We often think that the less sadness we feel, the more joyful we will be. It’s logical, isn’t it? Well, as logical as this sounds, it is not true. Quite the opposite in fact.
One of my most revelatory recent experiences took place on the group yoga retreat (organised by Melissa Colon and Rachael Haylock from Breath Body Earth) I attended, where I was intent on addressing the imbalances in my life and the disconnect between my body and mind that had insidiously developed. The event in question took the form of a Cacao ceremony, which entailed drinking cacao to open our hearts, then dancing, freestyle, in silence.
Cacao is a beautiful plant grown primarily in South America. Besides being good for the earth and the main ingredient used in chocolate, it positively stimulates our cardiovascular system without being in any way a mind-altering substance. Melissa explained to the group that most people feel energised and joyful after they drink cacao, but some feel sad and cry instead. The heart opens to everything that needs to be felt or cleared. As someone who adores dancing, I approached the ceremony expecting to be uplifted in some way. Much to my surprise, I found myself in the latter category: all the sorrow that had been stuck in a dam near my heart overflowed in a chaotic wave of tears. I initially tried to suppress the emotion for fear of dampening the jolly mood of those dancing around me. But since Melissa had alerted us to all the possible reactions to cacao and, importantly, had given us permission to feel whatever we felt, I decided that my true emotions were worth letting out and sharing with others. I just let my sadness flow.
What followed was almost magical. I felt love flowing from others towards me. Melissa and many of my fellow retreaters held the space for me. I received hugs, heart hand gestures, beautiful roses, even a rose quartz, which is often referred to as the heart stone. I exchanged tears, more hugs and by the end, felt joy. Through expressing my sorrow, my tank had been filled with love. The gratitude I feel writing this is immeasurable and immense.
While immersed in that moment, it dawned on me that I had been repressing my sorrow for a very long time for fear of traumatising my children or, more recently, of being judged by them for crying “too much” or simply not having time to cry. During this gentle ceremony I realised two important things. Firstly, that bottled-up sorrow is the cork that stops the flow of joy. While this may seem obvious, it is important nonetheless. I was confronted by the truth that I can only feel as much joy as I can feel sorrow. By numbing yourself to sorrow, you numb yourself to joy. Darn! Maybe this explains my gregariousness being increasingly lost somewhere on the roadside of adulthood.
My second, even more profound realisation was that by repressing my sorrow, even if it is to protect others, I impair my ability to love them fully and wholeheartedly. Instead of my sorrow, joy and love flowing like a waterfall, they are stuck in a dam, at constant risk of breaking the artificial walls that contain it, threatening unwanted flooding and potential damage to the surrounding area. I was struck by how many of my fellow retreaters expressed how repressed sorrow caused them a similar numbness. Some had moved from joy and dance to tears and stillness, feeling relief at the end at having finally fully connected with their sadness.
Isn’t it ironic that I am researching a book about emotional empowerment, while remaining oblivious to my own repressed emotions that cripple my ability to love fully? This uncovered misalignment makes it that much more urgent for me to solve these emotional puzzles.
Do you want to be able to feel joy and love? Well, let your sorrow cascade out and the joy and love will follow.