February 15th, 2018
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
At one time I believed that yoga practice and meditation were all I needed to become enlightened, realized, actualized—whatever you want to call the myth of completing human learning and growth.
Nowadays, I view our spiritual journey here as one of integration, of becoming more embodied and compassionate in heart and mind. And for this, yoga practice and meditation, and other body-mind cultivation practices, are invaluable tools.
For me, they were just the beginning.
During my early twenties, I practiced lots of physical yoga. About five hours a day to be exact, not including teaching it. This went on for years. I also meditated regularly, practiced tai chi, Qi Gong, and spent good long hours in nature.
These body-mind pursuits significantly changed my life. I peeled off many of layers of armoring, and some just fell away. But after years of this intense routine, at about age 23, I still felt as though something big was missing. I still felt angrier than I wished, and that a big part of me was still unfulfilled.
I didn’t know where to turn or what to do about it, as I thought that yoga, meditation, and spiritual practice were slam dunk cures for being human. Eventually, I became passionate about the issue of pain, emotional pain specifically. I wanted to know what to do with it and how to heal it. The couple times I had been in talk psychotherapy up to that point hadn’t been helpful enough, so that avenue didn’t seem promising.
THE TURNING POINT
At the age of 25, after a traumatic accident to my knee (which I healed by natural means, despite being told by two top orthopedic surgeons that I absolutely needed surgery), I entered psychotherapy again. I was referred to a particular therapist multiple times, and after initially resisting, I made the call and went to see her.
This round of therapy was different from the past, as I now had a set of tools I didn’t have in therapy previously: a deep sensitivity to my body and the ability to sit with difficult thoughts and feelings. My yoga and meditation practices undoubtedly helped me this way, and for this, were invaluable in their contribution to what was to become a profound transformation more than I could ever have imagined.
While the body-mind practices undoubtedly helped me “hold” and be more patient with my difficult feelings and thoughts, they couldn’t lead me where I now needed to go. Even the truth-revealing psychedelics I journeyed with numerous times in a sacred inner journey context—while powerful and visionary—didn’t itch that nameless scratch I still felt. In hindsight, none offered much of a clue about the depths I was about to plunge into.
In sessions with my new therapist I was sitting quietly with my body and its pain. I was beginning to learn about and speak its story from a deep place by sensitively tuning into what it wanted to share. Eventually, I intuitively realized that I had to give up my yoga practice, at least for a time. So I did, and it came naturally. The reason for this was that at a certain point, constantly stretching and opening my physical body masked my emotional pain. Yes, it helped expose and expel some of it previously, but at a certain point, it seemed the yoga prevented me from more fully embracing my pain and healing at a deeper level.
This embrace of pain, I later discovered, is what allows it to dissolve. By not reckoning with my pain at the level of emotion and on its own terms, and continuing to “yoga-size” or stretch through its symptoms, I was avoiding what going on at a deeper level.
My “spiritual practices” had become a crutch, if not an addiction, distracting me from the sensitivity and contact I needed with my “story,” with the emotion seemingly locked in my tissues, which I was trying to stretch open, and away. Stretching my body open all the time took the pain away too quickly—the blessed ache I needed to enter into a deeper relationship with the pain stored and backlogged inside me.
Yoga and mindful meditation had served as steppingstones down into this deeper frontier, and it was time to let them go.
My mindfulness practice became focusing on the pain in my flesh, sinews, and muscles—listening, deciphering, and expressing it. My new yoga became stretching into my deep emotional heart.
My return to the therapy room marked what was to be a 3-year descent into my pain body. I would sit quietly on the couch in my therapist’s office, connect with my body, and begin to speak the story of my love wounding, as if it came from my flesh and bones. These wounds also became apparent to me from the triggers in my daily life and added insight to this odyssey through my past.
At first, the story of my pain was an assortment of seemingly disconnected and unrelated parts, as if I were laying cards out on the table just to acknowledge them. But after a few months, the patterns began to reveal themselves. The individual story lines, what I now call the “rivulets of meaning,” began to coalesce into a more complete understanding. I began to get a sense of my core narrative, my core love wounds.
This narrative was a “story,” but not the kind of story that sabotaged growth and kept me stuck. It was the buried story I began to discover, the story of my wounding, and telling it (many times and from many angles) was deeply healing. It’s as if it were written on the wall of my soul and I was reading it for the first time. These are not the kinds of stories that keep us stuck, but stories that heal us.
What transpired over those three years, I later realized, was grief-work. I cried more during this time than I had in my entire life previously, like ten-fold (sigh). During this time, I “died” to everything I had known about myself. It was horrendously painful, but even in the worse moments, there was always a subtle “yes” about it all. I used to describe this feeling as a “halo of yes” around me, assuring me that despite the hurt and the struggle and the misery I was (re)experiencing, the answer was always “Yes . . . keep going, this is what you need to do.”
And I did keep going . . . until one day I walked into the therapy room, sat down as I had every other week for years, closed my eyes, scanned my body, and then, to my surprise, opened my eyes again, looked at my therapist, and said to her, “I think I’m done.”
This three-year stint of once-a-week therapy, and sometimes two or three times a week, was foundational, core emotional healing. I explored the emotions hiding in my muscles and sinew and underneath my triggers. At bottom, was a deep sadness for not being loved as I needed to and for absorbing my mother’s grief, which wasn’t even mine, but passed along through generations to me.
I also vented my anger, which delivered me beneath my anger and resentments, to the very love I didn’t get as a child from both mom and dad. I sunk into those feelings and didn’t leave them for clearer skies until I was delivered there, until the pain I contacted dissolved by way of my fully feeling and embodying it. I cried, wrote, and raged out this pain, until I was done, until it was done with me.
This was my new yoga, and my new guru was my heart’s pain. Those years of deep healing were to become the cornerstone of my life— the beginning of truer happiness, fulfilment, compassion, and love.
Something else also happened when I released this backlog of pain: my creativity blossomed, and never stopped. I have penned some 4,000 poems since that dam of pain broke open, some twenty-three years ago. Here’s a poem written from that period, conveying what I just shared: how staying with the pain and its congealed darkness inside until it was done with me, birthed me into a fuller light:
Rest of Longing
Trust those places
With no way out,
The dark corridors
Of you longing.
In fact, entrust them
More than you give
With fall of night.
Only hidden light
Who waits for you
Can reveal the invisible
Passage from darkness
That leaves nothing
QUESTION YOUR GURU
All my life I have questioned and challenged my teachers when I felt there was more to reveal. In my twenties, before my stint in somatic psychotherapy, I would regularly attend conferences and workshops of all kinds, as well as go with friends to satsangs (truth-conveying gatherings) to meet with gurus (spiritual teachers). I also read as many self-help books as I could get my hands on.
When I suspected that my pain might be emotional, I looked for what would help me deal with it. So I would ask these gurus: “What do you do with emotional pain?”
My friends and the guru’s followers invariably became annoyed with me and my antics. Eventually, my best friend refused to go to satsangs with me because I would create such a stink by pressing the guru relentlessly, drilling down further with each response to try to get to the bottom of what causes our emotional pain and what the hell to do about it.
Needless to say, I never received an answer from any guru that satisfied me. Invariably, none of these “spiritual” teachers spoke directly to what to do with this kind of pain, at least not in a way that resonated with my body and what I sensed I needed. This prompted me to keep seeking.
I now understand that the gurus were “spiritual bypassing”—avoiding difficult emotions by intellectualizing them and leaving the domain of the body. They demonstrated the 3Ds: disembodiment, detachment, and dissociation. For it is in our bodies that we have direct experience with these emotions, and therefore a means to actually heal through them. That’s what I ended up doing in therapy.
So, when I found myself in the therapy room again through a set of synchronistic events, I was again asking what do about my pain. Except I didn’t directly ask my therapist. I asked myself, I asked my body, I inquired with the pain itself, my new guru. My process was self-guided the whole way, by the light of my own intuition. My therapist largely helped me hold space for the inquiry, as well as the safety to contact the frightening feelings I felt buried inside. And she held incredible, loving space! Though we never talked about it, the way she empathized and the way I felt her fully there with me in mind, heart, body, and soul, I had to imagine she had passed through a similar journey herself.
My body-mind—now more grounded and not always trying to work out and stretch away its deeper pain—told and revealed all I needed. In fact, it showed me directly by providing the images, sensations, feelings, memories, and release of raw backlogged emotion that I needed to answer my own question—the same question that I had posed to gurus and spiritual teachers for so many years.
The body-mind cultivation practices were invaluable for this eventual emotional work. Yoga practice helped me peel off defensive layers at the physical-mental level, attune to my body and mind in a sensitive way, tolerate discomfort beyond what I thought I could handle, and enliven my body. Mindfulness meditation helped me focus my mind, tolerate discomfort, and keenly notice my thoughts and body sensations. Tai chi and Qi Gong schooled me in subtle energy flow and being able to sense nuances and shifts in body-mind dynamics. All these were the perfect training ground for dipping into my backlogged emotions and their hidden story to heal my deeper heart.
I’m thankful I now know a lot more about what to do with emotional pain, and I keep growing in these ways, though differently now. In hindsight, it seems that I had a relatively finite amount of backlogged pain I needed to release. When I did release all I could find in my body, I had “caught up” to the present moment, and now had the tools to embody and process my emotions to keep my heart relatively clear from then forward.
I discuss this radical form of self-healing in an audio series called The Nourish Practice.
Of course, all this is the short story of what happened. Suffice to say, I never turned back. And I never turned away from my body’s deep wisdom again (save for many years later when I had to contend with an OCD breakdown wherein my thoughts and feelings were not telling me the truth, but that’s a different story!). My seeking for how to heal the nagging and nameless core dissatisfaction, anger, and generalized pain I felt came to an end.
Since all this went down in therapy some 20 years ago, I have suffered other heartbreaks, more grieving, more challenges. And all these have tapped aspects of my core love wounds and helped me draw out and integrate more healing of the past into the present.
I believe we all have some degree of core emotional work we need to do in order to free our lives, to rebirth ourselves from our painful pasts. For the past can’t be forgotten and lain aside. I have likened it to radiation that keeps emitting pollution inside and through us until we deactivate it. This pain is not inert, but active. When left unearthed and buried inside us, it colors all we feel, think, and do—until we address it.
INITIATION & BREAKING THE CYCLE
Depending on the level of overt trauma, clandestine neglect, and the generational deficiencies in our families, the amount of pain we harbor varies from person to person. So does the unique way we move through it into wholeness. If we don’t clear out the garbage inside us, we tend to lump more junk onto our essential selves and inappropriately dump our shit onto others.
The deep, clearing journey into our hearts is initiatory. It is self-love at its finest and most profound. Reparenting our inner child, which is the final stage of what I undertook in therapy, is to rescue our own blessed light from the dark grip of trauma and pain. It is to become a caring, wise, responsible adult not perpetually dictated by a hurt inner child. It is what allows us to gracefully grow out of being childish while preserving a free-spirited, child-like nature. It is to become the change we want to see in the world, which is one of the core dynamics I explore in my book Climate Cure: Heal Yourself to Heal the Planet. It is foundational initiation into becoming a wise and compassionate adult and a caring, responsible earth-citizen.
Healing our childhood wounds is to break the generational cycle of “hurt people hurt others.”
Being transformed by our core love wounds liberates what I call our “final jewels of being human.” These embodied psycho-spiritual jewels include our sense of meaning and purpose, our wisdom and creativity, our ability to give and receive love, our passion and compassion, as well as our empathy, courage, and overall vitality for life. These qualities often remain stuck within and under the mire of unexpressed and unreckoned emotional pain. If we want a wholehearted, technicolor life, usually we have to go into our pain to liberate the best of us—our finer jewels.
GRIEF-WORK as SPIRITUAL PATH
Grief-work in the context of releasing our backlogged pain is an integral, embodied spirituality and a form of shadow work. It is to revisit the love we lost out on as children. We allow ourselves to feel the sadness and anger, the rage and frustration, helplessness and despair, for how we were overtly treated and for the embodied care we didn’t receive. We allow the tears to flow.
We hold loving space for ourselves to let all this toxic sludge release from us. We nurture ourselves unconditionally in this self-care along with the support of trusted others (therapist, friends, family, pets the natural world) as we can reclaim the rest of the love we are capable of, that which is bound up deep inside us. This is the most grounding, effective, authentic, and practical spiritual path I have ever encountered.
It might seem like a lot to go through, and honestly, it is. Looking back, however, it saved my life. The difficulty of it all is commensurate with the passion and vitality I gained. I would not change a thing, and would do it all over again. And this reminds me of a conversation I recently had with a friend.
She said: “Life is too short to work through all that pain, abuse, and neglect.”
I responded: “Life is too short not to, because lugging around so much grief and pain shrouds and diminishes our lives in every way.”
STRETCHING THE HEART
After passing through this foundational emotional work, my body has stayed remarkably limber, despite my never returning to a steady or deep physical yoga practice again. It seems my tight muscles were in part due to a backlog of unreckoned emotional pain. Just as physical yoga helped me release and clear the way to some of the emotional baggage in my early twenties, the emotional work has helped me remain physically supple.
So powerful was this transformational emotional work that I view my life in two parts: prior to that three-year stint in therapy and after it. It was the workshop of workshops, and to everyone’s glee, it ended my heckling gurus at satsangs (though I still call out spiritual bypassing on social media)!
My life since has been an embellishing and outpouring of giving more love from all that deep cathartic work, all sprung from one burning question about pain. I am forever grateful to myself for staying true to my calling, to my body’s truth, and for those who helped me through it. I couldn’t have done it without support. It was a three year-investment to reclaim the rest of my life, and was itself a beautiful process to undergo, however challenging.
Lastly, you don’t have to stop your yoga or meditation practice as I did. I just wanted share that there’s a lot more to healing than meets the eye. Yoga and mainstream spirituality can get in the way of our growth, unless we’re listening carefully and practicing in a way that not only brings relief but continues to push our comfort zone and our tidy beliefs about healing. I like this general, pithy rule of thumb:
Surrender to transformation, don’t will transcendence.
Transcendence comes as a side-effect from going through the heartache and being transformed, which is to enter the pain until it delivers us out the other side. That transcendence for me is more joy, passion, and vitality which are always connected to my gut, darkness, and unconscious, which fertilely inform my light. This interplay of polarities often manifests as activism and addressing collective healing.
If this sounds like inner work you want to do, I recommend meeting with a body-centered or somatic psychotherapist who is familiar with this kind of work. You might use what I share in this article to engage a discussion. Remember, back in my twenties I didn’t have a somatic psychotherapist; I was the body-centered client who showed up to her practice, and she supported me through my self-guided journey. You can be too, for which you might appreciate my comprehensive educational guide on this subject.
Here are some other resources:
I am also teaching a comprehensive, foundational course on trauma and grief work called Coming Home to the Body: A Holistic Roadmap for Healing the Past to Thrive in the Present where we take a deeper dive into how to embark on this embodied healing path.
Blessings and mercy on your way, whatever your path,
The Nourish Practice
Jack Adam Weber’s “The Nourish Practice” is an easy, guided meditation-Qi Gong practice in radical gratitude and self-love. It is an Earth-based, body-centered practice — at once physiological and mythological — that is deeply relaxing and replenishing, especially for modern-day burn-out syndrome, and requires little physical effort. “The Nourish Practice” resets your nervous system and fosters a rich inner life.
You can purchase The Nourish Practice as a CD or Digital Download here.
The first installment in Jack Adam Weber’s “Emotional Transformation” series, entitled “Healing from Heartbreak”, is also available — a valuable guide to embodying self-compassion, healing and love.
About the author:
Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac. is a Chinese medicine physician, author, celebrated poet, organic farmer, and activist for body-centered spirituality. He is also the creator of The Nourish Practice, an Earth-based rejuvenation meditation, and Healing from Heartbreak, the first installment in his “Emotional Transformation” series.
Jack is available by phone or online for medical consultations and life-coaching.
You can connect with Jack at:
- Website: JackAdamWeber.com
- Facebook: Facebook.com/JackAdamWeber
- Twitter: Twitter.com/JackAdamWeber
- Email: [email protected]
Recommended articles by Jack Adam Weber:
- BREAKTHROUGH — Now Is Our Time
- The Modern Shaman: Fierce Love at the Frontier of Madness
- When We Love an Addict – Courage and the Limits of Compassion
- Arrogance in Relationships: How to Deal With and Heal It
- 11 Reasons Why Hippies (Not Psychos) Should Rule the World
- ReVOLUTION: When Enough is Enough
- Sex – Truth and Dare, Pleasure and Purpose
- Relationships: The Costs of Staying When We Should Leave
- Yin Yang — Ancient Wisdom for Personal and Planetary Transformation
- Heartbreak – Loving Ourselves Through Difficult Times
- SELF-HONESTY: Where All Healing Begins