The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

the pilgrimage: Henri Nouwen and my own topsy-turvy little heart

Day 11: Read em and weep.

Henri, Go into the Place of Your Pain: 

You have to live through your pain gradually and thus deprive it of its power over you. Yes, you must go into the place of your pain, but only when you have gained some new ground. When you enter your pain simply to experience it in its rawness, it can pull you away from wherever you want to go.

What is your pain? It is the experience of not receiving what you most need. It is a place of emptiness where you feel most sharply the absence of the love you most desire. To go back to that place is hard, because you are confronted there with your wounds as well as with your powerlessness to heal yourself. You are so afraid of that place that you think of it as a place of death. Your instinct for survival makes you run away and go looking for something else that can give you a sense of at-homeness, even though you know full well that it can’t be found out in the world.

You have to begin to trust that your experience of emptiness is not the final experience, that beyond it is a place where you are being held in love. As long as you do not trust that place beyond your emptiness, you cannot safely reenter the place of pain.

So you have to go into the place of your pain with the knowledge in your heart that you have already found the new place. You have already tasted some of its fruits. The more roots you have in the new place, the more capable you are of mourning the loss of the old place and letting go of the pain that lies there. You cannot mourn something that has not died. Still, the old pains, attachments, and desires that once meant so much to you need to be buried.

You have to weep over your lost pains so that they can gradually leave you and you can become free to live fully in the new place without melancholy or homesickness.

me:

To weep over lost pain seems so counterintuitive.
Weeping in the midst of pain, yes. Weeping with frustration and anger at the pain, sure.
My relationship with my pain has gone back and forth between complete fury and a desire to exorcise it all at once, to secretly keeping the pain close and letting it comfort me with its warm fuzzy codependence.

Henri reminds me that I am not completely crazy when I hold onto this pain and want to keep it close, or seek the new life half-heartedly with my pain and my old country safely tucked in my back pocket when I get lonely.

Your instinct for survival makes you run away and go looking for something else that can give you a sense of at-homeness, even though you know full well that it can’t be found out in the world.

But  keeping my pain on-call and close, when I get homesick and want it back, is not a great way to let it go…

You cannot mourn something that has not died.

I’m learning to not just be furious at the pain – and not to hold tight, with no intention to let go – but let it die and respectfully mourn.

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2 thoughts on “Day 11: Read em and weep.

  1. Elaine Clymer on said:

    When we can remember the pain with out it devasting us, the pain has lost the control. We will always rmember painful things that has happened to us.

  2. “To go back to that place is hard, because you are confronted there with your wounds as well as with your powerlessness to heal yourself. You are so afraid of that place that you think of it as a place of death. Your instinct for survival makes you run away and go looking for something else that can give you a sense of at-homeness, even though you know full well that it can’t be found out in the world”

    I think that it is because of my powerlessness to heal my wounds that I run away. I know that is often true for me. I cannot heal and so I run. It is like an animal that is stricken with fear, because it cannot confront what has frightened it, it runs. And the place that it runs to might be worse than the place that it left, but at least spector of what made it run is not there to haunt it.

    What do you mean by, “fury at the pain,” and “furious at the pain”?

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