The Dark Side of the Sacred

Awakin Feature

Emotions live in the body. It is not enough simply to talk about them, to be a talking head. We need to focus our attention on emotions where they live. This willingness to be present allows the emotion to begin to shift of its own accord. An alchemy starts to happen — a process of transmutation from something hard and leaden to something precious and powerful, like gold.

This is a chaotic, nonlinear process, but I think it requires three basic skills: attending to, befriending, and surrendering to emotions in the body. Paying attention to or attending to our emotions is not the same as endless navel gazing and second-guessing ourselves. It is mindfulness of the body, an ability to listen to the body’s emotional language without judgment or suppression.

Befriending follows from focusing our attention and takes it a step further: it involves building our tolerance for distressing emotions. When I was giving birth to my first child, my midwife said something that has stood me in good stead ever since: “When you feel the contraction coming and you want to back away from it, move toward it instead.” The feeling in the body that we want to run away from — that’s precisely what we need to stay with. A simple way to do this is to locate the emotion in the body and breathe through it, without trying to change or end it.

The third skill, surrendering, is the spiritual part of this process. Surrendering to suffering is usually the last thing we want to do, but surrender is what brings the unexpected gifts of wisdom, compassion, and courage. Surrendering is about saying yes when we want to say no — the yes of acceptance. This is what really allows the alchemy to happen. We don’t “let go” of emotions; we let go of ego, and the emotions then let go themselves. This is “emotional flow.” When we let the dark emotions flow, something unexpected and unpredictable often occurs. Consciously experienced, the energy of these emotions flows toward healing and harmony. I’ve found that unimpeded grief transforms itself into heightened gratitude; that consciously experiencing fear expands our ability to feel joy; and that being mindful of despair — really entering into the dark night of the soul with the light of awareness — renews and deepens our faith.

--Miriam Greenspan

Add Your Reflection:

9 Previous Reflections:

  • link
    On Nov 21, 2008 sf wrote:
    I want to express real appreciation for this awareness, so clearly written. I am awakening to this deeper knowledge.... again. Thank you.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Nov 17, 2008 thealchemist wrote:
    thank you for that. it brought tears of gratitude to my eyes.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Nov 14, 2008 Rebecca wrote:
    Thanks for the beautiful words we all need to remember to be with our pain so that we can be happy.........Loving kindness

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Nov 13, 2008 bob wrote:
    of course your emotions live in your body, they don't float around outside your head in the 'ether.' so often we forget that our brain is, in fact, a part of our body. listen to your brain, it (better than any new age web post) knows what's going on with you. think. it'll help you through a lot as long as you use a little logic. we evolved with this amazing logic machine up in our heads and just like a lion needs to use its claws we oughtta use what we got.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Nov 11, 2008 Ner tar lynn wrote:
    This side is good for me that I love to translate them to give inspiration to the other. I love to read them as much as possible.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Nov 11, 2008 Andruween wrote:
    hope you find this reading useful- I did.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Nov 11, 2008 Lakshmi Narayan wrote:
    I'd like to share an article upon the same subject from my blog: Its called The Devil made me Do It: (see link)

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Nov 11, 2008 Sai-Rama Mohan Shete wrote:
    The article is really inspiring one! It helped me a lot. My friend is little depressed due to personal matters and I wanted to help her. I was searching some inspiring thoughts & reached here. I hope this would be beneficial to help my friend to come out of the sad mood.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Nov 10, 2008 Smita wrote:
    Wow - I read this reflection at the moment when I most needed it, reminding me to embrace and breathe through emotions that I normally want to avoid or "get rid of."

    The following poem has been on my mind lately, and it seems appropriate to share it here. The author is Rumi, and the title is "Guest House":

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

    Post Your Reply

Search Awakin Readings

Or search by year or author.

Subscribe to Weekly Email

Every week, we send out a digest with a reading and inspiring stories to our global community of 94,168 people. Subscribe below.


Contact Us

If you'd like to suggest a thought or want to drop us a suggestion, drop us a note.