“The unendurable is the beginning of the curve of joy.” ~Djuna Barnes
November, 2014. A story you’ve heard a million times. The person I believed with all my heart to be “the one” ceased to feel the same way about me.
My heart and soul shattered, I had no desire to live, the whole works.
Having your heart broken, especially by someone you truly loved is, from my perspective, the worst kind of pain there is. It makes you lose all sense of self, reality, purpose, and faith. To me, it felt like my soul was being severed into teeny tiny pieces.
When we’re in that much pain, it seems like it’s going to be a forever deal. We forget that it’s all temporary.
To make matters worse, we feel we’re all alone in it—we are rushed to “just move on already” when we can barely find enough energy to open our eyes.
So keep in mind that there is no shame about the situation that is most painful to you and how long you’re taking to process it.
You could be facing your darkest hour brought by the death of your pet fish. Or by the fact you didn’t get that dream job.
Whatever the situation is, do not compare or believe your pain is less legitimate than others: your journey here is your own, and it is just as sacred as that of someone you perceive to have “more legitimate“ reasons to be in pain.
Also, take your time getting through it. It’s your story. Your shoes. Your life.
I’d like to remind everyone out there going through a hard time that pain is in fact the greatest catalyst for growth.
You can’t see that when you’re smack in the middle of it; in fact, you might even say, as I did, “No growth is worth this much pain.” But when you come out on the other side, my friends, it’s like you’re seeing in color for the first time in your life.
So keep going! You’ll be happier than you ever were once you’ve transcended it, I promise you.
Here are five of the many lessons I learned throughout this year that I believe can help anyone, at any point, with any struggle, to reach out into all the happiness and bliss that life can offer.
While I was in that place of suffering, gratitude seemed like a dark humor joke from the skies. How can you possibly find something to be grateful for when you feel you’ve been stripped of every shred of happiness or love and there’s nothing left but pain?
That feeling kept me in limbo for a while. I kept reading and reading about recovering from a severe heartbreak and every single one of the texts I read were emphatic about gratitude. So at one point I thought “there has to be a reason for this.”
Finally, I picked up a pen and piece of paper and told myself to write ten things I was grateful for.
It was hard at first. Only a few things came to mind, like family and a roof over my head. But I kept on trying, day after day.
By the end of the first week, ten things were too little.
You begin to see everything as a blessing.
Now, with a year’s worth of practice, at the end of each day, looking back at things to be grateful for on that one day feels actually overwhelming at times—there’s just so much to be thankful for.
I feel important to share that what made me click was the realization that gratitude isn’t about exercizing it as a virtue because you should. It’s about the wonderful state of being you put yourself in deliberately. Ultimately, gratitude is about being happy.
2. Beliefs, beliefs, beliefs
Next, I was smacked in head with the premise that you create your own reality. Accepting responsibility for your pain is awful, to say the least—until you realize how empowering it actually is.
What it comes down to is that what you truly believe about yourself and the world is, in fact, what you’re going to experience in your life.
If you believe that the universe conspires against you, surely enough, that’s what you’re going to get. Every time something goes wrong in your life, you’re going to read it as if you’re powerless and the universe is after your bottom in particular.
The silver lining is: beliefs are changeable. Wouldn't it be amazing if you chose instead to believe that the universe conspires in your favor?
A great technique I picked up from Tiny Buddha itself is: find a belief that you’re holding on to that you feel is doing more harm than good, and work on it.
Let’s say, for instance, you feel unlovable. Take a piece of paper and write down the opposite of this, e.g. “I am lovable.” Then actively look for evidence that this is true, day by day.
Every time you felt loved during the day, write it down. If someone was kind to you, if you received a compliment or a warm touch, or were praised in any way, write it down.
Little by little, you’re going to convince yourself of this, and then proceed to see it more and more in your experience.
3. You are complete.
We tend to attach certain situations, people, and experiences to certain feelings. This makes us think that in order to feel complete we need to reach out for these people, situations, and experiences, which obviously causes us more harm than good.
Take me, for instance. I attached the love that I felt for my ex partner to that person in particular. One meant the other. And it was the most beautiful feeling. So when they were no longer there, I felt I was left with a huge hole in my soul.
But I came to realize that love I felt had been inside me the whole time. What they did was bring it to surface.
Which is to say: you can’t feel anything that isn’t within you already—you are a complete being. No one, and no circumstance, puts feelings inside of you.
It’s easier to let go once you realize that, much like a piano, all of your feelings are already within you in potential. What your reality does is play the notes that bring them into your awareness.
The beauty is: you can play that piano yourself.
Find your music.
It’s the best you’ll ever hear.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to disidentify with your pain or struggle. We feel it’s so entrenched in us that it’s like an arm or a leg. So I want to be very clear: you are not your pain.
In my experience, heartbreak felt like it would be forever a part of me. That there was nothing I could do about it because it was so profound and painful that standing for even a minute looking at it made my heart go physically nuts (which was quite scary).
The moment I learned, and I mean actually understood, that pain serves you immensely by pointing straight at parts of yourself you need to heal, and is not part of your now-being, everything changed.
So, imagine your pain as a separate entity from you. Imagine seeing your pain in front of you, talking to it, hugging it. Dress it festively according to the occasion, hang out with it, draw it, make a Play-Doh version of it. Be creative and let loose.
It’s going to become a second nature to you to actually love your pain.
5. Integration, integration, integration
This came as a consequence of the latter lesson. By loving your pain, you integrate it. You don’t reject it or try to run from pain; you accept it.
What happens next is that you expand. And that is the best thing ever. Trust me.
Everything becomes that much full of life, of passion, of color.
It’s so important to understand this. Every time you integrate an aspect of your pain, you’re going to feel more joyful, more awake, more excited.
So don’t run from your shadows. Instead, invite them over for a cup of tea and have a nice, honest, accepting chat.
These five lessons helped me form a new understanding of life—I went from dreading each and every day to feeling excited and passionate for every new morning. I hope they can help you find your way there as well.
Be gentle with yourself and hang in there—it’s worth it!
Broken heart image via Shutterstock