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Sitting with Sadness – Jan Shigetsu Jones

Here we have another contribution on the theme of Difficult Emotions. This time from Jan Jones on her experience of sitting with sadness on retreat:
I think the emotion I’ve found most difficult to sit with is sadness. I have a really strong memory of attending sesshin a while back and as I settled into the reassuring but rigorous routine of the days I discovered a strong resistance at what I suspected I was containing. I had been working with a few people who were expressing suicidal intent and feelings for a few months and realised eventually that seemed to be linked to the fear and resistance I was experiencing. I became preoccupied with whether what I was experiencing was something I was carrying (feelings of others), or whether they were my own. In retrospect I think this was a way of avoiding being with the feelings too, part of the process.
The struggle I eventually engaged with felt really very difficult and I found myself seriously contemplating leaving, packing up and going home. I’m not sure whether it was the cumulative Joriki produced by the sangha and or the psychological and emotional comfort and holding by Sensei but I managed to stay in there. I distinctly remember it was on the Thursday when my resistance yielded and I found myself sensing feelings that were soft, non-threatening, like a warm dark pool. It felt very significant to me at the time that I came to a realisation that the feelings I was so terrified of being with were everyone’s, almost like the sadness of all the world. I remember tears rolling down my face sitting on my cushion in the cradle of the Sangha. It was beautiful, the sadness I once was immersed in was so beautiful and necessary somehow.
The pain and suffering I had experienced, it seemed to me, consisted mostly of resistance, fear, and terror of what I thought it was. Being with it and in it felt restful, the stuff of life.