It is inevitable that relationships will cause pain. That is the price of loving; it is the risk that we all must take. It takes courage to enter into a loving relationship of any kind, so all lovers are, in truth, heroes and heroines.
When a relationship becomes painful, there are some guidelines to follow in order to minimize the pain. The first is to form a mental intention that goes something like this: “Here is my complete willingness to learn whatever lesson I am meant to learn from this as quickly and painlessly as possible.” By forming this intention, you are transcending the ego’s limitations and communicating with your greater mind – the unconscious portion that contains ancestral memories and collective wisdom. It will then join forces with your conscious intention, thus creating a powerful force which will guide you toward an understanding of the lessons to be learned and an ability to move rapidly beyond the pain and resume a state of peace and equilibrium.
For example, perhaps I have been too controlling in my relationship, and I have repeatedly failed to recognize this. As a result, I am facing the end of a relationship, or the feeling of distance and rejection. If I form the intention outlined above, my unconscious mind will guide me to this realization. If I have sincerely devoted myself to this, I will be willing to face up to this painful realization, and then I can begin to take steps to avoid making this mistake in the future. This is self-growth – the work all adults must do throughout their lives.
Another way to approach the pain is to practice what Tara Brach calls “the pause.” This is when we just take about ten seconds or so to pause and allow ourselves to feel the pain, and to accept it rather than resist it. When you are consumed with a difficult emotion, sit with it. Explore how it feels in your body. Listen to your thoughts as if they belonged to someone else, absent of judgment. Say, “that too” to each as they enter and pass through. It is never useful to try and solve a problem when you are emotionally aroused; it should always be done with reason, with the left brain at the helm, and the wind of compassion in the sails.
Another way to transcend pain is to practice compassion toward others, and a most moving opportunity exists here in our city right now. As the one year anniversary of the tsunami that hit Japan’s shores descends upon us, we can participate in a participatory art project hosted by the Transformer Gallery as part of DC Arts & Humanities 5×5 public art installation, an active part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. A thousand vials of symbolic tears, actually filled with water collected from Japan, will water Washington’s 3000 cherry trees that were donated to us by Tokyo 100 years ago. There is a temporary lab at Transformer, a non-profit, artist-centered organization on P Street where the 1000 vials will be stored and distributed by volunteers. Be part of this symbolic act of compassion that joins those victims to us through the gift of natural beauty that is the cherry blossom.
In healing others we ourselves are healed.