My insight about crying came from a broke open experience leading to the end of a 27-year marriage. I had considered divorce for a long time but suddenly something changed and action was necessary and possible. You may have had similar things happen to you. You thought about a particular action for a long time, a job change, a move, but something blocked action on it. Then suddenly the block broke open or simply vanished. You just did what had to be done.
‘What breaks open?’ And, what might crying have to do with it?’
These questions came to me recently a space of no-thought meditation and an answer popped in as well:
‘To have a complete experience’
‘To have a complete experience’ was not my original thought, it was the answer one of my teachers, Shinzen Young, gave me 15 years ago to my question about the goal of contemplative practice.
We break open in order to have a more complete experience
Complete experience of what?
Of ourselves, our being, our existence and of the so-called outer world we live in. A complete experience of whatever we experience.
Complete experience means new information is made available or old information is seen in a new way. With new information new choices/opportunities are possible.
As human beings we consist of a constant flow of experiences (information) that we are aware of as body/mind/emotions/spirit.
How do we block off some of the information in the first place?
We block by limiting our experience. Sometimes we do this intentionally because we prefer not to see, hear or feel something. Limitations can also happen without knowing it at the time.
Often the flow of experience gets blocked or shut down through conditioning and habit.
- Conditions like our childhood, culture, religion, etc.
- Habits that support our want/don’t want preferences.
The conditions in my upper middle class family taught me to block or modify experiences that were not ‘perfect’ in my parent’s eyes. My parents were professionals who were overwhelmed with their own issues and used lots of alcohol. They did their best, they loved me but didn’t have time or skill for my emotionally sensitive nature. Things worked best when I was perfect and needless or at least looked that way.
I developed lots of habits to appear to do the impossible: No matter what is going on look and act like you are fine and need nothing. You can imagine how the flow of my experience had to be blocked to make this happen!
Most of us have had conditions that created pain and then that pain created habits to avoid pain. We shut down experience, shutting down becomes a habit and experience is blocked habitually.
When experience doesn’t flow freely, information stops flowing freely. When information can’t flow freely our deepest being gets blocked. We stop knowing how to be ourselves. In my case one of the areas that was blocked was the normal experience of needing others emotionally and expressing those needs. To compensate I learned to take care of the emotional needs of others. No surprise I became a psychologist!
And in addition to blocks to being ourselves, we get reactions in all levels of our being—body, mind, emotion and spirit all stop getting the information they need to freely be.
Reactions could be:
- body—headaches, body pain that moves around, lethargy, sleep problems
- emotion—depression, anxiety, too many or too few feelings
- mind—too few or too many thoughts, confusion, procrastination
- spirit—a sense of no meaning to life, questions about your true purpose, a sense of lack, fear.
These reactions can happen to all of us from time to time, but you may also be like me and have developed habits to block the flow of your experience.
In fact, a complete experience wants to happen on its own, at all times. Our natural state is being ourselves completely, i.e. our being (body/emotion/mind/spirit) flowing and changing and expressing and aware of itself as this endless activity.
Mindfulness helps us recognize the blocks in the being activity. Crying can help the body and emotion levels start to flow again.
You might think continuous flow and change would lead to confusion and chaos, but paradoxically the opposite is true. When everything IS flowing and changing and knowing and being itself on all levels the overall experience in the human being is one of peace, wholeness, stillness. The poet, TS Eliot, referred to this as ‘..the still point of the turning world.’