There is so much pain in this world. There’s personal pain that often takes the form of anxiety, depression, addictions, and intrusive thoughts. There’s the physical pain of illness, injury, and disabilities, both short-term and chronic. There’s relationship pain when we endure conflict with partners, children, friends, colleagues, bosses, and family members. There’s community pain when we witness homelessness, poverty, isolation, and elder and child abuse. And there’s the pain of the world: war, disease, natural disaster, the effects of global warming, and the fact that every day we lose a species of animals. Widening circles of pain, like the ripples released from a stone dropped in water.
Let’s pause here for a moment. If you’re as sensitive as I am, reading a list like this can send you into a moment of despair. We tend to turn our heads from the pain and live in denial. Or we open so fully that we descend into panic. There is another response: we can see the pain and also see the light.
For there can be no doubt that there is tremendous light in this world. There are those moments when our eyes are open and our hearts are touched by the beauty of our world and the goodness of humans. It can be the smallest moment, like witnessing the autumn dance of leaves as they twirl and arabesque from limb to ground, or it can be big moments, like the firefighters and civilians who risk their lives to save others.
For each ripple of pain there is a ripple of joy, perhaps twice so. Do I believe that there is twice as much pain as joy in the world? No. But I believe that the potential is there, the possibility for the light to overcome the darkness. And every time we breathe out our light – our gratitude, joy, and well-being into the world – every time we offer our gifts and every time we’re able to transform our anxiety into creativity or spirituality, every time we say yes to life which means saying yes to the full spectrum of our human experience, we add to the river of light.
One of the ways the light appears is through earthly angels: people, animals, or a connection to the invisible that helped us to feel loved, adored, and worthy as children. I have yet to meet a client who, no matter how much pain they endured as a child – no matter how much they felt unseen, teased, alone, abused, unsafe – didn’t have one source of love. This may have been a teacher, nanny, sibling, grandparent, neighbor, relative, a beloved pet, or a connection to an invisible source of guidance and comfort. It was the being who lit up in your presence, and in their light you could see your own light. It was the one who made you feel safe and guided when everywhere else you felt alone. If you are so blessed, this being may still reside in the realm of the living, but if they have passed to another realm they are still here, reflecting your essence and holding you.
When people are struggling to believe the words of their inner loving parent, I encourage them to connect instead to this other loving source. If your grandmother or aunt or neighbor or dog were sitting beside you, what would they say about this belief you’re carrying that you’re broken or unworthy? We can know intellectually that it’s not true. We can read spiritual texts and conscious works that say we are all intrinsically worthy of love. But the knowing doesn’t happen at the level of the intellect; it happens when we can plug into the direct source of love. That’s what these human and non-human angels provide: the mirror of our worthiness. Your imagination will carry you there. Your breath will invite in the truth and allow you to absorb it into your heart, unearthing the lie of your unworthiness and replacing it with truth of your beauty.
There are so many ways to bring light into the world. I’m in awe of the doctors and nurses who risk their lives to care for those with Ebola or who run into a burning building to save lives, and I’m equally in awe of the neighbors, grandparents, and teachers who reflect back a child’s essence, thereby bringing healing into the world. Who was your angel or angels? Who was your person, animal, or connection to spirit that reflected back your essence and reminded you that, even amidst great pain, there is also great love?