Tears have taught me a tremendous amount, and I know how they often come bearing important gifts. There has emerged a half baked spiritual myth that invalidates sadness, claiming it is beneath us if we are walking the path to true enlightenment. But surely one of the most powerful lines in the Bible is one of the simplest: “Jesus wept.” There is nothing unenlightened about crying over the tragedy of human suffering: perhaps what is neurotic is how infrequently we do. There is an old Buddhist story about a monk who stood crying at the grave of his master. A traveller came by and saw his tears. “Why would you cry, I thought you were enlightened!” The monk replied, “because I am sad.”
Our task is not to avoid painful emotion, but rather to transform it at its roots. And that we cannot do if we don’t go through the emotion authentically. Sadness has to be experienced in order to be transcended. No situation can be transcended until it is accepted as it is.
Sometimes the purpose of our day is merely to feel the sadness, knowing that as we do we allow whole layers of grief, like old skin cells, to drop off us.
The wisdom that comes from having experienced heartbreak cannot be bequeathed; it can only be gained through experience. And having truly felt it, we are far more likely to have compassion for others. Anything that takes us closer to true compassion takes us closer to what will one day be an experience of even greater joy.
Life is often cruel…. At my sister’s funeral, as I wept uncontrollably, my father, age eighty five and nearing the end of his own life, leaned over to me, put his arms around me and, and said, “Littlest Sister, it’s all a part of the mystery.” He was there, in the place where he could see that. I could see it in his eyes. And as I leaned my head upon his shoulder, continuing to cry, I knew I was on my way to the place where I would see it, too.