Being “spiritual” doesn’t mean we have to suppress our feelings... [(and doesn't mean to become saints)]

We would like to be more compassionate, desireless, and pure in our thoughts and feelings. But what if we have a strong attachment to something in our lives – a dear friend, a prized possession, or great wealth? And what if it is suddenly taken away? How will we react?

A very natural, human response would be sorrow, anger, and regret.

These feelings are perfectly natural, even if we don’t think of them as “pure” and saintly. And as devotees, it serves us not at all to be at war with ourselves – to pretend that we’re not feeling them, or to hate ourselves for feeling them. “I should be more detached. I shouldn’t be feeling this anger and grief!”

When we find ourselves having feelings that don’t match our concept of perfect saintliness, it does us no good whatsoever to be angry with ourselves.

It’s bad enough that you’re angry, or you’ve suffered a loss – if you go to war with yourself, you’ll have the original pain and a complex of turbulent feelings on top of it.

Swami Kriyananda had the ability to be everybody’s friend. Over the years, I saw how even if two people had completely opposite points of view, he could be a true friend to each of them.

Years ago, I was in charge of a project at Ananda Village, and I was convinced that I knew the best way to carry it out. But some of the people on the project were totally opposed to my approach.

Through it all, Swamiji made each one of us feel loved and supported. I remember how he told us: “I understand why you feel that way.”

I thought it was wonderful how he accepted us as we were. He conceded nothing – he wouldn’t bend the truth. But he understood why we would feel that way. And even if we were wrong, he saw us as God’s children, and he was always on our side.

Reflecting on this, I realized that it’s a wonderful way to respond to our own feelings. You can tell yourself: “That situation in my life, that person in my life, that experience – it was so precious and wonderful, and now it’s gone. I’m feeling very hurt and sad, and I understand why I’m feeling this way.”

Giving yourself permission to feel exactly as you feel, in complete honesty, is the start of being able to change yourself and improve your situation. “Am I happy clinging to this sadness? Is there some way I can rise above these feelings and move on?”

Something beautiful was taken from you. A deep desire of yours was thwarted. Someone you were relying on betrayed you. “I’m feeling very hurt and angry. And I understand why I feel that way.”

People respond to their pain in various ways. The worst way is to try to run away from it, or to try to dull the pain, or pretend that you aren’t feeling it.

You do feel it. And if you deny it, it will only keep pestering you and you’ll have a complex.

The best approach I’ve discovered to deal with unwelcome feelings is to have a sense of proportion.

When we suffer, it’s because we’re so completely focused on the pain that it’s consuming our vision.

Isn’t it true? Someone we loved has died, and now their absence is all we can see. A desire was unfulfilled, and all we can see is a big hole in our heart.

I knew a woman from Nicaragua who suddenly went from being a member of the wealthiest family in her country to being on welfare. The family’s way of life was completely destroyed by the government.

I met an Iranian woman who was working as a store clerk. She told me how she’d grown up with so much wealth that she never had to pick the clothes up off the floor, because her servants took care of everything. And now she was working as a clerk.

She was deeply unhappy, and there was no way to soften the tragedy. It would have been meaningless to say “That’s not so bad. You used to live like a queen, and now you have a dull job. But at least you have a job. You shouldn’t be upset about it.”

Let’s face it – there it is, and it isn’t gray or white, it’s absolutely black. And if someone you love has left your life, it’s black, and don’t try to say that it isn’t. It’s black.

But then the question arises, where does this tragedy sit within the vast borders of your life? You can’t erase it, but maybe you can make a bigger frame around it.

If you’re holding it in front of your nose, you won’t be able to see anything else. But if you hang it in a bigger frame, it won’t change, but the proportions of your life in relation to it will become much bigger.

This is something you can do consciously. Of course, you should practice when it’s easier. But you should always try to see your life in the right proportion. This way, you won’t be suppressing your feelings, and you won’t be trying to medicate yourself with meaningless words. “Oh, everything happens for the best. It was perfect the way it happened.”

“No, actually, it wasn’t perfect. It was really, really lousy that it happened, and I would never have chosen it. However, I had many good years before it happened. And perhaps God is sending me a new reality that I don’t yet understand. In any case, I’ve had countless experiences of how God has helped me in difficult times. All of my love was focused on this person I’ve lost, and now I have an opportunity to focus my love in a broader way.”

When a friend of ours lost her husband, people naturally expressed their sympathy. “I’m so sorry that your husband passed away.” And she would reply, “He wasn’t my purse that I left at the market. I didn’t lose him! In fact, I know exactly where he is. He’s just not here with me anymore.”

She was a spirited woman. But she was also very sad. She was extremely sad, because she and her husband had had a very happy time together.

He’d been ill, and she had no idea that he would be going to the astral world so soon. It completely shocked her. It absolutely stunned her when he went away. But as a consequence another life opened for her.

She realized that it would be dishonest to insist that her husband’s death was her only reality, when her reality was so much bigger.

It’s important to admit, when you have pain, that it may very well make you weep. To overcome the pain doesn’t mean that you don’t weep. Even the masters weep when bad things happen. At the same time, our pains are a wonderful incentive to find a greater reality.

The nature of duality is that it forever swings back and forth between happiness and tragedy. And how can we deal with this inexorable fact without becoming terminally depressed? We can say, “I understand why I feel this way, but I don’t want to live with these feelings as my only reality. I want to live in a much greater reality.”

Read on


How do you feel, and how do you intend to deal with it?

Time to let go!

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  • This is a wonderful post.  I totally agree that supressing one's feelings and emotions, or feeling somehow that it makes you somehow less by being open and honest with your deep feelings can do more harm than good.  My life experiences have helped me find that suppressing grief especially can really tear you apart far worse than letting the emotions, grief and pain come to the surface so that you may deal with them and ease the pain and accept what has happened. Trying to be a martyr is not healthy for your soul.  It is ok to have emotions and feelings of loss and express them.  Many of my loved ones have passed over the years, children I had raised as a foster parent, my parents, a husband,  many of my son's friends who were a large part of our lives. Deaths from suicide, kidnap and murder, the murder of my foster son who I raised his whole life, deaths from cancer, death from Alzheimers....  That grief was so difficult to cope with and it just kept piling up.  I was raised that one should not openly grieve, it was a sign of weakness and somehow disrespectful to the dead, so I always tried to keep all the pain inside..Finally I decided that it was ok to let all the pain out because I just simply could not hold it together and hold it in any more, and when I did finally start to deal openly with my emotions, only then was I able to live a happier life and look forward in life instead of living in the past and longing for the past and wishing the loved ones I lost through death would come back to me.  Also due to life situations out of my control I was very angry and bitter about things that had happened to me and I struggled with my conflicted feelings of rage at being a victim but also suppressed all the emotions related to being violated against my will.  It has taken me many years to work through all the devastation and emotional turmoil that was brought into my life.  When I finally allowed myself to talk about what happened and share my pain and my story, then I was able to begin to heal. 

    Excellent post, I will be sharing this.

    • Thank you Marique for sharing part of your life with us. What you have been through would be enough for 10 people to carry but it fills me with joy to read you have overcome all of it. You should be a living example to many out there, to look at and to see that all those painful memories and feelings can be released and it is time now to heal.

      • Thank you so much Ona.  There are so many people who have had far worse troubles than I have and I pray for them daily.  Sometimes one has to just put one foot ahead of the other one and just keep on going no matter how difficult and not look back.  It is far better building a love filled new future, and I try not to look back and have released the past as best I can, for today is all one really has to work with.   

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