How Suffering Becomes a Thing of Beauty

My husband, Peter, and I recently returned from a two-week vacation in Spain to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. I think we walked a hundred miles, saw a hundred churches and ate a thousand tapas. Luckily the walking we did each day, which Peter jokingly called, “the five-mile death march”, counteracted all the food we ate.  Surprisingly, we each lost two pounds!

One of the highlights of our trip was an “Origins of Flamenco” tour in the city of Madrid. Our tour guide, Tatiana was passionate, warm and funny as she explained how flamenco developed in Andalusia, the southernmost region of Spain. “It’s like a delicious soup.” she said. “It is made from many rich cultural ingredients.” 

There are four elements that create flamenco: song, dance, guitar and the Jaleo, which means “hell raising” and involves handclapping, foot stomping, and shouts of encouragement. These elements were shaped over time by the Moors, the Jews and then the gypsies who came to Andalusia in 1425. The gypsies brought the Romany culture, which was also influenced by Indian song and dance.  These cultures lived together in harmony for many years, until they were persecuted by  the Spanish Inquisition.

The songs are stories that are both Andalusian and gypsy. The flamenco style of singing is believed to have Jewish roots and  is described in Spanish as quejío, which means complaining. This makes so much sense when we understand the intense persecution that each of these groups faced.


Emotional Expression Transforms Pain.

Listening to the flamenco sing I did not fully comprehend the Spanish words, but I felt the raw emotions of suffering and grief, which at times sounded like wailing. The dancers embodied an intensity and depth of feeling in movements that were both graceful and sharp. They were fully entranced, immersed in their expression. As I watched I suddenly realized that I was witnessing the  profound transformation of  emotional pain into something exquisitely beautiful.

Like the flamenco we, too, need to tell our stories. It is essential that we allow the emotions connected to our stories to move through our bodiesWhat was evident in watching the flamenco was the energy and power that I could see and feel through their emotional expression.  Their passion was visceral.

Reconnecting to Our Emotional Nature

Our emotions are a natural expression of who we are. They provide us with necessary information and guidance, but often we are told directly or indirectly that it is not okay to express them.  Or it is okay to express some and not others.  Inhibiting the flow of emotion requires a lot of energy. Over time this can make us feel  disconnected and numb. Blocked emotional energy can even cause physical pain. 

When we are disconnected from our emotions we are disconnected from a vital part of ourselves. By paying attention to our bodies’ sensations and feelings we can become aware of the emotional energy held in our bodies and begin the process of reconnecting to it.

Awareness Exercise

In your daily life begin to notice how your body constricts when certain emotions show up.   You may grit your teeth, hold your breath or clench your fists. These are just some of the ways that emotional energy can be blocked.  When you become aware  that  your body is tightening  sense where you feel the emotion being held.  It will feel like a sensation rather than a movement when it is being contained. Identify what emotion is held in your body. Mad, sad, glad and scared are the basic four. Imagine what this energy looks like in your body. How does it impact you ? Ask what it needs to move through you.

You may need outside support to aid in this process. If the emotion  has been restricted for a long time, it may not be easy to let it flow.  Be gentle with yourself. If you need help contact a Synergist or other professional who uses a body-centered approach.

As you listen to your body you open the door to connecting to the full range of emotions that you are designed to have.  Emotions are messages.  At times your emotions may make you to feel like a mess, yet they bring forth the sage, the wise one. They show up to let you know that some aspect of your life needs attention.  If you are feeling sorrow you may need to grieve a loss. If it is anger you may need to set some boundaries or acknowledge that you have been misunderstood.  If joy is showing up you will know what gives you pleasure.

Get to know your emotions. Notice how each one feels in your body. Give them breathing space.  

And let them inform and transform your life into something more beautiful.