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I’m standing in front of the electric stove in my childhood home looking at the burner. I want to grill a cheese sandwich and am waiting for the heater coil to be ready. I couldn’t tell if it was hot enough yet, so I put my hand on the coil and learned it’s hot real quick. I burned my hand enough to be treated professionally. Something I’ll never do again.

Physical pain hurts a lot in varying degrees. I learned an important lesson – don’t check if something is hot by touching it.

Pain is in my life because I am human. I can’t live life without it. As a child I learned about emotional pain, though I didn’t know what I was experiencing. Emotional pain, I think, hurts more than physical pain because I can’t see where it hurts, only feel the intensity. I didn’t know how to remedy my pain as a child so I embodied it and there it stayed for years.

Unresolved pain hung onto my body as I grew. It stayed with me like a well-worn habit I got so used to that I forgot it was there. My mind has the strong ability to recognize pain, stuff it back down and turn away so it becomes a part of me.

Time marches on and the scenario continues. At some point I recognize I’m getting tired of dragging around all this old baggage, and I try to put the baggage down but it has something to say so it won’t leave. A tug of war happens until I give in, sit down, listen and acknowledge pain’s plight. This acknowledgement is my healing. Forgiveness is important too -- forgiving myself for doing my best in the confusion and forgiving others who are wounded while thrusting their pain at me.

I have spent about 40 years unpacking my baggage. It’s a process I have grown familiar with, recognizing the distracting side roads rising up as choices I could take into my ignoring behavior again. My memory of the pain helps me know I don’t want to go there. Making that choices helps me find my way back to my center affirming my wish to remain unpacked.

I also recognize opportunities for new baggage if I choose and the old pain helps me remember, I’m not willing to lug this around for a while. NOT MY JOB! Pain has helped me remember not to repeat. Thank you, pain. Maybe you are in my life for a reason!

Life Here on the Edge

When love lights a fire in the heart,

don’t be so quick to quell the flames.

To be fully alive is to welcome the

Beloved in countless names and guises,

not turn away the wild with the tame.

Drink your fill of longing. Let

love wash through in waves that

lift you up and carry both your

daring and your fear straight

to unknown places. Yes, there

is danger in not staying safely

cloaked in morality and labels –

But there is life here at the edge,

and a choice to be made between

thoughtful abandon and passionate

restraint. The plaintive cry of the

heart can be ignored only at the

price of a fully realized life.

Throw arms wide to possibilities

that move and call you to come

forth in freedom and in fullness.

Trust the seed of grace within to

blossom without sin or sorrow,

for you are surely big enough to

hold the truth as it unfolds.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you so much for leading us through these life lessons and for putting things in such a clear way. Comparing physical and emotional pain is pretty right on. The physical pain is a lot more simple, with the comparison to emotional pain. A family member is going through tough times with people in his life, and I think this will help him see things more clearly and to see what to do.

  • Thank you. Emotional pain -- you remind me of the years of being in therapy and hitting chairs with all my anger, and then talking to chairs and then having the chairs talk back to me. It’s a struggle. It’s easy to say just let go of the emotional pain and your life will be fine, but you really have to walk through it and it’s a hard process. It’s painful, but I’m glad those chairs could take it and I’m glad I had strong therapists who could help me and make a difference in my life. I remember feeling the anger I had. I didn’t want to let it go. I wanted that pain and anger to matter so much, and just letting it go and dissolving it didn’t do it justice. I heard a young woman expressing that same type of anger trying to justify it. And all I could think of was that at some point, you have to let it go. It can be so big and so meaningful in your life to define you, but at some point, you have to let it go. There’s so much more to life than carrying around that pain and anger.

  • I think pain raps us on the knuckles and says pay attention. If it’s physical pain, you try to figure out where it is and what you can do about it or for it. And I think the same is true in a different way for emotional pain. You look and see: am I asking for bread in a hardware store? I love that metaphor. Or am I in a rut and just staying stuck in that? And how to let it go. I did EST way back when it was a thing, and what I learned from that was to let go of my anger at a family member, and I realized I had the power to let it go. And I told my family member I was tired of being angry at him, that I had been angry at him for a long time and I wasn’t going to do it anymore. And it didn’t change him but it changed our relationship.

  • I remember a time when I was so angry, so over the top angry at a family member, at the situation. The anger gave me power. It made me feel powerful. And when you don’t feel powerful, when you feel beaten down—anger was a wonderful feeling. Everything sparkled around me because I had the buzz of energy. We really need to go through the anger, feel the burst, before we can let it go. It takes a lot more effort to maintain anger. I think if I hadn’t felt that effort to maintain it, then I wouldn’t be able to let go. I have been able to let things go a lot more. I needed to feel that tension and burst before I could relax.

  • Anger is powerful. It scared me for a long time so I didn’t feel it. I pushed it away. It was too big.

  • Women are not allowed to feel that. Women finding their voice, coming to consciousness is about feeling their anger.

  • The word that keeps coming up is indignance. I feel a lot of anger in certain areas about certain things. What propels me to action is when I feel indignance, this is about my dignity. I feel empowered by that, other than just anger taking over and not knowing what to do about it. Indignance to me is action-oriented and self-empowering.

  • Yes. Whatever works, as long as you don’t hurt yourself or someone else. To move from that place is so important.

  • I appreciated both readings. Something that struck me in the first reading was the phrase ‘tug-of-war’. I haven’t thought of that phrase in a long time. What came to me about it is maybe I’ve been substituting the word resistance. I hadn’t thought of tug of war. Somehow when you said it, it didn’t come across hyphenated. The word ‘war’ hit me hard. Why would we want to bring that closer? It’s almost the opposite of resistance, it’s pushing something away. And there’s something about a tug of war. This could be something I don’t want and I’m bringing it closer. I’m going to ponder that.

  • That leads me to think of judo, where you use your opponent’s strength to your advantage.

  • In talking about anger, I remember my first therapist pointed out I couldn’t get angry. He wanted me to get angry. He gave me a tape recorder and told me to be alone and yell at the tape recorder. And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t express my anger, even alone. It took a long time to be able to do it. I did it because I got angry at a therapist. She said go ahead, get angry. And I said but it’s irrational, it makes no sense. She said do it anyway, just express what you are feeling. And for the first time in my life, I expressed my anger.

  • It’s funny we are talking about anger in our baggage. But there is sadness also in our baggage.

  • The sadness. I was so repressed as a child and so quiet and so meek. I still carry around a lot of sadness. And you can get so sad, depending on your circumstances, it is hard to express your anger. And you have this whole part of you that is sad.

  • It means so much that the group is willing to be there for me and that the group won’t go away. Like the way we held prayers in our hearts and minds for the friends and people caught in the hurricanes. We don’t know each other but this is a wonderful group.

  • It is buoying, that’s the power of this group. It’s amazing how cohesive this group is, how it breathes together. And it’s open, and we welcome people in, and they come and go. Thank you all for being a part of it.

  • Thank you for being here today. And spending fifteen minutes of your sacred time in honor of yourself and sharing from your heart whether in words or in silence. Have a wonderful day.

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