“These mountains that you’re carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” ~ Najwa Zebian
Just as the grain within the oyster can be transformed into a pearl, the pain within the human can be transformed into strength. Wounds can become wisdom when we allow ourselves to be curious about how our scarring has made us more robust. Honoring our sacred wounds is embracing this robustness.
Robustness is different than strength. It’s flexible fortitude, pliable power, variable vigor. It’s strength that breathes – pliant and adaptable to unexpected circumstances.
Robustness is being adept at adapting. It’s a breaking apart (exhale) and a coming together (inhale), again and again, stronger each time. Ultimately, it’s existential resilience: the ability to embrace mortality in a way that transcends it.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Back to curiosity. Back to the metaphor of the oyster. If pain is the grain, then curiosity is the force that molds that grain into a pearl (robustness) within the sacred wound of the oyster. Curiosity is the inner sharpening stone that sharpens the edges of pain into something that’s able to embrace and overcome itself. It’s the pressure that transforms the coal-black demon into a diamond-backed ally.
Why is curiosity so powerful? Because it is both a proactive engagement and a playful presence. It’s focused awareness that injects awe and wonder. And when it’s applied to our pain, mindfulness makes the unconscious conscious and releases our demons from their repressed state.
Becoming curious with our deep wounds is honoring them with our attention. If we’re able to honor our wounds, then we’re more likely to reconcile our demons. It’s not so much that we suffer less but that we suffer better. We become healthier in the ways that we suffer. And with the demon as our diamond-backed ally we add a streak of fierceness to our robustness that can be revolutionary.
Transforming demons into diamonds is having survived a great something, which, in some way, whether physically, mentally, or spiritually, has left a mighty scar that one honors as a trophy of life.
It’s a once ravaged soul that carves deeper by registering fully with its suffering, and instead of turning away or repressing it, comes out the other side of the cocoon able to “fly”. It’s the wounded heart rising up, bloody and bruised, with white bandages trailing behind it like a cape.
A wound doesn’t have to be a forever crippling thing, it can be a temporary stumbling block transformed into a stepping stone. It can even become the path itself. As the Zen proverb states, “The obstacle is the path.” This is a kind of stoic optimism that launches us past complaining about what we can’t control and into a sacred space where we can be proactive about what we can control.
We can control our disposition. We can control our attitude. We can honor our sacred wounds and reconcile our demons. It’s a matter of being present. It’s a matter of being fully engaged with the traumatic residue of our wounds in the here and now. As the great Marcus Aurelius surmised, “Objective judgement, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance – now, at this very moment – of all external events. That’s all you need.” Indeed.
Now, imagine you are your wound. You’ve been repressed and ignored for years, huddled in the bleakest blackest corner of a place called Unconsciousness. You find yourself sitting in a boat filled with all the dried blood you’ve long ago bled out.
But there’s no water in sight. Your boat is on dry ground at the bottom of a great canyon, inside a mighty abyss, bottomed out on a wasteland of dust and rocks that go as far as the eye can see in both directions.
Something is different though. You feel an urgency. Curiously, you look over the edge of the boat, and suddenly all the memories of your pain come crashing into you. All the pain that made you the gushing wound you once were, all the anguish that made you the dried up repressed wound you are now, crashes into you with heart-crushing efficacy and soul-smashing exactitude.
You’re left trembling with the recognition of it all. You can feel again. Finally, you can feel. The polished glaze of your skin is the mighty scar you’ve become. Filled to bursting, you let go. You cry like you’ve never cried before. You cry so hard and so thoroughly that the entire abyss seems to be crying with you.
You cry so much and for so long that you begin to fill the canyon with water. And you keep on crying until there is a turbulence, a powerful flow that lifts you and your boat off the rocks and propels you down the river and into a new adventure. You’re finally free.
Or, maybe Clarissa Pinkola Estes said it better, “Tears are a river that take you somewhere. Weeping creates a river around the boat that carries your soul-life. Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace new, someplace better.”