Armor, Kintsugi, Courage
“Put some armor around that gooey little heart.”
– Judith Fairfield, Professor of Romantic Literature (Movie: Liberal Arts, 2012)
Feeling emotions in my body was alien to me for years.
One prominent example of such emotion was anger. I remember having angry outbursts out of nowhere till 8th grade.
Partly it was because I had learned unintentionally from parents that anger was bad. One needs to control it. It needs to be suppressed. So I did exactly that. Combine it with teenage hormones, I sometimes felt like a walking volcano ready to erupt anytime. I had fights in playground; led arguments in classroom; and had a stubborn, arrogant attitude.
A direct manifestation of this emotional state was my inability to cry that I mentioned once earlier.
It was as if I had an iron-clad armor around my heart preventing me to feel anything.
Instead, it led me to react and attack mindlessly in many situations. At that time, I thought I was so strong to not feel anything. That I was invincible because I could never cry.
Out of this conditioning, I also became used to escaping from these difficult emotions and feelings and tough experiences. I found outlets in the modern hell of the internet and social isolation.
I wore the armor proudly while it secretly pierced through my heart under the disguise of protecting it.
It was not until a few years ago that I began to feel cracks in the armor.
My first Vipassana retreat led the first biggest assault on that armor with its focus on breath awareness and body sensations.
Additionally, it took one emotional breakdown followed by some therapy, actively reading about emotional and mental wellness, experimenting with meditation, and in general growing up to understand that it is okay to feel things with an open heart. It is okay to cry when you are sad instead of showing a brave face.
Initially, it was incredibly difficult to feel emotions in my body and stay with my tears without trying to shut down.
I still find it difficult to not distract myself when I am amidst similar moments.
Usually, such moments are preceded by a temporary overthrow of the armor leading to a raw, pure, expression of emotions from an open heart.
And I have realized that sooner or later, it leads to an inexplicable sense of acceptance and completion.
In the book, Soulshaping, Jeff Brown says,
“Bringing our soul lessons through takes more than awareness. It is an active process that demands a courageous willingness to live our experiences right through to completion. This means staying with our feelings until they are truly done with us, no matter how uncomfortable it is.”
Whenever I have been able to stay with the feelings and accompanying tears, I tend to experience a strange, beautiful integration of grief, loss, love, peace, and acceptance at the same time.
The armor dissolves into a thin layer of nothingness while being replaced by a gentle, transparent cover of courage that protects as well as nurtures the heart by allowing it to be seen.
This courage is also what sometimes leads to my ability to stay with difficult emotions and tears. These tears repair the heart that is pierced by the earlier armor.
Recently, I came across the Japanese concept of Kintsugi and I could relate to this feeling.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. It literally means “joining by gold”.
The idea is to embrace the imperfections that occur with the passage of time. These imperfections are what hold that object together, make it more valuable with time, and literally equivalent to gold.
Similarly, the tears and the act of courage to sit and feel emotions in the body act as gold to the grieving heart and make it more wholesome and complete.
When you resist emotions, it only leads to further pain in the heart even if you might think of it as a sign of strength derived from the false armor that is secretly hurting you from within.
Of course, this kind of Kintsugi demands courage, vulnerability, and willingness to keep the heart open. It is not easy.
To quote Jeff Brown from Soulshaping again,
“At the heart of the challenge is the courage to be vulnerable. Although the world rewards insensitivity with the spoils of war, it takes more courage to surrender than to numb.”
I still escape from these things at times.
It is incredibly difficult, especially without a proper support system around you.
But, most importantly, it is not an event.
It is a process. It takes time.
And it is my sincere wish for you that you give it enough time and find that little courage within to sit and be with your difficult emotions.
That is where the transformation lies. 🙂
Until next time