The word “pressure” has been bubbling around in my thoughts for the last few weeks. Have you ever had that happen? A concept will invade your psyche and then show up everywhere, light bulbs popping right and left?

It feels to me as if pressure is the descriptor for the times, as if the world is ramping up exponentially, and we’re all feeling it in our bodies and psyches. Not all pressure is a bad thing, of course. It takes a certain amount of force to propel us through our resistance, and that is exactly what so many of us are doing…forging ahead through layers and layers of emotional muck we didn’t even know we had. Great things, magical things, are happening as a result, too.

But unexamined pressure creates anger, and this is what I want to talk about. I suppose this isn’t really new news, although something about that combination of words – pressure creates anger – literally leapt off the page at me when I recently read The Mindbody Prescription, Dr. John Sarno’s bestseller from many years ago. Anger is an emotion I, like many, struggle to consciously experience, because I’m so afraid of it. I don’t want to experience it, so I push it away. According to Sarno, anger that’s pushed away builds to become suppressed rage. And suppressed rage becomes physical illness…from back, neck and shoulder pain, to inflammation of all kinds, as well as digestive disorders, anxiety and depression. Pretty much any illness can be traced back, from Sarno’s perspective, to the unacknowledged pressure of being human…pressure placed upon us from without and from within.

Pressures from without seem more enormous than ever before. Worldwide economic, ecological, societal and political pressures are being pounded into our consciousness on a 24-hour news cycle, not to mention our own overwhelming personal challenges. How do we possibly examine all that? And then, of course, there are the subconscious, anger-inducing pressures from within: worry, self-criticism, guilt, fear, perfectionism, blame, and all kinds of stressful, negative thinking.

Early Sunday morning I got up and drove to the beach, with an aching back, a sore jaw from clenching my teeth during my sleep, and a mind overrun with thoughts, but determined to do something good for myself. As I made my way through the breathtaking, dawn-lit vistas of Malibu Canyon, the now iconic image of that little Syrian boy lying face down dead on another beach on the other side of the world flooded my psyche… and broke me in two. The juxtaposition of the agony and the ecstasy of this world, and the huge question of my responsibility to it, became so overwhelming in my heart that I just cried my eyes out all the way to the ocean. I can still feel it as I write this…the emotional surge that rises up in my throat, and the knee-jerk, intellectual tamping down of that feeling with all kinds of thinking instead – political thinking, blaming thinking, numbing thinking, even big-picture-wisdom thinking. That day, though, thinking of every stripe was washed out by the tidal wave of feeling that needed to happen.

I wonder if that is what we all need right now? Maybe what is trying to happen, what the pressure is all about is that our hearts are under pressure to break wide open, and we are scared to death to let them.

The Big SqueezeOne of my favorite Pema Chodron teachings is called The Big Squeeze: that realization on the spiritual path of the large gap between our spiritual ideals and the far less than ideal reality of our daily lives. It’s breakdown time, examination time, transmutation time. We look at ourselves, not with finger-pointing or throwing in the towel, but with great curiosity and compassion. We feel ourselves, including all the previously hidden parts, both ugly and beautiful. Who am I really? Not who I project myself to be, nor who I am striving to be, but who am I, right this minute? Am I worthy, just as I am? Can I stand in this squeeze, fall down and get up again, each time a little more fully awake and in love with this rich and raw human experience? Can I give over to the forging?

“It’s the rub between those two things – the squeeze between reality and vision – that causes us to grow up, to wake up to be 100 percent decent, alive, and compassionate. The big squeeze is one of the most productive places on the spiritual path and in particular on this journey of awakening the heart.” Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty.

Blessings, my friends. We are in this together. Let us hold each other tight.



14 Replies to “Pressure!”

  1. After reading your article the only word that came to my mind of how NOT to feel the pressure was the word “surrender”. How wonderful and liberating would it be if we all could (I know I still haven’t!) surrender to the thought that… we, our children, our family, the world etc etc are exactly what /where we are supposed to be for a specific purpose and that in the end…all will be well….even if there will be or has been any pain and sorrow during that path! Acceptance….forgiveness….Surrender !!

  2. Your words are exquisitely crafted, Angie. Your heart overfloweth onto the paper. I am always so deeply touched by the immediacy and urgency of your sharing. I am in your car, on that beach, singing, “O Holy Spirit, breathe on me.” I am reminded of the admonition to meditate as if your hair were on fire. That’s where you take me….to the ego’s edge, and gratefully, broken open! Thank you!

    1. Oh, Joan, thank you so much! I am so glad you can feel what I meant! And yes, I could sing once I got to the beach, because I had broken open on the way! (Still can’t believe I did that, but hey, that’s what spirit can do!) Love you, woman.

  3. Oh, Angela.
    “…that little Syrian boy lying face down dead on another beach on the other side of the world flooded my psyche… and broke me in two. The juxtaposition of the agony and the ecstasy of this world, and the huge question of my responsibility to it…”
    I love you, I love your aching, brave, beautiful heart that tries (like me) to hold it all.
    Holding with you.

  4. This really spoke to me Angie! All the pressures that I myself need to release. …thank you for helping me understand what is necessary!

    1. I’m glad, Rita. We “wear” the pressure so much, we don’t even realize how heavy we are emotionally. It has become a way of life. But the heart wants to release! Love you. Thank you.

  5. If you have not read Charles Eisenstein, you may want to check him out. I am in the middle of his book “Sacred Economics”, and part of what he proposes is that the planet is beginning to awaken to the reality that we are all connected. The Syrian refugee issue is making me wonder if a tipping point is coming. A possible global realization that we are not territories, countries, and states separated by arbitrary lines on a map. We are connected on spiritual and genetic levels which have been obliterated by our unsustainable debt based, interest bearing economies where everyone’s gain is someone’s loss. “The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible” is coming. In the meantime, I take comfort in the wisdom that we are all exactly where we are supposed to be, and that duality is reality (if anything is.) The beautiful Malibu sunrise and the child corpse in the sand are a yin and yang that we must reconcile. We can allow ourselves to appreciate the beauty of this world as we acknowledge that which is most hideous. What a ride this life is. Love you, Ange. Thanks for daring to share. You totally rock!

    1. Oh, Jim, it is so good to hear from you, and feel the Divine-Masculine-Embracing-the-Divine-Feminine in your language and heart! I think we are indeed at a tipping point, and I for one am bringing all I have to the edge to help it along! I will check out the book. And thank you! I miss you! YOU ROCK!

I would love to hear your thoughts!