself off from pain, but also from the full extent of the the joy and aliveness that is possible.
I remember Dave saying to me that sadness is ok. "It's when we push it away that problems arise."
I decided to do an experiment. One evening while sitting quietly I decided to allow myself to feel what was there. Not to push anything away. I started to feel a deep sadness well up inside me. I allowed it be. It was ok. This was a big surprise. Just sitting immersed in the sadness felt ok. Yes it was sad and painful but it was somehow alright. Suddenly my instinct to push it away kicked in and I was plunged into internal struggle and horrible suffering. Wow, so it was actually the pushing away that was causing the suffering. I once more allowed the feelings to be, and once more I was able to find a peace with them. Sadness yet peace. Simply by allowing.
This was the most profound learning of my life. What I thought all along was the cause of suffering was not the real cause. That I could "make friends" with my feelings and by doing so allow them to come and go.
You suffer. You have deep feelings of sadness and frustration. Maybe you feel like you have to "be strong and carry on". Most people probably have no idea what you're going through.
Try this for an experiment. Find a quite space to yourself, where you know you won't be disturbed. Just allow things to be. Exactly as they are. Whatever you're feeling right now, it’s ok.
See what happens when the urged to push the feelings away kicks in. The mind might say "Oh this is horrible, I can't take this feeling any more". These thoughts themselves may actually be the cause of suffering. Don't take the minds word for it. Test it out. Can you be at peace with how things are right now?
There is huge liberation in "allowing". This doesn't mean resignation. It means that things right now (the situation, how you're feeling) are a certain way. In this moment, they cannot be any other way. You can either resist this and create suffering or you can allow and find a peace.
You might at first find momentary glimpses of what I'm talking about. Gradually these glimpses will join up and form longer stretches.
This is quite possibly the most healing thing you can ever "do".