Compassion after the Discomfort

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“People often ask me, “How do we know whether to refrain from something or go toward it?” My answer is, just practice what comes naturally at the time. If the first commitment, refraining, seems like it would be the most helpful, do that. But if you feel that you can keep your heart and mind open a little longer to someone who’s irritating you or triggering your impatience, then follow your instinct and do that. Then maybe, based on having been able to stay open a little longer in that situation, you’ll begin to get a sense of what it would mean to not turn away at all.”
(Pema Chodron, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change)

There is always an after. Even when facing an ending, there is always an after…especially when that ending does not result in turning away. But that after is never the same from one end to another. So, no matter how many afters one experiences, the only thing that can be assured is that “this too will pass.”

But what do you do in that space between the end and the passing of the “this?”

Be.

With Compassion.

For self.

Usually the after indicates some kind of previous struggle…and often, for quite a while. A lengthy struggle can result in many things…depletion, depression, exhaustion, sorrow, grief, resentment, fury, vulnerability, fear, relief, expansion, and many, many more.

These emotions swirled through me after I made my decision to leave. And, they didn’t stop. It’s been three weeks since that decision, and there are still waves that catch me in unsuspecting moments.

Those first few days after the decision were the hardest…trying to wrap up projects, writing up documentation, visiting all my rituals for the last time, still working and keeping a cheerful face even the presence of those who wished me ill. But the most difficult was the goodbyes. I would swing from holding an energetic protective stance with my co-workers to a gut-wrenching sorrow as a student’s eyes welled up with tears.

After a couple days, and many nights of asking for help from the Higher Realms, I re-learned something beautiful…it can all co-exist. I don’t have to swing from one emotion to the other, exhausting myself in the perpetual pendulum. Instead, I can just hold space for me to simply BE in the wash of it all…all at once…all at the same time…immersed…present.

In that understanding, a huge energy of compassion engulfed me, and I opened to receive it…the teary, frustrated, angry, hurt, sad, tender, vulnerable didn’t go away. Instead, I recognized the potentials this force carried if I harnessed it. So, I just rode the wave. And in riding the wave, I allowed myself to fully experience all that the emotion had to offer me. By not resisting it, it carried me forward and up to a higher frequency…and a tiny piece of that emotion fell away…completed.

Breathe.

Hold Compassion.

Ride.

Repeat.

 

The Void

At different points in my life, I’ve experienced what I have recently described as The Void.

I experienced The Void in moments of uncertainty or alienation as a child because I was different from my peers. I experienced The Void in moments of fear as the unknown approached me. I experienced The Void as I anticipated exciting events. I experienced The Void when we returned to the United States and everything I knew no longer existed. I experienced The Void in the moments of continued silence as my anguished cries yielded no response from Divinity. I experienced The Void as my parents divorced, my home disappeared, and my family evaporated. I experienced The Void as I journeyed to new places where I could learn about myself, my beliefs, and what I wanted my life to be. I experienced The Void every time I celebrated a birthday or holiday away from my family and loved ones. I experienced The Void as I faced the abandoning of childhood ways in order to more fully embrace who I knew myself to be. I experienced The Void every time I faced an empty bank account but held bills in my hand…or faced a move to a new job without knowing how it would be financed…or finding a new place to live…and many many many more situations.

At the time, I called these moments The Wilderness Experience or The Truth Facing or The Revealing. I didn’t understand what they were…but I knew they were profound…life altering…transformational.

Recently, I experienced The Void in a completely new, and very disconcerting way. For several months at the beginning of this year, I experienced a complete breakdown of the very essence of my being…the core of my identity in this dimension. Everything that I knew to be true no longer seemed to hold any certainty of truth. All my coping mechanisms crumbled…all my insights dissolved into nothing. The foundation on which I built my identity and my life slowly but surely disintegrated.

Grief overwhelmed me. For three months I had no words…no way to describe my experience…no way to share with my loved ones what was happening. Although surrounded by people, I was, in essence, completely and utterly alone.

And then, I surrendered. I allowed the grief to wash over me in waves and convulsions…even though I had no idea what I was grieving. I allowed the tears to flow…the sobs to clean my heart. I allowed myself to stay present and fully experience the gut-wrenching not-knowingness. I allowed myself to just sit…and be…and breathe…The Void…that space of nothingness…the in-between.

As The Void persisted, I gradually relaxed out of exhaustion. Soon, I found peace in this space…and as I surrendered to the peace, I felt comfort. Not in the warm, cozy way I’ve felt comfort previously. This was much more nebulous. I felt support and endless expansiveness. As I became aware of that space, I experienced disorientation and fear again until I found security in the openness of the support…the potentials. And then, I discovered the gift.

The gift of The Void is creation. In that space between the teardown and the rebuild lies all the potentials. It the place and moment where anything and everything is possible…all you have to do is make your choice. This womb of creation is the ultimate place of empowerment, personal responsibility, self-control, and determination. And, in that space, The Void speaks life, encouragement, enough-ness, being-ness.

Caitlin Matthews calls this experience, an encounter with the Black Goddess aspect of the Sacred Feminine. She calls Her the Black Goddess, not because of a particular color, or that in this form She represents evil. Rather, she calls Her the Black Goddess because She’s elusive, veiled, disembodied, yet “…at the heart of the creative process.” She identifies the qualities of this Dark Mother as being “…immanent and brooding with unknown and unguessable power, or as a Virago, a potent virgin.”

She continues:

The Black Goddess lies at the basis of spiritual knowledge…Our own search for the Goddess is one that is begun in darkness and unknowing. Ours is the knowing ignorance of the child in its mother’s womb: we have to be born, and we are frightened of the extrawomb dimension. Once out of that womb, we begin to be terrified of our origins. But one of the prophecies of Sophia is, “I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places (Isaiah 45:34).” Those treasures of the Divine Feminine lie deep within us, waiting to be discovered.

We have only to consider the mystical experience of the Dark Night, as exemplified by John of the Cross and other mystics. Within the darkness of night or the cloud of unknowing, we discover the heart of our spirituality. This is the seed of experience of spiritual growth, to be held fast in the dark earth, to suffer the coldness of winter, that germination may take place. It is return to the spiritual womb, in which we find the dazzling darkness spoken of by the mystical poet, Henry Vaughan

…This school of dark-night spirituality is found in most traditions that venerate the Black Goddess, not because she is sinister or evil, but because she is the powerhouse from which our spirituality is fuelled. It is a way of unknowing, of darkness and uncertainty. Yet the experience obtained by this path is one of illumination, when the sun shines at midnight…

…We fear the Black Goddess because we project our terrors onto whatever we do not know and what remains hidden from us…Communion with the Black Goddess is usually nonverbal, nonintellectual–it derives through the body itself, for she is our basic prima materia…Our fear of being exploded, diffused, or made chaotic may be our reaction to the idea of the Black Goddess who, like dark matter, “controls the structure and eventual fate of the Universe (John Gribben and Martin Rees).”

The Black Goddess is the mistress of the web of creation spun in her divine matrix.

She is not separate from it, for she is it.

I know this to be true…for I have tasted Her, and She is good.