Dealing with emotional pain, part four

Discover the transforming quality of sadness in part four of Esther Teule's four-part series on dealing with emotional pain.

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Into the heart of sadness


You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” Jonathan Safran Foer

How true this is! Sadness is a song of the heart, that painful sense of incompleteness when the object of our love has gone; a loved one, something we cherish or even happy times…When we love, we can also lose what we love. But when we close our hearts to avoid that pain, the light of happiness will not be able to come in either.

No love, no loss.

Although I am not sure whether we are capable of instructing our heart to simply close the door. Closing the door is already an act of deep sadness and despair. So how can we protect ourselves from it when our protection is made of sadness?

Sadness can be a wild river or a still, melancholy lake.

It hurts, but also has a cleansing quality.
Maybe because sadness is beyond hope, beyond trying. We no longer resist. It doesn’t promise anything but just reveals the depth of our loss. And when we are able to surrender to its hopelessness, we can let go. We surrender to our sadness and just let the river take us.

I know this sounds scary. Hopelessness seems to strip us from our last certainty, our hope for rescue. Shouldn’t we hold on to something instead of giving in to our desperation?
As long as we can, we will probably hold on. But life might just gently loosen our grip until we let go and face what is. In the end, we have nothing to hold on to because nothing stays. Our bodies won’t last, our circumstances change as well as our ideas. And right there, where we float free we will meet love again, cracking our hearts wide open.


Embracing sadness consciously is not so easy for most of us. Unless the calm, melancholy water changed into that wild river that leaves no other options than to go with it…
As I said, we always look for hope, for rescue. When we feel sad, our minds will try to distract us from that painful feeling. Either we will come up with suggestions to focus on something positive (come on, try to think of the good things in life) or we listen to thoughts that will affirm a negative self-image (you don’t deserve happiness, you are not loved). When we try to ignore sadness by “staying positive” we disconnect from what we actually feel. But when we use sadness to bring ourselves down we have difficulty coming out of that depressed mode.

So it’s helpful to recognise these mechanisms when you sit down with sadness. No need to get rid of these thoughts, they are an automatic reaction. Remember they are just thoughts, whiffs of air; let them have their moment and open again to what your heart tells you.

Softening the heart

Connecting to sadness is a personal journey. There is no particular route, just follow the water. Your heart will lead the way, all you need to do is soften and let it happen, giving your sadness room to reveal itself. Whenever you notice thoughts have taken over, literally soften your heart area. Soften your chest, your skin, your grip. There is poetry in sadness when you are willing to hear it. So listen to your heart’s story as a poet, sensing the essence rather than trying to understand it on a mental level.

The transforming power of sadness

When we let go of our hope for rescue and surrender to our heart’s sadness, something happens.
Not only do we experience relief because we no longer have to cover up what we feel, somehow we go beyond our personal story as well. By opening to our own sadness, we may discover that sadness is a condition of the human heart, a deep emotion that can tear us apart but is shared by all of us. We may go through deep grief as uncountable people before us have done, but still be held in the arms of existence. Everything changes and nothing will stay. That thought can fill us with fear but whatever emotion comes up about this, life will continue indeed.

It reminds me of what I heard an actor say on television (Top of the lake series):

“There is no death in nature, only a reshuffling of atoms.”

Everything changes, but nothing is ever lost. Sadness and grief are terrible, wonderful and exquisite teachers. They invite us to go beyond our heart’s boundaries and rest in the unconditional love of existence.

Hopefully these words have given you a somewhat different perspective on sadness. I hope you feel encouraged to sit down with it in meditation, whenever it comes along…
Wishing you all well,



Sit down in meditation… Into the heart of Sadness

Meditation with Esther Teule – 20 mins (members only)

Read the previous articles in this series:

Part 1 – The wisdom of hurt
Part 2 – Dancing with anger
Part 3 – The root of insecurity

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Esther TeuleEsther Teule is a meditation teacher and personal coach. Over years of practise Esther has developed her own style of meditation, based on inquiry and the practise of self love.