How Good Can You Stand It?
If you are a person who has never questioned if you are worthy—deeply, wholly worthy—of good things making their way into your life and setting up shop, then this post might not be for you.
If though, you still struggle—from time to time or all the time—to believe that it really is ok to sink into the big bubble bath of life and enjoy it to the full, then friend, you’re not alone.
Sitting in a meditation class not long ago, the reality of my tendency to shrink back from good hit home for me in a surprising way. Since the basic work of mindfulness is learning to make friends with discomfort, I had long ago accepted that would mean being still in the face of less than desirable emotions, like shame and fear. Over time, I’ve even learned that these little—often unwanted—visitors may even have something to teach me, and I’ve begun to view them with a degree of kindness.
On this day however, something strange happened. Like many times before, an uncomfortable feeling started to swell and as it often does, my heart began its usual reflexive retreat. Only this time, I was shocked to discover that the feeling wasn’t shame or anxiety or even fear—it was joy.
“How can this be?" I thought. “I love joy! I’m all about joy. I practice being grateful and appreciating the moment. Why wouldn’t I want to feel this? Why wouldn’t I want more of this?”
As I let the feeling settle and began to observe what was going on with as much tenderness as I could muster, I was amazed to find that my heart was sharing a different story around feeling good—many stories in fact.
“This much is ok,” she would say “but any more is too scary. What if I can’t handle it when it goes away?”
“It’s not safe to feel like this; what if I burst? Better not go there.”
“Isn’t it selfish to feel that happy/confident/loved?”
“What if other people resent me for getting too much?”
“Is it really ok to believe that I can have what I want?”
And on she went, my little heart. Over the next week, I became increasingly aware of the ways in which shirking goodness showed up in my life. The compliment from a co-worker that I undercut with a joke. The heartfelt note from a friend I read through a little too quickly. The sunset that I noticed but then rushed by.
What would happen, I wonder, if I began to test the limits of my joy the way I try to test the limits of my pain? What would happen if I let joy be my teacher, even when it becomes a little uncomfortable? If I was able to expand my capacity for drinking in the nourishment of what Life is offering me, right now?
The journey of my life up to this point has been learning these three things: I am loved, I am worthy, and I am enough.
The litmus test, it seems, of how much I believe them however, is how willing I am to be vulnerable in the face of my own happiness; how often I can bring a childlike confidence and unconsciousness to celebrating being alive.
So I’m beginning to ask myself:
How much beauty/intimacy/joy can you stand in this moment?
Can you take in even just a drop more?
What do you really want? Are you brave enough to ask for it?
Can you let yourself settle in believing things can be this good?
Can you trust that you deserve good things, simply because you are alive?
My work these days it seems, is to push the limits of my joy and the goodness of my life. As I do, I am increasingly becoming aware of what a brave, subversive act it can be to allow yourself to be truly happy, to drink in what Life wants to give you. It requires believing that you're worthy of the gift and that the gift is coming to you for no other reason than it wants to be given. It requires a combination of humility and recklessness and the capacity to understand that the world is just as enhanced by your fullness as it can be by your sacrifice.
So the question is: How good can you stand it?