Growing Pains

Growing Pains

Summer is upon us, as evidenced by the calendar and the weather. This past spring was even more welcome than usual, due in no small part to the ferocious winter most of us endured. Still, the memory of the winter is fresh in my mind, and is difficult to shake.

Spring is the time of renewal and change, burgeoning growth, resurrection. Growing pains often accompany these periods of change, as we struggle to shed the old and embrace the new. A personal systemic change accompanied the arrival of spring this year – not only were the seasons changing and struggling to begin anew, so was I. This change began quite some time ago, but it was coming to fruition during the months of April and May, coinciding with the arrival of new life on Mother Earth.

The upheaval followed a traumatic period in my life, during which I felt pain and despair like never before. Throughout that time, I consciously worked to remain centered and grounded, acknowledging and releasing emotions that threatened to consume me. Although it did not lessen the trauma, it helped to keep me on course, and I congratulated myself for weathering the storm. However, several months ago, during meditation, I experienced an unexpected and powerful vision of a heart surrounded by tears. Indeed, it appeared as if the heart itself was weeping. The message was clear at the time – change is coming, it is necessary and inevitable. Pay attention to your heart, it has been hurt, and needs tender care. The experience was like a jolt, and it almost left me breathless. I also wept physical tears at that time, tears that washed over my face, my heart, and my soul. My heart had been injured, and it felt like a small child seeking comfort from a loving parent. I felt incredible love, mixed with sorrow for the hurt, and a strong desire to protect my heart from further pain.

However, what I did not realize at the time was that the pain was necessary for growth and in order for the heart to heal, that pain had to be acknowledged and then released. Instead, I focused on protecting my heart, which had the effect of wrapping it up, preventing healing and growth.

Fast forward to the spring – as the winter season slowly and grudgingly gave way to new life and burgeoning growth, I felt restless, sad, confused, trapped. Something was happening, and the ground was shifting under my feet.  This went on for several weeks, when after a particularly rough week, in which I contemplated moving to Montana and living in a cave, I had the proverbial light bulb moment. I had growing pains! My heart, which I had so carefully and lovingly wrapped up, was trying to break free from the wrapping, so it could grow. The heart knows what it needs – and in this case, it needed to break free so the old pain could be acknowledged and released. Only then could growth occur. In my zeal to protect and shield, I had prevented growth.

Fortunately, my heart is much wiser than I, and persisted until I received the message it was trying to impart:

I cannot grow if I am wrapped up tight – I need room to breathe, and space to clear and cleanse the old pain, which no longer serves. I am ready to grow with you, to be your companion on your journey. Allow me to do that, for my strength will sustain you.

It is frightening when pain washes over and through us – we are, after all, human, and dislike feeling bad. We rush in to stop the pain, and sometimes, in so doing, we also stunt our growth. However, if we listen to our hearts – to that still small voice that never leads us astray, the message is clear:

Pain is a part of life, and it is from pain that the most important lessons are learned. Accept this, allow the pain to surface, be acknowledged, thanked for the lessons it gave, and then released to the loving care of the Universe. Protection is important too, but it must be balanced with openness and a willingness to receive love and goodness, which encourages and fosters growth.

 As for me, I learned my lesson this time. I know there will be challenges on the path ahead, and this lesson is likely to present itself again. However, by listening to my heart, and allowing it to grow, I am hopeful that next time will be easier.

In retrospect, the experience can be compared to the seasons. Winter is a time to retreat and reflect, when nature rests, in preparation for renewal with the arrival of spring. In a similar fashion, my heart needed to rest before it was ready to grow. Nature teaches us that rest and periods of dormancy are essential for growth. As human beings, we must be careful to balance the desire to protect with the need for growth. The good news is that our hearts let us know what to do, as long as we are open to receiving the message.

 

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