I spent the first couple decades of my life trapped in emotional patterns that were destructive to my health, happiness, and relationships. Anger was my drug of choice, and I was addicted.
I was so sensitive to the way the world was operating, with so much unnecessary pain and suffering taking place and a paradigm in which everything seemed upside down: work really hard in a job you can't stand so you can retire and do nothing but lie on a beach; eat junk so you can go to the doctor and take a pill to get fixed; be selfish, skeptical and snarky to fit in, as opposed to being kind, sensitive and compassionate. Nothing made sense, but I wasn't fully conscious of what was so upsetting to me and I lashed out in dysfunctional ways. The passion within me was blocked and expressed inappropriately through anger.
Being highly sensitive doesn't mean we also have to be highly emotional or filled with anxiety. These were reactions to a planet that doesn't always support humanity's well-being and happiness, but when I became ready and willing, I began to overcome the real obstacle I was faced with: Fully identifying with my negative thoughts and emotions, giving them all my power by believing them to be real. When I began learning through the spiritual truths that only love is real and that we must unlearn fear — that we are not our thoughts, emotions, our body, bank account, relationship status and all the other external aspects of life — I started to get a grip on reality.
My emotional patterns were rooted in fear and caused me great pain and the experience of always feeling "hurt" by someone else. Where there's fear, there's anger, sadness, hurt, pain, suffering. But when we begin to take responsibility for how we feel, rather than blaming others or the harsh world in which we live, we can recognize that the fear isn't real and the illusion is something that's meant for us to overcome; we begin to awaken to a new way of seeing things and we transform our lives from the inside out. Spirituality is shifting from fear to love. As we change, we change the world.
The spiritually mature individual will need to be vulnerable. When I began to make the shift from fear to love (this was a conscious moment-to-moment choice I made) my anxiety and emotional patterns healed and dissolved, and I was able to step into a space of true vulnerability, which wasn't emotional or painful — quite the opposite. I've learned that my greatest power lies in my vulnerability. Because it's when I'm standing vulnerable and completely open that I am in my truth. I am in a space of love and not in a space of fear; it's only in this space that I can be truly seen and therefore connect in a meaningful way with others. It is in our vulnerability that we have the power to effect more positive change, because as we empower ourselves we empower others.
It's one of the paradoxes of life: When we have no walls, nothing can hurt us.
There's a misconception that being vulnerable causes pain, but it's in our vulnerability that we are safe and powerful beyond measure. When we stand in a space of love, we are self-approved, self-accepted, and nothing can harm us. We see through the fear-based illusions of not feeling worthy or good enough. It's only when we close our hearts and put up protective barriers that we are at the mercy of everyone and everything around us — from this place we become victims of our circumstances and give away our power by letting external things and other people control how we feel.
When we begin to understand that it's our perception of what's happening around us that can hurt us or free us rather than the actual external circumstance, we are never victims of someone else's thoughts, opinions, actions or judgments. From this place of clarity we can either walk away from a toxic situation, step up for ourselves or see through our ego's illusions of feeling like a victim.
It's this high sensitivity to feelings, emotions and our external environment that is what shakes us awake more quickly, if we become willing. Today, I am deeply grateful and humbled by the experience my soul chose in this lifetime, because I started taking responsibility for my own happiness.
A couple months ago, I was at dinner with a new friend who is a well-known meditation teacher and Ayruvedic master. He asked for my hand and began to take my pulse — a form of diagnosis — and he looked at me and said, "You have no anger in you." I beamed and nodded, telling him that it's one of the miracles I've experienced on my spiritual path. He responded, "Don't ever lose your fierceness, though."
Oh, I won't.
Photo Credit: Eric Yagoda