Adults often reprimand children when they cry (especially boys), believing that tears make them weak or too vulnerable. Children carry that judgment into their adult lives, but it is just not true. On the contrary, vulnerability is one of our greatest human assets. It connects us to others through the heart, and crying opens everyone’s heart, including our own. It is truly a blessing. The time has come for all of us—adults, children; men, women—to recognize this and give one another support and encouragement for showing our emotions openly through our tears.
Tears can express not only sadness or grief but also a profound emotional response to music, poetry, or an inspiring speaker. We can be moved by spring flowers and birdsong or the memory of a shared experience with a loved one. Almost anything can bring tears to our eyes, including empathy with someone else’s pain, sorrow, or good fortune. And that is where our humanity serves us best, in showing compassion for and connection with others’ life journeys. We can only do that if we have allowed ourselves to fully experience our emotions about whatever shows up in our own lives. If I can feel everything to the fullest extent in my life, including both pain and joy, then my heart can openly recognize your experience as not unlike my own. I becomes we. That is oneness.
When I was given a rather scary eye diagnosis recently, it was the compassion and caring of friends and family that made all the difference. So many people reached out to me to show me that I was not alone, that they too knew what I was going through, whether or not they had experienced the exact same thing or not. Because of these loving connections, I was able to open to my own sorrow and fear and then find some equilibrium in the midst of all the ups and downs of different diagnoses and future unknowns. As this particular journey continues, I am still held in that space of sweet empathy and friendship, and I continue to learn at deeper and deeper levels about how key crying is in my life.
Just in the past couple of weeks, I have come to realize how much we hold back our tears, not only because of the social prohibition against crying but also because of the magnitude of the grief we carry within us for all of humanity’s suffering. A friend shared with me her own experience of noticing tension behind her eyes when she attempts to hold back her tears and not feel something. As we talked, we both came to better understand how profoundly we had been affected by trying to live love in a world that does not value love and in fact acts in opposition to it. I was suddenly aware of the dramatic connection between my eye situation and an unconscious effort to hold back tears arising from a deep level of sadness within.
I am someone who cries easily (thanks to my parents’ loving emotional openness), yet there were still unshed tears inside me, which I finally traced back to my 6-year-old child self: a sensitive, shy little girl afraid to go to school in the daytime, afraid of eternity at night, and recurrently sick with asthma, flu, and various childhood ailments. When I let go into crying for/as this child, it opened the door to a more universal grief that I believe applies to every child on the planet: that of not being able to fully live the open loving soul selves we are born as. From Day 1, we are presented with a world full of pain and suffering within which we are supposed to function in prescribed ways. In addition, we are expected to accept certain global insanities such as war and hatred as inevitable and not react to them. Enough to drive any child’s tears deep underground!
As a young woman, I experienced several years of serious depression about the state of the world. In engaging with various social/political causes and, later, through expansive spiritual connection, I found a way to cope with it all. Yet, here I stand now, at a crossroads of awareness, knowing that this eye crisis is providing me with the opportunity to integrate everything at a new level and courageously move forward as the authentic soul self I was born to be. My friend and teacher Panache Desai has told me to let it “work its alchemy,” and I am doing so. I know with everything in me that, in all our vastly divergent individual lives, this is where we all are. We are here to cry the tears that allow our past long-suffering “adjusted” selves to dissolve and our true soul selves to emerge clear and clean as the day we were born. And is that not the blessing of a lifetime?