I love the Leonard Cohen line from his song Anthem:
"There is a crack in everything... that's how the light gets in..."
But there’s something more.
That crack is actually where the light shines from. I’ll take it even further: that negative feeling is the light inside of us struggling to get out.
And if we simply “get rid of” the negative feeling, we lose our access to that light.
That's a problem!
Let's take a closer look.
We are born with a certain fundamental knowing of how things should be. What do I mean by that? I mean such fundamental things as: a baby is born ready to be nourished, held and loved. When that is provided, the right next developmental steps occur in the baby’s life – Baby thrives.
When that is wholly absent, life comes to an end. When it is partially there, life limps along as best it can.
My mentor Ann Weiser Cornell gives a poignant example: A girl reaches for her father's love, and it is not there. What is implied in a child’s reaching for love is that there is someone to reach back and meet it with love. So what happens when what is implied does not come?
The painful, unfulfilled and unfulfilling reaching continues. A reaching that appears as compulsive good behavior. Or as compulsive achievement. Reaching. Reaching.
Alternatively, there is a turning away from the pain of that reaching: “Who needs love? Love is just a lie, anyway. Achievement is enough. Money is enough. Being alone is enough.”
Somehow, relationships never work out. Perhaps there is a chronic anger. A chronic sadness. A chronic sense of disappointment. A chronic sense of emptiness.
What was implied so long ago remains unmet. There is a sense that something is missing. There is a hole here.
This is the crack.
But where’s the light?
Before answering that, another question:
What is the core reason that an initial need remains unmet in our lives for years, for decades, with no relief in sight?
What happens is that we make every effort to avoid the experience of the crack. In the case of very early disconnects, we actually structure much of our lives around avoiding the experience of this crack.
Our two basic strategies for avoiding an experience of the crack
When we disconnect from our bodily experience of what is missing, we disconnect from the reality of how this “missing” lives in us right now. We cannot reconnect to our here-and-now life energy by connecting to an idea of what the past should have been or what the future should be.
It is only through our here-and-now bodily reality that we can reconnect to what lives in us right now – in this case, a reaching for love and wanting to be met. And when we connect with our living experience of that reaching for love, only then does it have the power to live into a new way forward for us now.
That crack of negative feeling that we are experiencing now is the keyhole that can unlock a new way forward to fulfilling what is needed in our lives.
So just feel the fear and do it anyway? If only!
Most of us have painful cracks like these – some of them small and recent, some so huge and lifelong that we have structured our entire lives around avoiding them.
And no wonder!
These cracks develop when we are quite young or later on at times when we do not have the necessary resources for dealing with the disconnects we are encountering.
This makes the prospect of tapping into them anew feel very raw, overwhelming, dangerous.
“Light coming from that crack, you say? That light is obviously coming from the three-headed, fanged, razor-clawed fire-breathing all-devouring monster that is currently locked behind that door. Hopefully, forever.”
So what to do?
Focusing is about staying with an experience of the first inkling of the crack – that painful, negative feeling – long enough to allow it to find a fresh, brand-new way forward for itself.
The tools of Focusing help us find the sense of inner spaciousness and safety that allow us to do just this.
We need to find a new relationship to the pain, to the crack.
Finding a new relationship to the pain begins by remembering who we are.
Who are you?
You are the compassionate awareness that can be WITH whatever arises in your experience.
When you come to know this, there is a shift. Suddenly, you are bigger than the experience of the pain.
And when you have the bodily experience of being bigger than the pain, you have the strength, spaciousness and sense of safety to be with that pain, just as it is.
Slowly - sometimes, swiftly! - as you rest within this spaciousness, that painful place relaxes. It stops feeling like a fire-breathing monster that you must avoid at all costs.
It transforms into a friend in pain letting you know just how lousy life is feeling right now. You don’t give her advice. You don’t tell her she’s being a wimp, just suck it up!
No, you’re her friend. You sit with her companionably and listen.
And as you continue to sit with her, just listening, with your loving gaze turned toward her, you notice your friend’s back straightening up; you notice a new energy – a new sense of clarity there.
You get the distinct feeling that she’s starting to find her way.
PS: Would you like to spend 10-15 minutes experimenting with coming into right relationship with your own stuck situation? This link will take you to a page where you can do just that...
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