Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

It’s Okay to Feel Sad

The martial arts school I used to go to sits on the corner of a busy intersection. I just read that someone smashed one of the huge windows that face the street. With so much of this sort of thing in the news these days, I’m not sure why this particular act of vandalism hit me so hard. I try not to get sucked into the whirlpool of outrage and fear that seems to have gripped our communities. I try instead to step back into a broader perspective, touching everything with compassion, staying centered in equanimity.

But this, this rocked me back and sat me down with a plop, awash in sadness. At first, I thought to go to my cushion and meditate myself back into peace. But why would I do that? Sadness is here, now. Why am I judging it or wanting to escape it? Yes, it is not pleasant or comfortable. Although not crushing or devastating, it does hurt a little. Can I accept that and just be with it? Can I allow the feelings to flow freely without telling a story about them or wanting them to be different?

So I did sit on my cushion, and invited sadness to join me. Sadness brought its friend compassion, compassion for myself and for my community. And right in the center of sadness and compassion, I found peace and equanimity.

As your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. ~Joanna Macy

[The photo is me with my teacher, Master Rai, the night I got my black belt.]

7 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Feel Sad”

  1. Thank you for this beautiful expression! In totally opposite news, you and your daughter were in my thoughts over the holiday weekend, and I was laughing out loud about it!
    Late Friday night I was on my hands and knees underneath the Christmas tree struggling to design a fluffy white Christmas tree blanket to look like drifting snow. I could feel Mike’s presence as he wandered in and out of the living room checking on the status but not saying a word. Eventually he gave up and went to bed. Well into the night, I was exacerbated, dehydrated, and exhausted! Then, I remembered the story about your daughter putting a pink t-shirt on her head to go shopping at the mall because she wanted people to think she had long hair. I started laughing out loud about it and then I was cracking up so hard I was rolling around on the floor in hysterics about fabric snow! It was o-dark thirty in the morning when I finally took the last ornament box out to the garage and that is when I spotted Mike’s car-vac. I brought it in and plugged it into the wall. I had totally lost track of time and completely failed to consider how loud it would be when I turned it on. It woke Mike and when he came into the living room I heard, “WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING NOW?” I replied, “Well, OBVIOUSLY I am on my hands and knees vacuming the SNOW!”
    May we all keep laughing . . .
    Love Juju

    1. Hard to feel sad when you got me laughing so hard! That pink T-shirt story never gets old! Thanks for reminding me of it. I bet your decorations are beautiful — you certainly put in the effort!

  2. I love your words about sadness inviting its friend compassion. And about feeling the feelings without telling a story about them.

    1. Thanks Caroline. We often “feed” our feelings with stories. For example we can justify and intensify anger by telling ourselves that the target of our anger is bad in some way and deserves our anger. Feelings come and go if we don’t attach to them or reject them with extra narrative.

  3. It’s so easy to feel outrage or other aggressive feelings when people destroy, shout, kick off…sadness seems like a million miles away in those moments. Today, I nonchalently walked behind a car that was reversing in the car park, knowing I was judging it fine, but my little devil was sitting on my shoulder too! Anyway a few moments later, the car passed me and the man in the driving seat told me off aggressively through his open window, ‘You don’t walk behind reversing cars, pal! in a broad scottish accent. I won’t be told off by a man, so I shouted back ‘Oh, shut up!’ I was stirred up afterwards though, but thought it was funny that he called me, Pal, which is something a scots-man says to another one. I would say that the whole encounter was a sad indictment of how we can be these days and also shows how easily aggression can be passed on and around. There is so much we can be sad about, rather than angry, and your post has made me see I need to cultivate sadness as a constructive feeling which can lead to compassion, even if it will always be a work in progress for me. Lovely tuning in again with you, Galen :>)

    1. You make an insightful observation, Lynne, about how anger can mask other feelings. For example, the man backing up might have been startled to see you there and fearful about the near miss of an accident. Fear can often manifest as anger because it makes us feel more powerful. You also noted that aggression seems to be on the rise — that’s certainly true on this side of the pond as well. We can join in the escalation, and I suspect many of us do from time to time, or we can bring compassion to the mix — compassion for ourselves and for others. Always good to hear from you.

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