The universe is the ultimate compassionate teacher. It lovingly makes sure that we walk the talk and serve to our utmost by presenting us with many life lessons that support our growth.
Yet we so often lose touch with this compassion, and get stuck in emotional pain. How do we feel the unconditional love of the universe when someone acts hurtfully toward us? It begins by being willing to go within and take stock of what our hurt feelings reveal. Here is an example.
Someone had done something I found particularly hurtful. Unsure how to respond, I meditated for some time and then prayerfully asked for guidance on the situation. I pulled a guidance card (like an angel card), which read: “Today I identify some of the behaviours that create obstacles to my spiritual growth.”
My mind wanted to dismiss the card as a mistake. Surely the other person was at fault. Then I decided that the card was telling me that the other person was the obstacle to my path. My ego went on a little journey trying to blame and avoid seeing my part in the incident. Luckily, that only went so far. I caught myself starting to feel like a victim. I know that any sense that life is “happening to me” is unreal, a delusional manufacturing of the ego in order to sustain itself. Having checked my ego and its antics, I was left with the need to look at myself more deeply and discover what the situation was teaching me. So I went within and considered how I was choosing to perceive life. I asked myself, “was I living in unattached truthfulness? Or was I validating my assumptions for ego gratification?”
WHY WERE MY FEELINGS HURT?
I discovered that some of my core beliefs needed revision. I was holding onto a perception that I was powerless in some areas of my life. In seeing this, my immediate reaction was self-disgust. “What, me? No way!” passed through my mind, as my ego found the idea of powerlessness intolerable. But as I relaxed in the face of what I perceived to be an ugly beast within me, I came to meet no monster. I found instead a broken, lamb-like little girl who needed my loving attention and care. My heart softened and I opened to her.
As I listened to the stories the child had to tell, I was asked to welcome my own feelings as they were, right then and there. I sat with them all in presence, without the need to fix, judge, push or pull at what was. I said to myself, “So it is. So it is,” and breathed myself into greater wholeness. With this newfound inner space, self-compassion arose effortlessly. In its sweetness, an inner fight melted away.
Welcoming this broken inner child into my heart by accepting her as I found her, I started to feel that a disowned part of me was being brought home. I became more whole. Through this, the energy that had been caught up in my outdated beliefs was set free to in more creative and healthy ways.
I rested in what I know to be true: I am no victim in life. No one has power over me unless I give it to them. Then I had the a-ha moment that was my healing breakthrough. The painful encounter with this person was caused by my finding her expression of feeling incapable and powerless to be intolerable. My perception was the obstacle that the card had highlighted!
My choice to perceive myself as powerless had been reflected back to me in the painful situation. I was brought face to face with what the spiritual master Amma teaches as one of the essential steps for spiritual growth: “If someone is doing something that you find really offensive, check to see whether you are doing something similar to someone else or yourself.”
I came to see that I had been uncomfortable and triggered by the other person’s painful actions because I had not yet accepted ways in which I too was similarly suffering deep down. Though this person’s behaviour was technically hurtful, I only felt hurt because I identified in that moment with being small and disconnected.
The encounter with someone in pain highlighted the ways in which I was attached to the small “me”, busy defending the passing and the temporal as I mistook it for my true infinite nature. So I suffered. If I had been able to be more present and see more clearly in the moment of the exchange – and not through the lens of my preconceptions, wounds and core beliefs – I would have only seen a broken person expressing her own feeling of powerlessness, rather than someone who was doing something “to” me.
HEALING HURT FEELINGS BEGINS WITH UNDERSTANDING THE OPPORTUNITY
I am humbled and empowered in knowing that I am still learning to meet this moment with equanimity and compassion, rather than with judgment or prejudice. I can now feel gratitude for the person whose actions I found so offensive, who I felt was so “wrong”. That person was acting out unconscious pain, her own unseen, broken parts she too had disowned and will someday be called to integrate, love and heal through presence. This person was not only a clear mirror to my own pain, but a teacher in showing me how to love the world and myself beyond condition.
Hurt feelings are not something to “fix”, “forget” or “get over”, but to understand. For most of us, it can be a knee-jerk tendency to say to ourselves “I don’t want to feel that”, and either tuck uncomfortable emotions away somewhere convenient (like in a tense neck, shoulders or belly) or attempt to splatter them all over another person or thing we want to discard. Unconsciously justifying our avoidance in dread that life circumstances will prove our deep fears true, it is easy to turn a blind eye to what we don’t want to see. Yet when we resist the moment, we miss the opportunity to meet our true self, beyond perceptions.
Our commitment to personal growth and healing is actually the most potent form of ecology. Peace on Earth begins with each one of us developing ease of being and inner peace. That is why all aspects of the work at Parvati.org, the nonprofit I founded, to realize MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary, revolve around public education. This strategy creates lasting transformation in the way we all see ourselves, each other, and Nature. It generates the international momentum for MAPS at the speed required, so that we can all live in a cool and healthy world with the food and resources we need to survive.
The universe gives us daily gifts—some painful, some joyful—that teach us how to free ourselves from our limited perceptions and be present for what really is. When we do so, we flower into a love that knows we are one. And we give back to the universe out of compassion for all beings.