I like what Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh has to say about transforming emotional pain into a rich, fertile, and joyous life. Whether it’s everyday stress or deep-rooted trauma, he writes: “We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness”.

When we’re stuck in the suffering of the past it can seem easier to find compassion for others than for ourselves. Many of us feel compelled to help others, especially vulnerable children and animals. This is important work which may be incredibly healing for all. Certainly one of the recommendations for transforming trauma is to focus less on ourselves and be of service to others. This can be a helpful channelling of energy as long as we don’t deny our own wounds. Unless we can hear, accept, and tenderly care for the archetypal wounded child in ourselves, she or he will continue to relate to the the world as a victim. This perpetuates suffering and deprives us of natural vitality as we shut down our energy pathways and restrict life.

When we focus all our compassion into caring for others, we’re reinforcing internal messages that we’re not worthy of that same compassionate care. We’re draining our own energy resources to give to others without topping ourselves up again. This leads to imbalance and dis-ease. Nature endlessly recycles energy. If energy becomes blocked the natural cycle can’t flourish. Think of what happens when a river’s natural flow is blocked. Water stops flowing and becomes stagnant. The natural life in and around the river struggles to survive. Fish or amphibians may die out or vastly reduce in numbers. Plants, birds, insects and mammals all struggle as the water is no longer drinkable. In some places the blockage causes a turbulence of diverted water that may flood animal habitats, or wash away soil, both of which lead to less food and shelter.

We are no different from other parts of nature. We need a balanced harmonious flow of energy that does not become stagnant or turbulent.

It is entirely possible to nourish and clear our stressed energy through embracing and cradling our hurt with tenderness. In doing so, joy naturally arises, in the same way an unimpeded river flows clear and is good to drink from.

A useful starting point for transforming suffering is to reflect on how well your internal river is right now. Do you have a sense of flow and of a rich variety of energies and interests? Are you feeling quenched or parched? Is your river feeling stagnant, or tumultuous with overwhelming emotions and situations? You might like to journal about your river, or draw it. Once you have a sense of your river you can begin restoring it to its natural balance. In upcoming courses I’ll be offering, I’ll show you ways you can effectively restore the flow of your internal river and experience the richness of the return of your inner life.

With you on the journey. – Violet