Oscar Wilde once said, “The heart was made to be broken.” Yet no one had clued me in to this beautiful, profoundly philosophical, and crushing reality prior to my deepest broken heart.
I remember it like it was
yesterday. Have you been there?
Have you ever felt that your soul has traversed the cosmos with the soul of another person? Have you seen past the physical dimension of a person’s exterior and come to love, and be enjoyed on the level of pure essence? Have you sat on a beach or in a field on a sunny day and held hands and watched the world go by in love? I had felt this kind of love, and when I lost it, I was devastated. I remember riding the subways alone in NYC with my headphones on, only half-willed to continue with life. If you’ve had a love like this, you know what I mean. And if you’ve lost love like this, you know true heartbreak.
Yet heartbreak comes not only from breakup or divorce; Heartbreak comes in all forms, from the loss of a child to the loss of a previous identity. Heartbreak may show it faces when anything we have deeply loved ends, and when it does, our crushed and bleeding heart lays open. In these moments, we face a crossroads in our life. The soul asks, ‘what will you make of this?’ Though we may be in deep despair, we must choose whether we will bury our emotions, whether we will run and hide. Whether we will ruminate and drown in remorse or whether we will stay with it, the living and breathing agony of deep emotional pain, and accept it, allowing it to run its course unhindered.
The master mystic poet Rumi once wrote, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Yet how, in the midst of so much pain, can we open to the light?
These 4 pivotal heart practices can help anyone of us who has experienced the anguish of emotional pain to heal and emerge whole and full of light.
1. Cultivate Presence with your Feelings
Often our first reaction to pain is to subvert it completely. We are prompted by our biological wiring to move away from pain and towards pleasure at every turn. Because of our nature, we may try to numb the pain with substances or to avoid the pain by distraction or sleep. While seeking means of comfort and joy after a heartbreak or loss is necessary and healthy, it becomes a detriment to us when our measures of entertainment or pleasure are used to silence the feelings that need to be felt completely. Rather than pushing feelings down and away, try to experience them mindfully. It’s ok to go slow at first.
Mindful experience of emotions means that when a feeling begins to arise, we allow it to do so. We enable the sensations to occur to us. We notice wherein our body, we are feeling it. This does not mean we have to get carried away by the story behind the pain; it merely means that we give our pain the gift of our awareness and acceptance, and we allow it to communicate to us what we are and what we
In Chinese medicine, there are many channels of energy observed in the human meridian system. There are primary channels, and then there are secondary channels called Luo channels. When we experience a charge or a feeling, it occurs consciously to us in our primary channels. Then, if we redirect the energy into the subconscious, it is diverted into the Luo channels, which represent trauma or emotions going into latency. Once in latency, it is understood that the emotions lost to our first experience can then begin to cause imbalance and disease processes if not brought out of latency and integrated.
Therefore, please take the opportunity to meet your emotions head-on while they are fresh and alive in you. Treat yourself with compassion and gentleness, the way you would treat a small child. Self-love and self-compassion, paired with presence and awareness, is a profound approach to healing emotional pain.
2. Do Breathwork with your Heart
As mentioned before, deep and powerful experiences of emotional pain can cause us to seize up to avoid and numb pain. This includes the heart and the heart chakra. The heart chakra is the energy center that governs all of our love relationships, our hopes, our joy, our heartbreaks, and our ability to give and receive unconditional love.
If emotional pain has caused you to close the heart-space reflexively, breathing techniques can be an incredibly powerful way to open up again and soften the heart. Start by lying down or sitting in a comfortable position. Practice bringing all of your inhales into your heart center while releasing all of your exhales from your heart as well. You may place your hands on your heart or one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Breathe long, deep inhales in through the nose and long relaxed exhales out through the mouth. Intentionally breathing into and out of the heart can help to open up a blocked heart.
Touching back to our first point, be aware of anything that comes up for you emotionally as you do your breathing. Allow the emotions to exist and allow yourself any form of emotional release that feels natural.
3. Let Yourself SCREAM
When we think about emotional pain, loss, and heartbreak, we often associate sadness, grief, loneliness, or remorse. Yet more often than not, anger finds its way into the equation. Many times anger can be a secondary emotion which, because of its ferocity, often stands guard over emotions more vulnerable like sadness, fear, or shame. Anger can feel better than the direct experience of shame or hopelessness.
Conversely, some people may be filled with seething rage but may mask it with milder emotions and expressions for fear of losing control to their anger or of doing damage. As you can see, many of us have a troubled relationship with anger in this society. All the more reason to face it and express it.
Yet for many people, anger can become repressed, lodged somewhere deep inside, if we do not find a way to express it safely and thoroughly. For this reason, screaming is highly recommended to release tension and emotional pain. To activate your vocal cords, lungs, and voice in such a powerful action has a way of shaking loose the fragments of stuck emotions lurking in your body and energy centers. You may not even realize how much anger is within you until you permit yourself to express it in a safe container.
So go ahead, grab a pillow, wait until no one’s home, or warn your roommates and then scream your heart out until you feel satisfied. As with doing intentional breathwork, doing intentional screaming may cause an emotional release or surge of emotions that have been seeking expression. Again, welcome and allow it, knowing this is part of the healing process.
4. Move Your Body!
Being sedentary is not only a detriment to your biological health and well-being, but it is also proven to have a profound impact on your mental and emotional wellness. Physical movement begets emotional movement. When we do activities that allow our bodies to be more fluid and active, we also encourage the release of emotions.
Sitting in the house all day, never inhaling a gust of fresh air or feeling the sun’s rays on our face, how can we hope to recover well or process our emotions? Exercise can be as simple as dancing in your house to music that moves you, taking a walk around the block and back, visiting a nature trail, climbing a tree, or doing a structured workout. Getting motivated to move or exercise when you’re in the depths of emotional pain can be extremely challenging, but once you get started and get through it, it can be guaranteed you will feel better.
Some emotional pain can require a long healing process, but making choices and habits to inject some joy, energy, and movement into the experience can keep you from falling into the abyss, so to speak.
Go Easy on Yourself
When the pain abounds, it is only natural to run, to hide, to avoid it. Yet if we want to move forward into a future ripe with new joys, new loves, new adventures, new growth, we have to find a way to be with our pain and sadness, to invite it to the table and learn the value it offers us. Take it easy on yourself and commit to giving even just one of these strategies a try the next time emotional pain begins to overtake you. The gift of self-love you will be giving yourself will allow you to come out the other side whole, present, and ready to love life.
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