What would our world be like if we could all just sit with our sadness?
What would our world be like if our world leaders frequently took time off to sit by a river and meditate? What would our world be like if our CEOs felt it was okay to cry?
Let’s imagine that kind of world.
It would be a world without starving people. It would be a world without bombs, without wars.
Make no mistake, my friends: Such a world is possible.
Such a world starts with you.
SHIFTING TO A SELF-CARE PARADIGM
How do we usher in this new world?
If you’re sad, simply sit with your sadness. No need to smile. No need to run to addictive behaviors. Just sit and breathe.
Just be sad. Don’t worry about others in that moment. No need to pretend you are available to be nurturing to others when you cannot.
You must fill your own glass before you can share with others.
Let’s all just sit in our sadness from time to time. Let’s give ourselves permission to do that.
Let’s sit with our tears. Our heartbreak. Our grief and confusion.
And during those periods, if it feels right, we can phone a loved one and ask for support. We can seek a professional healer. A massage therapist. We can call in sick to work. Take an epsom salt bath. Dance naked in the living room and sweat out the pain. Play some healing music. Do whatever it takes to feel and be present.
Through your commitment to your own healing journey, you give permission to the rest of the world to adopt a new paradigm of self-care and compassion. You help humanity shift.
And … here’s the ironic thing. Once we are reminded that it’s okay not to smile, that it’s okay to drop our masks and be our genuine authentic selves … we often find that what is most genuine and most authentic is a clear space of love.
Even when we find ourselves in the throes of anxiety and depression, what we find, underneath, if we let ourselves surrender to that space of pure feeling for just a little while, is a vast space of love that opens up.
In other words, once we give ourselves permission not to smile, we may find that, rather quickly, we are ready to smile again.
TELLING THE TRUTH OF THE DARK WITHIN THE LIGHT
Chances are, if you are reading this article, you identify as a helper, healer, caregiver, lightworker, or wayshower. You understand, intuitively, that your presence on this planet is a source of inspiration for others. You have deep compassion in your heart and want to relieve suffering.
People like us, we are born to feel. Born to help. However, we must temper that natural inclination with giving ourselves permission to be authentic to ourselves and to always look after ourselves first.
This is not wrong or selfish! By loving ourselves, we build and strengthen ourselves so that we may then go out into the world and use our own life as a testimony to others.
As we love ourselves and set the example, it is important that we remember to tell the truth of the dark within the light.
If we hold ourselves to overly strict, rigid standards about “always being positive” or “always bringing the light”, then we may inadvertently carve a mask on top of our natural face.
The darkness (sadness, grief, etc.) has much to teach us about acceptance and unconditional love, too. The darkness is a wonderful teacher.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s essay “The Dandelion Has My Smile”, he asserts that forcing ourselves to smile when we feel sad is a good practice, because eventually that forcing will become genuine. While I do agree that there are certain situations in life where it’s good to stretch ourselves out of our stale comfort zones and cultivate gratitude even in the worst of situations, I also think that his advice misses the point for people who tend to hold the martyr archetype or those who tend to over-carry for others.
Indeed, I believe that we can go overboard. We can get hooked on “always being the shiny happy one.” We can become addicted to it, in an egoistic way, creating a split between the sad self we feel in private and the happy shiny self we display in public. This can only lead to disjointed, schizophrenic feelings of isolation and despair.
As a highly sensitive person and empath, I have felt for many years that is my duty to smile and make eye contact with everyone I see on the street and in public spaces. And now … I realize the fallacy of that belief.
On the one hand, my intention has been good: I have wanted to use my life, every waking moment, to be a shining light, helping wake others to their own power and divinity. Such an intention has indeed brought great joy into my life.
On the other hand, that day in the park was terrible. (Please see Part 1 of this article.) My obligation to be smiley felt more like a burden than a blessing. I felt like a fake, a sham. More than anything, I wanted to just hold my own hand and not speak to anybody. I wanted to just walk by someone without a word or a glance and let that be okay.
And what I realize about myself is something that many of my friends and clients are realizing, too.
We as human beings have an aching desire to show all the parts of ourselves. Not just the shiny parts.
I want to show the Anya without the makeup. To show her tatters and scars. I don’t want or need to show this side to everyone, of course (especially not the narcissists or those misguided souls who delight in harming others), but I do want to show this side of me more and more to a growing number of loved ones, colleagues, and intimates.
I don’t want to create a false image of myself on this blog or in my life in general.
I want to show the real me to you: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to give you the chance to embrace me for all my facets: my dark, as well as my light.
I want to be real.
SHARING OUR DEEPEST QUESTIONS TOGETHER
As we awaken further and further, we dive into the deepest of questions.
Who am I? What is life? What am I doing here? What is the point of all this?
As I write this article to you now, I am asking: Who the heck is this Anya Light person?
As I pause to sip my tea, I smile, knowing that, ultimately, Anya Light is a label. A concept. A reference point in a sea of mysterious energy.
Paradoxically, when I think of life in this way, my body relaxes. I take myself down off the hook of needing to be perfect, and I can just enjoy my life—just as it is, just as I am.
Is Anya Light always blissful and bursting with light? No. Is she always compassionate? No. A fully enlightened yogini? Certainly not.
Here are some truths about the realities of living as “Anya Light.”
I am the archetypal “wounded healer.” I have come to know healing only through intensely plunging into the depths of suffering.
I have pulled myself out of some very dark holes, and I teach others how to do the same.
These holes that I dealt with can be described as chronic illness, suicidal depression, and PTSD. Even though I am healthier now than I have ever been in my entire life, and even though I facilitate safe spaces for others to heal themselves, I sometimes still have relapses.
Sometimes when I’m lacking food or sleep or when stress hits, certain old PTSD symptoms flare up. On these days, I am sad and frightened, like a little child. (Part of healing from trauma is the undeniable fact that even after the worst has passed, and even after the time has come to let go of the label PTSD, sometimes symptoms still come back.)
The truth is: Anya Light is not always light.
Sometimes I’m so fearful of this crazy world that I hide myself in my apartment.
As an empath, I get super overwhelmed sometimes. I feel too much: the terror, horror, and injustice that is unfortunately commonplace in our modern world. I cannot comprehend it or cope with it!
Why would people pay good money to sit in a theater and watch violence on the screen and consider that “entertainment”? Why would people start rumors and gossip about their coworkers? Why would a parent fail to hug their child? Why would politicians steal money out of pension funds? Why would there ever be such a thing as homelessness? These are the questions I ask that I do not have answers for and that sometimes send my head into a worried, sad spin.
Sometimes … living on this planet is just too much, and I get totally overwhelmed. I hide. I lose my sense of who I am and why I’m here.
But, dear friends, I don’t want to hide any longer! I don’t want to be overwhelmed by the world’s madness. I want to come out of hiding.
I want to say to the world “Hey, I’m sensitive and that’s okay!” I want to show others my tears and fears. I want to hold so many hands. I want to surrender to the light that resides within, no matter how dark that light might sometimes appear to be.
I want to be the change I want to see in the world.
I want to reveal my vulnerability.
I want to let others truly see me.
I want to be the change.
As you ponder what I’ve shared with you, I encourage you to read, re-read, and journal about the following questions. Bring them up with your friends and loved ones. Seek answers, throw out the answers, laugh, and start again.
What is it you desire to experience in this lifetime?
What is your purpose?
Are you willing to show your true self?
Who is your true self?
What are the emotions you’ve quarantined or dismissed as “not evolved”?
Are you ready to come out of hiding?
Are you ready to show the light and dark within you?
How do you want to affect this world?
What is the more beautiful world your heart knows is possible?
Are you willing to show your true face—even without the smile?
Dear friends, I’d love to hear your answers to these questions in the comments. The more we can talk openly about these kinds of questions, the more we co-create the kind of world that makes us proud.
I love you all.