I have been thinking recently of relationships – firstly of how I relate with myself – what is the tone of my inner voice and the quality of my attention. Just how much judging and doubt I bring into it – that mostly starts just as a tiny voice that simply wants to be heard. And also about how I relate to the people around me – especially my daughter Anjali.
At eighteen months, Anji has gone through a new development these past couple of weeks–that of developing emotions and their wider range – and with it, the struggle to hold them. The frustration at things not going her way, the disappointment when things end, and pain that she can’t have all her desires fulfilled. At 5.30am, she doesn’t understand why she can’t go out and see the construction (‘uction’ as she calls it…) And she can’t understand why after she had such a great time with her friend Tali yesterday, she has to leave and go down for a nap. Even though nap she did.
And when she woke up and Tali was not there, she cried. Normally my way of relating to her crying would become to make it about me – how I’m failing as a Mother or not doing the right thing for my daughter. Oh the helplessness of watching one’s child cry and not being able to fix it. But here was the opportunity for teaching empathy and compassion.
So yesterday when she cried, I held her and I gave her the words: ‘Anji upset, Anji crying. Anji miss Tali’. She cried some more and repeated ‘Tali Tali’. I listened and nodded and murmured my understanding. I held her some more. ‘Yes, miss Tali’. A few moments later, the crying gave way to whimpering. And soon after, it was replaced with the delight of playing. The tears were forgotten in jumping on the sofa and reading Danny Digger’s truck.
That was a breakthrough for our changing relationship and a valuable reminder for me yet again – that when we are pain, all we need is a simple acknowledgement and understanding. We don’t need fixes and we don’t need solutions. Just being heard is enough.
So when we sit with our own pain and breathe with our heartbreak, that’s what we do. We listen. We don’t react and we don’t try to figure it out. We listen deeply, attentively, and caringly. Our hearts feel like they are going to break, but we keep listening. And then something miraculous starts to happen. Our hearts start to open. The pain starts to feel sweet like wine because there is compassion. And tender like the morning after rain. And in that silence, we see the beauty of our longing for connection, peace, end of suffering and freedom. In that instant, we become free. Free to experience life in the moment – free to be present and make room for joy, gladness, peace or whatever emotion arises next. Joy too will not last forever, as nothing will, but we will be a bit wiser, a bit more gentle with our pain the next time around.
Wishing peace, S.