The end of a marriage, a cancer diagnosis, the destruction of nature, a politician who does not share your values winning an election, how on earth do we bring love to these experiences? Love finds an opening into painful places when we find a willingness to be present to what we are experiencing. The more presence we bring and the deeper into our experience we go, the more love can come through.
The journey of bringing love to painful places begins within. The type of presence required is one that does not resist or cut off from or indulge in any part of the inner experience: the thoughts, the sensations and emotions, the needs, values, and longings, and the disowned parts buried in the Shadow. In fact, this presence welcomes each part with care, curiosity, and empathy, and then looks for what lies below.
When you have found an opening for love inside, you will have a better chance of finding an opening for love with people and experiences that are painful or frightening for you. Without finding the opening inside, you will be left trying to fight or cut off from people and experiences that are challenging for you.
When venturing toward difficult places, it is helpful for me to focus on the small steps I can take. I often feel powerless when I focus on the results and outcomes I want. For example, it is very possible that, in my lifetime, I will not see the kind of large-scale political system that I believe would really serve humans and all life. And I am doubtful I will see many leaders who are leading in ways that I want to be led (I’m not sure it is possible to do in our political system and economy). But I can bring my full presence to the judgments that come up for me in regards to our current systems and leaders, and then see what lies below. I can bring my full presence to the feelings in my body, and then sense further. I can follow those feelings with my presence and connect to my needs, values, and longings, and then go deeper. And, I can search in my shadow for the parts of myself that are being mirrored to me that I have not yet claimed and integrated. With enough support and commitment, I trust I can bring love to my most painful places (though the journey might take longer than I want it to). The deeper I go, the more energy, creativity, and power I have to contribute to creating news systems for life; and the more empathy, openness, and creativity I can bring to those with whom I am in conflict.
If you get stuck or lost or can’t find any opening to love, please be gentle with yourself. I get stuck and lost too. It is a journey for me in which I take the steps I am able to take, get stuck or lost, find help, and take some more steps (while trying to remember to appreciate myself for my efforts and have compassion for myself when I’m stuck or lost). The harder or more intense the experience I am trying to bring love to, the longer the journey tends to be and the more help I need.