There is a god from the ancient Egyptian (Kemetic) pantheon named Nefertum. According to one of the stories of creation, Nefertum emerged from the blue lotus that grew from a great ocean. Realizing that he was alone, the god wept, and from his tears came humanity.
This myth evokes an underlying truth in our experience. The human heart grapples with fear and longing: fear that it is alone in a vast, uncaring world; longing for connection to others who can share joy and pain. Longing to be seen, to share, to be connected, to be open among other open hearts.
Unfortunately, so much in our life becomes fodder to close around our pain, fear, and loneliness. Early experiences of rejection, abuse, neglect, from the most extreme to the most subtle, feed disconnection. If Nefertum had not taken the risk to cry openly, to share his pain and loneliness with the world, humanity would never have been born to witness and reach back toward him.
We lose the opportunity to touch others and be touched when we close off. Yet we cannot deny the pain and truths that keep us closed. To be open is to risk experiencing all that pain. New skin is tender and vulnerable to the elements, not yet strengthened by the wind and rain. I think we fear that subjecting those tender parts of ourselves to the world will harden and scar. This feels like a loss, yet it is also a process of strengthening and building resilience.
When things hurt and I feel pain and vulnerability, often the last thing I want to do is to return to face the person who contributed to the hurt. Sometimes it is absolutely not safe to do so. Other times, lingering past hurts restrain us with fears that we are not equal to enduring more pain.
We don’t have to wait our entire lives for perfect conditions, so we can finally give ourselves permission to take a risk. We don’t have to rush headlong into terrifying worlds or wait until we’re good and angry before we finally tell that person what we really think. Opening can be a slow, gentle, but continuous process.
Clinging to suffering is not being good to ourselves, but neither is avoiding suffering. Remaining a tight bud only seals the pain deep within and keeps us cloistered from sunlight, from rain, from wind, from the open sky. Consciously experiencing our suffering is what leads to transformation. To choose to become open in the moment — not completely, but to move toward openness — to choose to say the thing we were afraid to say, to bring up the lingering doubt, to acknowledge that I felt hurt by what happened, to take up the task I’ve been scared to attempt, and bringing awareness of what is happening inside me while I move into this uncertain, frightening territory — that is when the flower opens and the tears flow, that is when our pain invites its salve. That is when feeling pain is also healing pain.