Like most people, I have experiences with my family that make me feel some intense emotions. These experiences always feel so dynamic, so immediate, like everything is contracting around me, when I'm in the thick of them. It usually feels like it's all there is, as if I've never felt anything before and will not feel anything different ever again. There's an overwhelming infinity to them, which will suddenly break and I will wonder afterwards why I allowed myself to be so consumed by it.
A lot of these experiences center around a close relation that has a mental illness. The experiences I've had with this person have shown me not just about them, their struggle, and their journey, but about me also.
I have not always responded with kindness, compassion and love to this person. I have sometimes been too angry, and other times, been too passive, feeling powerless, and done other things that I think of with regret. I know there are a lot of people who say regret has no place in a spiritual life, but I beg to differ.
Regret tells me I don't like how I reacted, and that I would like to choose different the next time. Regret tells me I let my ego get in the way of choosing love instead of fear in the moment. Regret tells me I am capable of self-reflection, which is key to a spiritual life. I am growing, learning and living life, full on and full in, right along with everyone else. Regret only becomes a problem when we do one of two things (or both), which is to hold onto it and only it, and never get to the learning part, or, when we mix it up with feelings like guilt and shame, which do not serve us, but only muck up our energy.
Recently, this person came to visit for almost a week. When they were here I felt my world contract. Everything became focused on them. Sometimes the focus was on what they were doing. Other times it was on how much they were annoying me, and how all I wanted was my space back. I know, I know. This is not kindness. This is not compassion. This is me focusing on my own self-interests. But I have come a long ways in how I interact and react with all of this. Setting boundaries and not ratcheting up into anxiety when things go haywire is something I have already worked on a lot with this.
So this person was here, and my world closed in. That feeling of everything pressing in is the opposite of how my life normally feels. I cultivate feelings of openness, peace and calm in my personal space. Having someone come in and shift it all made me agitated. I felt so much TENSION the whole time.
As I felt this, it reminded me of when I read about how a string instrument, such as a violin, makes music. When the bow touches the string it pushes on the string, putting enough pressure on it that the string becomes tense. This tension causes the string to vibrate while the bow is pulled back and forth. This vibrating disturbs the air around it, and the vibrations, or disturbances in the air, go out to us. They vibrate the hairs in our inner ears, and we hear this as sound.
None of this, when being described, sounds pleasant.
Pressure, tension, disturbance.
But then the bow lifts and the angelic music of the violin drifts out and it's... perfect. And then you add in other instruments, a cello and a harp, and all that tension together harmonizes. Soothing and beautiful sounds merge together to create something that nourishes and uplifts our souls.
While I was in the throws of this person's energy, I was feeling that pressure. I reminded myself that this wouldn't last forever, and that when I had my space back, I would appreciate it in a way I hadn't in a long time. And when that time came, yes, it felt like sweet, sweet music.
I know that without this person, my spiritual journey would have much less color and depth to it. It's easy to sit in a room, breathe deep, meditate and call myself a spiritual person. It's another to feel someone right up in my space, throwing my world into disarray, and to see everything that goes with it, the anger, the powerlessness, the tension, the chaos, and ultimately, the quest to feel unconditional love, as a part of my spiritual journey also.
There is beauty in the quiet and the calm. There can also be beauty in the tension and the pressure, particularly when we see them not as obstacles to life, but as experiences that enrich life, asking us who we are when we are faced with all of life's most colorful aspects.