Opening space for the worst feelings

This morning we're reeling from news of another suicide, Anthony Bourdain--the very embodiment of the life force. It makes no sense. And yet it is. What do we do with this?

To recalibrate I turned to Tara Brach's podcast and listened to her talk about letting go of doing so we can be. Our urge is to manage, to fix things when we feel discomfort--to do things.  But, "when we're managing we're not atuning," she says. And that atuning to ourselves, and our most uncomfortable feelings, is what we need most of all.

We tend to see depression as a problem to solve, right? It's a condition you have to treat, to manage. But what if we saw depression (the condition, the feelings) as something we need to create more space for? 

Let me be clear: I'm not saying we don't need antidepressants and services, because we do. We definitely do. And we need to make them much more affordable and accessible.

But what if instead of pushing back, shutting down, refusing, fighting against, bracing against, saying it must not be--we just let it be for a while? Witnessed it, allowed it some dignity and enough space to express itself? A depressed person hates nothing as much as being told to snap out of it, see the bright side. I can see why that's not helpful.

I am a problem solver by nature. That's one of the strongest driving forces of my being. And I'm wrestling with that lately. One of the hardest things as the mother of a teenager is resisting the urge to jump in and fix things whenever my son feels uncomfortable. It's so hard. 

Yesterday someone else was telling me about a frustration and I immediately went into Well You Know What You Should Do mode. And this person's frustration increased. Finally (it took a while because I am slow to notice these things sometimes), I saw what was happening and I dropped my need to fix. And I just listened and said, "that sucks, I'm sorry you're feeling this." It's hard to hold space for our feelings and other people's feelings without jumping in and trying to solve the problem. But it's worth it.

Let me tell you something I've been experimenting with lately. Whenever I have uncomfortable, sad, anxious, dark feelings I stop and get quiet. I get still and quiet enough for these feelings to take shape. I feel them rolling around and through me--it's deeply physical. Sometimes it's overwhelming, terrifying. But it's always temporary. Given time and space to roam around the feeling transforms and floats away. And I am left feeling more whole.

It's not THE answer, especially for people who experience severe, chronic depression. But I am watching so many people I know coming out about their struggles and wishing we made it possible for them to express these feelings more often, in safe spaces, again without feeling the need to rush in and fix them.

One more question, how do we make space for the dark feelings without sinking into ruminating? That I don't know. Somehow the bad-feelings-meditation is a bit of alchemy, a bit of grace, not something I can control, but it doesn't turn into rumination. Maybe that's because my meditation takes place more in my body, and rumination happens more in the mind.

I'm wishing everyone ample time and space to feel whatever you're feeling, right now, in this moment.

Adriana Velez