It seems that every day we hear stories of personal suffering and loss that far exceed our own. When we compare our situations to those of people living in war-torn countries or recent events on the East Coast, it is tempting to minimize our own experiences of suffering. We may feel that we don’t have a right to be upset about the breakup of a relationship, for example, because at least we have food to eat and a roof over our heads.
While awareness of the pain of others can be a valuable way to keep our own struggles in perspective, it is not a legitimate reason to disregard our own pain. Disparaging your feelings as being less important than other people’s emotions leads to denial and repression. which over time leads to numbness. It is as if our internal systems become clogged with our unexpressed emotions. This in no way helps other people who are suffering in the world. In fact, it may do just the opposite because when we devalue our own sorrow, we become impervious to the sorrow in others.
Fully experiencing our own hurt is the gateway to compassion toward other human beings. Feelings of loss, abandonment, loneliness, and fear are universal, and, in that sense, all feelings are created equal. Regardless of what leads us to feel the way we do, our comprehension of what it means to be human is deepened by our own experiences. Our personal lives provide us with the material we need to become fully conscious. If we reject our emotions because we think our experiences are not dramatic or important enough, we are missing out on our own humanity.
Sometimes it is difficult to see someone we love struggling, in pain, or hurting. When this happens, we might feel like we need to be proactive and do something to ease their troubles. While others may want our help, it is important to keep in mind that we need to be sensitive to what they truly want in the moment, since it can be all too easy to get carried away and say or do more than is really needed. Allowing ourselves to let go and simply exist in the present with another person may actually provide a greater amount of comfort and support than we could ever imagine.
Perhaps we can think back to a time when we were upset and needed a kind word, hug, or listening ear from someone else. As we remember these times, we might think of the gestures of kindness that were the most healing. It may have been gentle words such as “I care about you,” or the soothing presence of someone holding us and not expecting anything that were the most consoling. When we are able to go back to these times it becomes easier for us to keep in mind that giving advice or saying more than is really necessary is not always reassuring. What is truly comforting for another is not having someone try to fix them or their problems, but to just be there for them.
This shot was taken in Vancouver, British Columbia on a cold,windy and rainy day in October. The statue is located close to the passenger ship terminal in downtown and is really special. To see more of Vancouver or the many other wonderful places we have documented, just click the link and you will be transported to our Website Kerstenbeck Photographic Art
It’s interesting to think our lives as something we spend a lot of time avoiding! We consume so much time with everyday activities that distract us, that we rarely take the time to look at our lives. Another week gone, weekend over, Monday again…you know the drill! It’s important to decouple from this and take some real-time for ourselves, and that doesn’t mean watching TV or reading a book!
Often it can be quite unnerving even to have a few minutes, let alone an hour just for ourselves to quietly reflect. Sometimes it can even be uncomfortable since when we do take this time to listen to ourselves we might not like what that inner voice is telling us, like why we are living like we do or making that choices we’re making. Talk about exhausting! However, its reflections are the chords that connect us to our authentic selves, and they are the very things that make our lives worth living.
Begin the process of being present in your life gradually by reserving some time each day for some introspection, just being with yourself. Try it for a week and you may find that you beginning to look forward to your solo time away from your busy self. By not avoiding self-examination and being open with your true self you may find that you spend more time being at the center of your own life instead of just orbiting around some sun like a planet.
This image was taken on a cold, rainy and windy day in Richmond, British Columbia, which is just a bit south of Vancouver. It seemed like nobody was braving the elements, let alone setting up a tripod, wiping down lenses and slogging around in the slime left behind by the low tide. Although the shot itself was over in around 10 seconds (shutter speed), the process of taking the shot and finding beauty, where others may have busily passed by, was indeed precious.
You can find more of our work at http://www.kerstenbeck.com where it is available for purchase, digital download or licensing