We all feel sad sometimes. Perhaps you're mourning the loss of a loved one, perhaps it's sadness over some of the tragedies that are happening around the world, perhaps you feel stuck and don't know how to move forward. Or, perhaps you just feel sad for no reason other than it's a sad day.
Firstly let's explore what sadness really is, as when we realise what is truly at the heart of our sadness, then we are able to channel it positively.
What is Sadness?
The first thing I want to stress about sadness is that it is natural. It comes to all of us as part of the natural process of life; the ebb and flow that comes with living in a world governed by dualistic principles. It is impossible to truly know something without also knowing the lack of it. It may be triggered by something or it may simple wash over us.
Sadness is caused by our observation that things are not okay. A feeling that somehow our reality is unaligned, and doesn't always meet up to the beauty and love that we often feel. It is a playing out of our explorations of our reality, showing us where we may be stuck or attached to people of situations.
The Truth Behind Sadness
When we look a little deeper into sadness we see that there is one underlying feeling governing the whole experience... love. What we are experiencing is a temporary perceived loss of connection to that love, because we have lost the object which triggered it within us. However, when we look deeper, we discover that the love is still there and that our sadness is actually a manifestation of that love. We feel sad because we care. We grieve over loss of a loved one because that person was a object in which we could express our love, we feel sadness about world events because we want others to feel love too. We feel sad when there seems to be no channel for us to express our love, which is our natural creative expression of our uniqueness.
So how can we use our sadness to fuel our creative expression of our uniqueness (love)?
Honour the Pain
It's very important that we recognise our sadness for what it is, and know that it is a manifestation of our underlying feelings of love. That way we don't condemn it, push it away or ignore it. We embrace it as part of our beauty.
How does the sadness want to express itself? Depending on who you are, perhaps you will want to cry, curl up into a ball or stare off into space.
Express the Love
Finding the real you through it all can be extremely liberating. You discover that sadness and happiness are really two sides of the same coin - love. Thus you allow whatever arises, knowing that who you are underneath doesn't change. Then you express your feelings into the outside world letting those feelings of love, whichever form they may take, ripple out.
Your expression may also take the form of gestures, particularly when your sadness involves another person. You may wish to honour a loved one by doing something for them our creating something to remember them by. Here's a heart warming example of a young father who was dying of Cancer and wrote his son a series of letters to be opened throughout his life: When I'm Gone
Watch for the Reflection
Life is like a mirror. As we express ourselves into the world around us, thus we get feedback. This can take the form of reactions from other people - perhaps sharing your sadness, thus connecting through love, or being inspired by your creativity. If love expresses itself purely, without neediness or blame, then people will feel that and reflect it back to you. You can also look out for reflections in nature. Animals express there beauty very well and we can find reflections in them, or even just being warmed by the rays of the sun.
When we take this simple approach to heart we will begin to see amazing benefits:
A Final Poem
In the spirit of creativity, I've written a short poem on the subject of sadness. Enjoy!
Today is a sad day,
But that's okay.
I feel my heart beating with sorrow,
And I know that I am beautiful.
For how can beauty not feel sorrow,
to remind us of how openly we love?
I hear a song and I cry,
Tears that make my eyes glisten.
And looking through this shimmering lens,
I know that I am truly alive.
I am alive and I love.
Update: Click here for an awesome but heart-braking video example of channelling sadness into beauty
The Big Picture
I’m not here to say that there is one big picture perspective that is ‘the truth’. No. The big picture is simply your unique perspective after weighing up as much of the information as possible and, here’s the key, finding a connection between it all. Can you see the underlying pattern behind our global events? What’s really going on?
Of course, seeing the big picture is heavily influenced by our social, cultural and spiritual viewpoints. A white American Atheist is highly likely (but not necessarily) going to see a different big picture perspective to, let’s say a Buddhist monk from India. It’s not important whose perspective is correct. As individual ‘truths’ they hold equal weight. So, what’s your individual big picture perspective? Remember, it is YOUR individual perspective and thus carries equal weight, no more, no less, to others, no matter how misinformed they appear to be.
And never be afraid to stop there. Keep expanding your perspective by asking questions. It is simply your current map of reality, which is affected by your background, experiences and knowledge, and thus should not be clung to – this would likely be an attempt to fix and stabilise our reality. But reality is not like that – it is a fluid entity, ever changing from moment to moment – thus your map of reality can reflect this as much as possible.
The relationship between the Macrocosm and the Microcosm
We see this everywhere: nature, geometry, climate, our bodies, political and economic systems. The macrocosm and the microcosm are reflections of each other. Our actions send ripples into the world around us, which then get reflected back to us. Many people are shocked by the recent election of Donald Trump in America. But, he is a very interesting reflection of two opposing perspectives. Firstly, the consumptive, exploitative, selfishness that has plagued the human race for generations which is finally no longer being swept under the carpet, and secondly the realisation that our current political system just doesn’t work – a desire for change. (For a more detailed explanation of microcosm and macrocosm see this article at New World Encyclopedia.
So, how does this apply to our big and small pictures? Our big picture (macrocosm) is also a reflection of our little picture (microcosm). The question is, how can we work with the microcosm (ourselves) in order to positively influence the macrocosm?
The Little Picture
Do you want to curl up into a ball when you here about all the atrocities happening around the world right now? I know I do. There’s a definite pull to make myself a nice hot mug of Coco and lose myself in a fantasy novel. But, this would be denying my feelings, which want to express themselves. By denying your feelings (the microcosm/small picture) you are simultaneously denying the macrocosm/big picture. You are searching for a way to placate the feelings by reminding yourself of warmer, lighter parts of you. But, this is not how true healing takes place.
Here's a fantastic article on 'spiritual bypassing', which means when we use spirituality to ignore our shadow side, only focusing on 'love and light'. Whether spiritual or not, we have all experienced this at some point.
In order for true healing to take place in these times, one has to confront all the tightness and stress that comes up and move through it. By doing so we attain those coveted feelings of equilibrium, not by pretending that the other feelings are not there, but by finding ourselves within them. This is true alchemy.
So, how might we do this?
Honour the feelings and find the 'real you' within them
It’s of paramount importance that we honour our feelings, no matter how uncomfortable they might be, and that means that we find a way to express them. By doing this we are integrating all parts of ourselves and thus becoming whole. I was blown away by the recent campaign to raise awareness of male suicide in the UK. It can be difficult for men to cry.
Here’s the video.
After we’ve honoured the feelings by expressing them, we can work with ourselves in order to integrate them again into a more equilibrated version of ourselves. Thus, we can ask, what is this event reflecting to me? For example me way witness the apparent rise of racial hatred across the world (finally the outer world is reflecting what was always there in so many individuals – it is just no longer hidden). This can makes us feel angry, resentful and afraid. So, we express those feelings by shouting, crying, writing, singing, curling up into a ball – whatever is right for us as individuals (of course we must take care to do this in a way that doesn’t project on or harm others). But, then we can look at what this is really telling us about ourselves. What it’s telling us is that we care. We have compassion and we want to see the compassion that we feel reflected in the world. Well then, what are we waiting for? The only way this is going to happen is if we express that compassion. Thus we show those who are reacting out of fear that there is another way.
Putting the big picture and the small picture together
To varying degrees we all have the ability to work with the big picture and the small picture within ourselves. Some may see the big picture more clearly than others. Others may be more in tune with and better at expressing their feelings. We can call the ability to see the big picture and thus challenge the small picture as our catalyctic side, and we can see the ability to tune into global and individual feelings and express them as our empathic side. The challenge is first to aware of your overall configuration. Some may be stronger in one then the other. Second, it’s to establish a relationship between the two so that they may work together.
To do this we simply need to get to know ourselves. Fell what wants to come through in any given moment. Do you feel to express a bigger picture perspective or do you feel that the smaller picture wants to come through. Don’t deny either if it wants to come. You will hopefully have a sense that it is the right expression in that moment.
What will you do the next time you hear or read about something that shakes you to your core? Or, more to the point, how will you feel to be?
This is a great video by Dr. Gabor Maté. Addictions can be so binding - we get caught in self-feeding loops of behaviour, and unless the route cause of addiction is understood and worked with it can be impossible to come out that rut. At best we can simply transfer the addiction to something else. It's certainly not easy, not by any means, but in a way it is simple.
The video explains what the route cause of addiction really is, which liberates us by no longer identifying ourselves with the addiction, but by the pain that causes it.
You know what I'm talking about - those moments when things seem to intensify, perhaps seeming to effortlessly flow. Heightened physical senses or emotions bring us directly into the moment. Perhaps time seems to slow down, speed up or cease to exist at all. You forget about anything else but what is going on right now and you feel vibrant, like you are exactly where you need to be.
What causes these moments of feeling alive?
Certainly, some of these experiences can be explained by the fight or flight response - adrenaline flows through us increasing our sensory perception and awareness. Perhaps, you or a loved one is in a life threatening situation, or perhaps you are going to that all important job interview. Perhaps, you are competing in a sport, striving the play the best you can.
We see this in children all of the time. There's no need to hold back expression because of fear of what people may think, or a need to control emotions. There's no 'plan of action' - just a spontaneous flowing of expression.
What makes me feel alive?
For me there are many things that cause this feeling. It comes when my ego gets out of the way (thus it is possible to feel this all of the time), and goes when I am stuck in desire for something, or placating myself with entertainment. It's when I'm completely engaged in the moment, with my entire being. I doesn't even have to be a positive thing that I'm doing - sometimes crying or doing something that pushes my comfort zone has the same effect.
Here are a few personal examples:
I feel immensely alive when interacting on a deep level with others. Perhaps it's a deeply sincere conversation, sharing our innermost feelings, or perhaps through play, dancing, singing or making love.
Feeling alive in tough times
I've heard many people say how alive they've felt during times of adversity. I remember when I first began to feel this - it was when I had crashed my car, which I needed for my business at the time. Making space to overcome the hurdle felt truly empowering!
If we can enter into these times with awareness, and not seek to avoid them, then we can find that these are opportunities for us to really feel who we are. We can rise to the challenge, and the rewards are priceless. It's in times of darkness that our light shines the brightest!
"It is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning how to dance in the rain!" -Openhand
A quick note on entertainment
The allures of entertainment are dangerous. Of course, our whole society is geared towards making us dependent on entertainment. It is the way we are taught to relax and unwind after a stressful day. And there are many things that we can gain from books, TV, sports etc if we are awake enough, but most of the time they are simply used like a tranquiliser - a way of forgetting ourselves and our lives. The danger is that this becomes an addiction, just like alcohol, as we placate ourselves with every free moment where we suddenly find we have nothing to do. Do you feel truly alive when you're lost in entertainment?
Formula for 'aliveness'
To put it in really simple terms, I see the feelings of being totally alive as something like this:
Being in the moment + (personal expression - ego attachments) + connection = Pure Life
What makes you feel totally alive?
Now I want to hear from you. What makes you feel alive? How does it feel to you?
My name is Richard. I love to write, and here you can find my general musings, observations and articles. Enjoy!
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