I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds that their life story has felt more an ongoing pain drama than one of joy and peace and light. People will say it is a choice and of course it is, but, and it’s a big BUT, it can feel as if the choice is taken out of our hands sometimes.
So, who would we be without our pain and suffering?
This is very similar to the question the teacher and author Byron Katie asks: ‘Who Would You Be Without Your Story?’
Lying in bed this past weekend I was thinking about my mental health blog, my books and my podcast, and after experiencing quite a profound session on something I am relatively new to, called The Emotion Code*, I felt myself in quite a dilemma in thinking.
Where does my inspiration come from if I am without pain or suffering?
And I must be honest, I am still thinking about this because I have not known a time in my creative life when it has not been filled with pain and suffering. And while it’s true that some of the greatest poets, writers, artists and creators have creations that are born out of suffering, what if we want to keep being creative without the suffering?
Will we still have a voice and where does this voice come from?
I have an inkling that I’m about to find out; a feeling that it’s from a much deeper part of me that has known deep suffering, but that I can also step back and understand it better, because when I am drowning in too much pain, my creativity also takes a downward spiral. For example, I could not do last week’s podcast because I was so emotionally and physically exhausted from caring for my best friend, which had triggered fears of losing him.
So, I needed to think about this further and after some research I discovered much more empowering views on creativity and self-expression.
“In the West many people believe that creativity comes from torment, while in the East there is more of a tradition of great art coming from balance and realization.”
(A question from the organisers of ‘The Creative Journey: Artists in Conversation with the Dalai Lama on Spirituality and Creativity’)
I think in many ways creative people in the West have been programmed to believe that we can only do our best work when we suffer. I know I have. And how many of us believe the saying that great artists die young? So many musicians for example were in mental health turmoil, dying from addictions, yet seen as immeasurably creative and talented before they committed suicide, accidentally or deliberately.
So, do we stay in physical and emotional poverty simply to keep being deeper and more creative in our art? Or can we get past this and like those in the East begin to understand that great art indeed comes from balance and realisation?
Can we change our view on creativity and thereby let ourselves off the hook and in doing so allow expression to come from being courageous instead of coming from our own misery.
As I write this, I feel fear arising. While I try and shift my perspective on this, a deeper part of me wants to hold onto the pain because it feels that I am nothing without it, but a newly growing part of me is saying, ‘It is time to let pain and suffering go, I am so much greater than this’.
Perhaps it all comes down to our definition of success or happiness. We still have this inbuilt need to create more instant gratification rather than consistent and more sustainable peace and wellbeing.
A Release Ceremony
I almost feel that I need to grieve and create a ceremony of release for the suffering self and story, a rite of passage to give myself permission to let it all go. Much like moving from being a teenager into an adult, not knowing what the world will bring or how I will handle all the new but knowing that I must take this journey.
I’ve been talking a lot about loss and grief lately in my blog posts, but I never thought about grieving the loss of the old story as we choose to let it go and allow in greater harmony and balance instead.
During my Heart Code session with an online practitioner she cleared a lot of old emotions that were trapped in my body, all stemming from one health issue called Rhinitis. It was so accurate, so timely and a part of me was questioning how she was able to do this releasing so quickly. My mind was saying, ‘Shouldn’t it be more difficult? Take more time?’ And I soon realised that this was my old story talking, thinking that I needed to endure all the pain a little longer, not thinking it was possible to let so much go.
I think the more we suffer the more we need to question the suffering and whether it serves a purpose anymore and whether we have secondary benefits from the suffering.
And now I see we also need to ask if we are afraid to be without the story we have been living?
Do we perhaps equate peace and harmony with stagnancy and boredom?
Do we fear that the pain or suffering is who we are, making us reluctant to let it go or to even believe we can let it go?
Not easy is it? Or perhaps it is easy, we just don’t think it can be easy and therein lies the problem.
I’m so grateful for the pain journey, it has served me well. Yes, it has been agonising, yes, it has been crippling at times…yes it has protected me from perceived change that was scary or made me think I would lose those I loved … It served a great purpose, but how about now, should I hold a grief ceremony for pain? A gratitude ceremony for suffering? How alternative is that?
To give ourselves permission to both grieve and give thanks for the story that held us safe for so long?
What would your grief ceremony look like?
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*Please note I have one affiliate link in my post for The Emotion Code