Contributing writer for Wake Up World
In every heartbreak, collapse, or other crisis I’ve experienced, I’ve become poignantly aware of what I’ll call “fringe benefits.” These benefits include increased vulnerability, openness, humility, honesty, compassion, empathy, self-love, and fierceness—all qualities which easily go overlooked in the midst of a healing crisis.
These psycho-spiritual riches contrast sharply with difficulty and the pain of being cracked open. They get trampled over when a brain and body are scrambling in pain and fight or flight, when our focus narrows and we make a bee-line for anything else, the nearest safe harbor. We get busy, even frantic, to distract from our pain, and we become less inclusive as a result. Some of this reaction is helpful, some other part may be an unconscious knee jerk to fear, as opposed to resting in the fear itself, from which we are also able to contact the fringe benefits, which seem to come out during strife—as stars do in celestial darkness.
In these trenches, I remind myself to slow down, to move counter-intuitively to fear’s contraction. When I do, I become more poignantly aware of my fear and my ache, as well as the strange beauty of being so vulnerable. To embrace the tender fringe benefits I must also embrace my pain. This requires a both-and approach—holding pain and fear in one hand and exposing myself to the fringe benefits in the other. This way I can harvest any wisdom from being delivered into this unique body-mind state, the rich underground with which I have less contact when I am pain-free, business as usual.
Such a state parallels with the business as usual collective frenzy of our culture pushing for linear progress at every cost. The more we all embody and welcome our business as un-usual states, we can shift the capitalistic business as usual paradigm. This illuminates the hidden connection, the invisible forces between embracing our shadow and the shadow we are casting on the world around us.
As painful as they are, heartbreak, crisis, and collapse are actually portals into cure. We must practice not fearing them so much, and instead open in their midst, while tolerating the sting. With less collective fear, we can hold these places for one another, together. In this invitation to slow down is also an invitation to be with benevolent, metaphorical death—the fertile death that rebirths us, not the infertile death of denying our pain shadow that literally destroys us. This is the crux, the life-or-death wisdom of paradox. Without Yin-dark, we get no Yang-stars.
A personal life devoid of paradox is a toxic one. A paradox-deficient culture poisons the world around it and destines itself to a linear demise. A paradox-rich culture embraces death and rebirth, the cycle of Yin and Yang, from life unto death unto rebirth, and becomes regeneratively fertile, just like a rich forest floor is generated from the death of old growth to nourish new growth. When we “die through our pain,” which is to be rebirthed by it, we promote the new growth of wisdom and mercy born from that sojourn into the depths. In the process, we expose ourselves to the fringe benefits of this benevolent darkness.
When we can absorb the richness of fringe benefits—what I also call our finer jewels of being human— these facets of our better selves accompany us through the trenches, and continue with us long after the current fracture has eased. This is the difference between getting through difficulty and being cleared out, integrated, and enriched by it. To my sensibility, this is the path into a new world, especially because it embraces shadow.
Humanity could use a 100-year pause to embrace all the pain we have stuffed away in our own hearts, as well as into one another and into the Earth.
I know that 100 years of repair is fantasy, but it doesn’t mean it’s not needed. Ironically, we may get such fallow period, but instead of a proactive choice to make progress while we are still somewhat functionally above the survival line, we seem more likely to initiate rest by way of chaos and collapse, wherein we won’t be near the top of Maslow’s hierarchy but at the nadir, merely trying to survive amid the fallout.
We need time to swiftly dismantle, inwardly and outwardly, our current toxic systems of capitalism, racism, sexism, war, genocide, and pervasive othering. We could use a proverbial 100 years to desist from the linear progress of tearing down the planet and instead dedicate ourselves to awakening compassion via the circular process of tending to our wounds, together. When our inner rivers run clean, our outer rivers will heal. Our finer jewels of being human generate the transition, as integrity births integrity in the world, and the ocean of our togetherness is restored.
Related articles include grief work for healing our pain and trauma, creating sustainable change in the world through inner activism, the real deal effects of verbal abuse, how to grow more love by tending to your shadow, and healing through worthlessness into being enough.
Recommended articles by Jack Adam Weber:
- Heartache and the Myth of Letting Go
- Train Wreck Relationships: Why We Choose Lovers Who Destroy Us and How To Heal
- The Modern Shaman: Fierce Love at the Frontier of Madness
- When We Love an Addict – Courage and the Limits of Compassion
- 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
- Grief-Work: Healing the Shadows of Trauma and Pain
- Do We Really Create Our Own Reality? The Myths and Dangers of New Age Belief
About the author:
Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., is a licensed Chinese medicine clinician with over 20 years of experience working with patients. He is also a life coach, climate activist, organic farmer, artist, and celebrated poet. Jack has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. His most recent creation is Climate Cure: Heal Yourself to Heal the Planet, a comprehensive guide to help navigate all manner of crisis.
Jack is an advocate for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, mind-body integration, and climate crisis, while encouraging his readers to think critically, feel deeply, and act boldly. He also developed the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, somatic meditation practice that doubles as an educational guide for healing through the wounds of childhood. His work and contacts can be found at jackadamweber.com.