01-24-2017 Lissa-19

If you’re on the spiritual path, you know that this intense journey through the veils of the ego into the essence of the Divine within you is not for the faint of heart. If you have a spiritual teacher, mentor, or therapist, your spiritual guide will probably dole out one blow to your ego after another, and it can be hard on the human to endure these blows. If you don’t have a guide, if Life is your teacher, then your circumstances are probably bringing you face to face with all the ways you’re consciously or unconsciously harming yourself and others. What is revealed can sting. It’s not easy to have the courage to stick with it.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, “My advice to you is not to undertake the spiritual path. It is too difficult, too long, and is too demanding. I suggest you ask for your money back, and go home. This is not a picnic. It is really going to ask everything of you. So, it is best not to begin. However, if you do begin, it is best to finish.”

In my experience, this tongue-in-cheek advice is pretty much spot on. But oh man, where are those who can comfort us through this journey? Where is the tenderness, the soothing voice, the “I understand, sweetheart. Carry on, Love Warrior?” Why all the ferocity without the gentle touch and the warm hug?

Adyashanti says, “Make no mistake about it—enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”

Word.

And . . . ouch!

The Feminine Can Be Both Fierce & Comforting

In feminine spirituality, the fierce goddesses and the gentle goddesses hold hands. We need to resist the temptation to get out of balance in how we handle our transformational growth, to value the scalpel of truth more than the comforting arms of Divine Mother energy. After all, if the spiritual path means enduring—or even welcoming—the dismantling of everything we imagined to be true, this is no small thing! Yes, we can go fiercely into the truth and bully ourselves into pushing faster and faster toward enlightenment. But isn’t that just one more thing the ego can grab hold of? Isn’t that just another way of bullying ourselves and hustling for worthiness? What about comfort? What about gentleness? What about holding ourselves in great arms of love and whispering, “Shh . . . shh . . . It’s all gonna be OK, sweetheart.”

I believe that love and growth require holding paradoxes. We need the ferocity of Kali, the goddess of death and destruction, balanced with the compassion of Kwan Yin, the goddess of compassion and mercy. We need to be pushed to the limits of what the human self can handle, and then we need to be held in the great arms of Mother Mary with her beatific smile and her radiant heart. We can open ourselves to seeing the truth, and we can allow the truth to strip us like a scalpel. But then we are raw and bleeding, and it hurts, and we need each other to offer comfort. We need cuddle puddles. We need to sing together. We need to dance. We need to rock one another when things get too intense, when emotions get overwhelming, when we feel scared and sad and angry and alone.

We need comfort, and we need to let go of any spiritual bullying that suggests that comfort is for wussies.

Karen Drucker says it best in her song Gentle With Myself. “I will only go as fast as the slowest part of me feels free to go.”

Let’s Hold Space

I’m not suggesting that we need to coddle each other. Sometimes we need to be left alone to move through what is arising. Sometimes a hug can be intrusive. It can suggest that someone’s emotional expression isn’t OK, that we need to shut them up or fix them. It can feel like an expression of pity, rather than compassion.

But sometimes things just get too intense, and we need someone to simply hold space. (I love this video about how to hold space.)

Once, when I was at a silent meditation retreat, one of the women in our retreat was wailing. We were all in silence, eating our meal in the cafeteria, and she was sobbing, choked sobs, as she walked through the line. Everyone ignored her. Then she took her food outside and howled and wailed some more. Everyone kept eating in silence.

I was towing the party line, following the silence rules, not wanting to interfere with anyone’s process. But at some point, what felt like intuition prompted me to get up, approach her, break the silence and whisper, “Do you need a hug?”

She nodded. So I just sat in silence and held her for a long while as she cried.

A year later, I ran into her at another event and she said, “Thank you for holding me that time. I just couldn’t bear what I was going through alone.”

Sometimes, human life hurts too much to go through it alone. Yes, we need to be able to learn how to comfort ourselves, but we also need one another. Too many spiritual circles wield a very masculine scalpel of truth without making space for the gentle feminine energies of compassion, nurturing, comfort, and tenderness. Now more than ever, we need permission to comfort one another.

Whether you are happy about our new President or not, we are all in transition together right now. Things they are a-changin.’ And change brings uncertainty, and uncertainty breeds discomfort, riding shotgun with possibility and even excitement. When you don’t know what the future holds, anything can happen! But we need one another to bridge this transition as we midwife this planet and species into the next iteration of what it means to be human.

May these words comfort you. May you give yourself permission to receive comfort—from yourself or others.

12 Ways to Comfort Yourself

May we find small ways to tend to ourselves and one another. Try these simple suggestions.

  1. Have a tea ceremony with a few friends.
  2. Buy aromatherapy oils and empty bottles and make your own comforting scent blends.
  3. Exchange backrubs with a friend.
  4. Light incense and run a bath with bath salts.
  5. Make a home altar with sacred objects that have meaning to you. Sit at your altar when you need comfort.
  6. Try some simple comforting yoga poses, like child’s pose.
  7. Write a love letter to yourself, offering the words of comfort you need to hear. Read it out loud or have someone else read it to you.
  8. Invite friends to a potluck dinner. Everyone brings comfort food. Then you can sing, dance, have a cuddle puddle, do group hugs, get in a massage line, or meditate together.
  9. Read poetry. (Rumi and Mary Oliver are my favorite.)
  10. Make a playlist of comfort songs. Listen to it obsessively. (My favorite is Kacey Musgraves Somebody To Love. It’s SO gentle and non-polarizing and resists the temptation to devolve into a “poor me” victim story. Listen here.
  11. Pray for comfort. Close your eyes and call for comfort from whatever spiritual tradition best supports you. If you don’t feel comfortable praying to God, Goddess, Buddha, an angel, Allah, or Mother Mary, try praying to your favorite tree or a river or the ocean. Envision yourself wrapped in great arms of love and rest in that comfort.
  12. Meditate. Just get quiet and let your breath and a quiet, still mind comfort you.

Do you need comfort? Or do you feel strong enough to offer comfort to someone else? Let’s all give each other permission to seek comfort right now. Growth is coming. Change is inevitable. Truth is always welcome. But let’s do it with a spoon full of hugs.

Mwah,

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19 Comments

  1. Burma Storrs

    Lissa, you currently are my “comforting touch” as I follow my spiritual journey. Thank you for all of your time and effort.

    Reply
  2. Karen Anderson

    Thank you for your blog post today. I’ve been reading Anatomy and doing something I’ve never done to a book (well outside of a text book at any rate) writing in the margins and highlighting things. I have accepted “the call” but have no direction in my life right now. I despair of ever hearing what I need to do or where I need to go. The only message I’ve gotten at all is healing, but what could I possibly offer anyone? Believe it not I’ve asked the The Universe that very question. Still waiting on the answer. I’d love to introduce Victoria to Catelynn. I think they have a lot in common.

    Reply
  3. Vicky D.

    Thank you. It’s just what I needed to know today!

    Reply
  4. Lara Brekken

    Thank you so much, Lissa! It’s like you are in my head. I think you heard me yelling and sobbing at the Universe yesterday because I am so unbelievably lost as I attempt to navigate my Hero’s Journey. Your quote from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche hit home. Yesterday I was really wishing I could ask for my money back. As uncomfortable (miserable) I was in my previous job, I had a great income and benefits. I BELIEVED with everything that was in me that if I listened to my Soul and quit, and made room for something new, I would find a job that fit my core values and would align with my Soul’s purpose within a month. I read Anatomy of a Calling and was inspired by it. I knew that I wasn’t listening to my heart by staying where I was. I have now been unemployed for 6 months. I took out every penny of my retirement for my daughter and I to live on. I’m trying to be “enlightened” and TRUST that the Universe is just taking its time to line up the right job, or coaching clients. for me. But yesterday, I wanted to throw in the towel. I am an intelligent woman with ten years of experience at a prominent corporation with great references. How is it that I’m not finding a job? Am I going to end up homeless? Is this my “Hero’s Journey?” I’m scared as hell, but trying not to be. Your post gave me comfort that I’m not alone in this. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Erin Longmoon

      Lara, in a smilar place – you are not alone! And thank you fir sharing, so that I also know that I’m not alone.

      Reply
  5. Fern

    Thanks, Lissa, for this very touching and thoughtful piece of encouragement. I loved your choice of words. Very comforting. This is such a time of disruption, individually and on a societal and planetary scale. As we venture into the dark unknown, it is so disquieting, and I have recently begun to honor the moments of integration and gentleness, as they present themselves, rather than blindly pushing forward with the “scalpel of truth” as you so aptly express. My own journey, for the past few years, has preceded and paralleled our planetary disruption, and has more recently been accompanied by a path of shamanic journeying that provides both comfort and enlightenment. It is new for me to seek answers from without, as I have long been accustomed to going within. And the speed of my own healing and transformation has so accelerated, that it has become crucial to embrace opportunities to comfort myself and others, and to accept comfort from others. It’s comforting to know that so many of us are on this path together. And it was heartening to hear your story of providing comfort by holding the wailing woman at your silent meditation retreat. Very touching. Thank you for your very timely words and reminders.

    Reply
  6. David H. Breaux

    Thank you Lissa for this post. I humbly offer comfort to those in need of a compassionate listening ear or a sign post toward inner peace. I do so online for free via video chat. If inquiry arises as to what I do, search the name under google to find out more. Or if anyone reading this is ever near Davis, (northern) California, I invite you to sit together at the Compassion Corner Earthbench at 3rd and C downtown. It’s a community-built bench blessed with the subtle energies of love, peace, and compassion by many who helped to build it. Also, there is always the Supreme and Her angels watching over you, guiding you back to itself/yourself/ourselves. You’ve always been home in your heart.

    Reply
  7. klhlist@gmail.com

    so lame – of course the zen masters did not distribute this modern “comfort” palaver – and no one else with integrity would either. no one needs permission to do what they need to do – not from themselves or others – they only need to reflect on their path – their golden rule to measure what they shall do. Take responsibility do not take the “comfortable way”

    Reply
  8. Francine Miranda

    What a wonderful post! I often notice that what keeps us from growing is that masculine lens which we view strength as going it alone, toughing it out, sucking it up. I believe there’s a time for pushing yourself and a time for self-compassion (or maybe we can do both?). This reminds me a lot of Berne Brown’s message that vulnerability and compassion is what we need in order to truly have the courage and strength to move through life. Thank you for this reminder <3

    Reply
  9. Jewelsann

    Thank you for your post. Ever since I found you at own p, what you say has always resonated with just what I needed to hear at that moment. This one even more than most. Empath but surrounded by the opposite (very masculine energies that say “just toughen up”) so different from my souls understanding of life and I needed to be reminded that sensitivity is a strength even if those around you don’t value it. I have already listened to the Kacey M. song about 10 times. Much needed. Thank you.

    Reply
  10. Kristen Burge

    Thanks so much for this message on comfort and compassion/self-compassion during this transitory and challenging time. I’ve noticed how I often default to the masculine in trying to force and bully myself in spiritual practice, then today I heard a message that said “live in your heart.” I think it is the feminine side of compassion and comfort coming to the surface asking to be heard and heeded.
    Yes to holding the paradox — thank you for so beautifully conveying <3

    Reply
  11. tara v

    a revolutionary hug! thanks.

    Reply
  12. Patricia Philippe

    If I knew then what I know now… It’s been a roller coast ride I wish I could get off but also curious to see where it’s going.

    Reply
  13. Linda Kwan

    Your words are so beautiful and well-spoken, Lissa. I love how it can give us a voice when we don’t know the words ourselves, and we can feel comfort through the supportive energy of love felt so gloriously here. I subscribe to the Inner Pilot Light and it’s such a wonderful way to greet the morning. Thank you!

    Just started listening to the Kacey Musgraves song and it’s been on repeat. The lyrics remind me of a poem by Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet. It’s long so i’ll just put the link here, with a short except to whet your appetite. 🙂 It’s all about unity and onenness and love! i think you will all enjoy!

    https://www.katsandogz.com/oncrime.html

    “Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.
    But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you,
    So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.
    And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
    So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
    Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self.
    You are the way and the wayfarers.
    And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.
    Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.”

    Reply
  14. adriana parente

    httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xjejSQ6JYE

    Reply
  15. Annette Barby

    Thank you Lissa for your beautiful words of comfort, I can’t tell you how timely this post is for me right now. Lots of love ❤️ & gratitude xoxo

    Reply
  16. Joanna

    Thank you for this. I am finding that I can hug myself in ways that help me to soften and surrender. This is especially helpful in the middle of the night when I so often feel alone.

    Reply
  17. Tracy Steen

    Thanks so much for all if your posts, Lissa. I feel such comfort and understanding when I read them, and I especially LOVE the Inner Pilot Light daily emails. My self care/self-love stuff is really beginning to take off this year, and I know that it’s in part from reading your wonderful works. : )

    Btw-I love the idea of cuddle puddles! One of the hardest things for me I the past few years has been not having enough physical touch (non-sexual). I got divorced in 2013, and moved back to my hometown-then two months later, my Mom passed away. My Mom and my ex were the main people in my life who I got affection from, and now that I’m near my Dad’s side of the family, it’s very rare to receive hugs and other things like that.

    At first I was in such a dark deep depression I didn’t notice what was missing from my life, but now I am coming out of my cocoon and realizing that there is no one who I can go to for hugs (except for the ladies at my support group and that’s nice, but not enough to fill my tank). I’ve often thought that it would be great to have a site where you could go to meet others (like a dating site but for friendship) and find people who are in the same boat. Not sure if that exists, but perhaps one day it will.

    In the meantime I’m learning to love myself and praying that one day I will have good, healthy, loving friendships with plenty of affection to go around! I’m very good at being there for others but now I need comfort myself, and I’m glad that you’re in the world, helping us all to get to where we need and want to be.

    Thanks for listening!
    Tracy

    Reply

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