Edited Extracts from http://robertmasters.com/writings/dancing-with-our-pain/
”Everything — everything! — is the dancefloor.
But we may not yet have the legs nor the ripeness for it, or at least for certain zones/levels of it. More quality time in psychospiritual bootcamp’s obstacle courses may be needed. A deeper immersion in the crucibles of intimate relationship and various healing arts may be needed. If we’re not ready for a particular step but assume that we should be, self-castigation might arise, leaving us with guilt implants. Better to learn to recognize what we actually are ready for, and to not hold ourselves back from or above it, just because we think it’s not sufficiently spiritual or befitting for us.
Fixating on or trying to go toward spiritually exalted states may only further endarken us, estranging us from that in us which is subterranean, wounded, misshapen, wretched, or otherwise unwanted.
What we won’t dance with, what we refuse intimacy with, what we’re so ambitious to shed or transcend, is precisely the dance-partner we need — or at least need to approach — drawing forth from us the very aversion, tension, and pain that’s crying out for illumination and love.
What we’ve rejected in ourselves needs not to be put behind the driving wheel or upon the throne of self, but only within reach of our heart. What’s unwanted in us does not need to be swallowed whole, but rather only liberated from whatever is nonbeneficial or obsolete about its viewpoint, and liberated thus without necessarily robbing it of its passion and vitality, until it’s no longer an “it,” but only reclaimed us.
Our darkness asks not to be kept in the shadows, nor to be given mere licence, but to be met in a manner as caring and vital as it is wakeful.
This, however, does not at all mean that we should just jump into our pain! Getting intimate with our pain is very different than fusing with it or getting overly immersed in it. What is called for, at least initially, is an up-close look at our relationship — and degree of attachment — to our pain.
At first, we may simply be committed, however unconsciously, to distracting ourselves from our pain — and especially the feeling of our pain — attaching or addicting ourselves to whatever most potently or pleasurably distracts us. Seeing this with unclouded eyes helps us get started. Our condition may remain much the same for a while, but our commitment to maintaining it is undermined.
Our struggle may then deepen; as we observe ourselves trying to get away from our pain, we begin to realize that such efforts only reinforce and amplify it. Our pain intensifies either until we find a superior distraction or a more powerful numbing agent — or until we shift from avoiding our pain to deliberately facing it. Deliberately.
This is where real healing begins.
When we no longer ostracize, condemn, neglect, or indulge in our pain, but instead invite it out onto the dancefloor with us, we are on track, however stumbling or sloppy our steps might be. Then we are relating to, instead of from, our pain — we are apart from it yet not cut off from it. Then it’s no longer just an unpleasantness to avoid, but something that we can communicate with, touch, penetrate, gaze into, bring closer.
Dancing with our pain allows a sobering joy to bloom. Flowers of love, flowers of disappointment, flowers of deepening arrival. Compassion, and a deeper compassion. We start to taste the nirvanic peace that is at the heart of real acceptance.
But sometimes it’s hell.
Sometimes the pain is just too much. Sometimes it hammers us so hard that we are knocked flat, broken down, stunned into paralysis, fragmented. The key at such times is not to try to force yourself onto the dancefloor — and nor to deny yourself pain relief — but to simply keep a spark of faith alive, the faith not only that this too will pass, but also that the dance you have begun will continue, regardless of who or what is on the dancefloor with you.
And also know that every time you turn toward and dance with your pain you are injecting strength, dignity, and integrity into your capacity to bear the unbearable. When we’re in hell and don’t forget what truly matters, we may find that even hell can be grace.
We don’t graduate until we’ve learned our lessons by heart. Otherwise, we wouldn’t sufficiently appreciate the Real, not being prepared enough for making wise use out of the realization of who and what we actually are.
If we won’t dance with our pain, then we will likely become enslaved to the search to somehow be rid of its symptoms, to so thoroughly distract ourselves from it that it seems to no longer exist to any significantly troublesome degree. But being relieved of the sensations of our pain no more liberates us than does masturbation.
Pain can both obstruct and catalyze our needed purification. It all depends on how we use it.
Do what is needed to continue the dance, including pausing. At times effort is called for, and at other times effortlessness needs to take the floor. Sometimes we dance, sometimes we are danced, sometimes we get stuck, freezing in our own headlights, and other times we flow, converting frozen yesterday into fluid now.
Interesting Addendum ~
A Needed Shattering
The time in my history that I look back upon with the most shame and sorrow is when I led an experimental psychospiritual community (from 1986 to 1994) that gradually became a cult. I had envisioned the community as a place of deep healing and awakening, and in many ways it was; there was plenty of caring, with deep growth for many people. Despite this, however, it didn’t take me long to get way off track. I assumed far too much authority, getting increasingly grandiose. There was too much me in the community, too much uncritical focus on what I did.
I said from early on that the community was an experiment — and experiment I did, with little or no awareness of the damage I was doing, letting what was working in the community obscure what wasn’t. I was out of control, and did not doubt my vision. I made decisions that I had no right to make. I thought I had a sacred mission and wasn’t about to let anything get in the way of it, even if I had to run roughshod over people. My arrogance was immense. I was a spiritual asshole, surrounded by followers, entrenched in a position I’d vowed never to be in.
I was a very different man then, aggressive and short on compassion, making choices I could not even consider making after the community ended. I look back on that time and feel ashamed for how out of touch I was, how badly I behaved, how messed-up and deluded I was. In my grand vision of the community — clearly a cult, with me as its supposedly trailblazing guru — I let down and hurt many people.
When I fell apart in 1994 (from a shattering near-death experience, which I wrote about extensively in my book Darkness Shining Wild), I soon thereafter disbanded the community. I was immensely humbled, broken down so deeply and for so long that I could not resurrect my former way of being, and took steps to make amends, including writing a large number of individual letters of apology. My abuse of power, my aggression, my shaming and lack of vulnerability, no longer fit me, and in fact provided the raw material for a very different way of being, manifesting not just in my work and writing, but also in my way of living. (I cannot recommend any of the books I wrote before 1994, because they do not represent what I teach and believe, except here and there in seed form.)
The reason I’ve been able to write and teach about topics such as spiritual bypassing, cults, shaming, anger versus aggression, relational dysfunction, being run by our shadow, and so on, stems from the specific experience of having been there and been caught up in them all (especially during my time of leading the community) — and also from the deep inner changes that have occurred in me throughout the past two decades. I remain grateful for the rough grace that has again and again decisively brought me to my knees, breaking me open to what truly matters.