Bound to pain, and why that’s a good thing.

“The wound is the place where the light enters you”. 

Who would we be without our wounds? What would life be like if all the pain and darkness you had even felt had been removed? These were the questions I was left pondering while recently reading a bookclub inspired novel The Binding, by Bridgett Collins. 

The Binding takes place in an alternate reality where books are different to how we know them here. In their world books are for all those things that people feel destroyed by and cannot live with in their lives. They are filled with actual peoples memories, their secrets, grief, and pain. The books are hand crafted and once the bad memories have been carefully bound inside the book they are erased for good. 

Our local bookclub meets to discuss the books we are ingesting. During our meetup for The Binding the discussion went deep as we explored what it would mean to have our deepest troubles, our abuses and the most painful events of our lives removed. Would we be happier? Would life be bliss? Or would we lose the very substance that makes us who we are? 

I was adamant that our pain is our greatest treasure and should be kept. I believe the wounds I have inside of me are the very reason I have been able to experience healing, feel compassion, develop wisdom and grow strong. I know I am the woman I am today because of all of the suffering I have endured in my life. I cherish the alchemy of pain to growth. 

As I drove home from bookclub that evening I recalled the beautiful quote by Rumi, “The wound is there the light enters you”. Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet, Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic who has become one of the most famous poets of all time. He believed in the use of poetry, dance and music as a way to find union with the beloved, or with God.

The quote comes from a larger piece that I will share with you now:

“I said: what about my eyes?

He said: Keep them on the road.

I said: What about my passion?

He said: Keep it burning.

I said: What about my heart?

He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?

I said: Pain and sorrow.

He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

This longer version gives us understanding that the short quote cannot. You see, it would be easy to misunderstand that our pain alone can transform us. But this is not the whole picture. Transformation occurs only if we are willing to stay with it. This is a key distinction when you consider that every single one of us has experienced pain, but not all of us have grown from it. 

The light enters us because we find a way to be brave enough to stay with our wounds. 

What does it mean to stay? It means that we surround ourselves with the resources we need to fully feel the pain we carry within us. Every single careless word, physical assault, rejection, abuse or neglect is inside of us whether we choose to feel it or not. 

Sometimes it is smart that we haven’t felt it yet. Perhaps because we weren’t resourced, like when we were children and didn’t have the capacity to handle what we were experiencing. In this case we closed off and simply chose to cope. 

Or perhaps something we experienced was so overwhelming (the death of a partner or child, a sexual assault or violent abuse) and our heart knew it was too big for us to feel right now. So it closed, created walls and protected itself. 

This ability to protect is a beautiful quality that we possess as humans. The consequence however is that we feel less of everything when there are walls around the heart. We can’t access the same kind of joy either, or love or compassion or release. In the words of Kahlil Gibran, “Your joy can fill you only as deeply as your sorrow has carved you.”

At some point, we may want to open to the fullness of life again. Perhaps we are tired of numbness and of the half-life we are living. When we have the resources around us we can begin to open to the pain, let the light flood in and crack the walls around our heart. 

Many of us may wish that we could give away our pain to a leather bound book as in The Binding. But if we remove our wounds we would be losing this place of transformation, alchemy and light. How can we stay with something if we won’t acknowledge that it is there? How can we let it mould us into the divine, holy, compassionate being that we all are deep inside? 

I say leave the pain where it is. Be proud of your hurts. Find a way, however you can, to really feel what has troubled you the most. Find the wound, open it up and let the light enter you.  

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