Crying is a secret sacred place, a place of solitude.
It’s not a space we navigate with much finesse; there are few maps on how to cry.
Many conflicting feelings arise around tears.
Fear of looking weak.
Fear of being too emotional.
Guilt for making others feel bad.
Relief at sharing pent-up thoughts.
Or, joy at being seen in our truth.
To cry is to render your heart naked, undefended & utterly exposed to the world.
No wonder it is shrouded in so much terror, secrecy and shame.
Only human beings cry.
Other creatures do have tears, that is, their eyes release liquid in response to dust, wind & other irritants.
But only humans -with their unique ability to feel into what’s possible- can cry from actual emotions.
Why do we cry?
There are many ways to tell the history of tears.
Here’s one possible narrative that I completely invented in my own mind. I use this explanation to tell my kids how important it is that they are honest and comfortable expressing their feelings.
So here is my theory on the history of tears…
With water being such a coveted resource, and eyesight being our main defense against harm, why would evolution ‘waste’ good liquid and compromise our vision?
What is the benefit?
Nature must get a payoff for every cost.
I suspect, when humans gathered around the fire to share stories with their tribe, an emergent system arose wherein any member experiencing,
or any strong feeling,
would be exposed with one unmistakable indicator of emotional intensity: tears.
Feelings are internal and can often be hidden.
But tears are external and thus seen by others.
They are explicit visual ques that indicate: this individual needs help.
A bleeding cut on your body says “pay attention, do something to heal the wound”.
Similarly, tears say the “tribe” is bleeding through the tender heart of one member, “pay attention, go and help”.
There must have been a time when tears flowed freely from human beings.
A time when they were a clear signal for support.
Every new baby cries. Often their howls and tears are the only way we can discern their needs.
Children cry honestly when they require something important.
But at some point those real tears get decoded by another person as something other than an S.O.S.
They get shamed, even punished.
And in that moment the inherent dignity of tears are lost.
From then on, our tears get pushed down and cast out as a native form of communication.
We now live in a world where tears are rarely seen as noble, rarely held as sacred, rarely honored as the most authentic expression of a soul longing to be heard.
Tears…your tears, are the way your body shows you what’s important to you.
Holding them back is a form of self-deception and a withhold of your deepest truth.
When I feel that familiar proto-tear sensation rising up in my throat, I know I always have a choice in that moment: to cry or…to lie.
Every uncried tear is a lost epiphany, a missed lesson, a moment that failed at aliveness.
Learning to appreciate and understand this was a huge step in me learning to surrender my life to God.
Each time you cry you release ancient tears from all the moments you didn’t let yourself cry in the past.
No tear is ever wasted, I like to think that each one holds in it’s liquid infinity, 10 years worth of therapeutic salve.
Knowing this, I now look forward to opportunities to cry…
once the portal is open, I let as many drops out as I can.
The more I cry, the more alive I feel.
Tears teach us what we actually care about, they point at what matters the most, they take us back to a place of innocence & transparency.
Tears lead us home.
When the people in my life see me cry, they know that they are extremely important to me. That I am trusting them, in that moment with my heart, that is completely open to them.
Crying, as I see it, is beyond judgment.
Funded by any number of emotions, tears are neither good nor bad.
They are simply our response to the intensity of being alive.
The other thing I often tell my kids is that tears are an indication that your body is so full of emotions that some of those feelings are leaking out of their eyes.
I suspect that wise, enlightened hearts live most of their lives one thought away from tears.
They allow themselves to feel things fully, and completely. This, I believe, is the source of their wisdom.
To be moved is to be tender-hearted.
Cynics never sob.
Only one who feels epic emotions and cares deeply about something has the ability to cry.
It feels dramatic, poetic to be SO alive.
Tears are the most appropriate response to life & love, when they’re fully experienced.
Recently a friend and I shared some painful stories about historic heart breaks.
The space was safe enough for both of us to feel into some un-felt feelings and let them surface.
As soon as her eyes welled up, mine followed in empathic resonance.
As is the case with all shared tears, we found each other again, but at a new level of intimacy.
Few things breed kinship like the ancient fellowship of tears.
Next time you feel the intensity of life moving through your body via strong sensations that take discipline to attend to and concentration to hold, I invite you to surrender to the urge to express.
Let go of the facade, “I’m fine” or “it’s no big deal”, leave out your apology.
I dare you to consciously make space for your true feelings to occupy the canvas;
Give them the paintbrush and allow them to create a masterpiece.
Feelings rise up from your unconscious mind to teach you something.
Honor them with your listening.
If you can abandon yourself to the felt truth of your experience, you might feel that familiar tension at the back of your throat, that proto-tears state.
I highly recommend you take yourself on a journey through that secret space.
Go for a swim through your own emotions.
With practice you can map this sacred terrain, where crying is your compass for what’s good, true and beautiful.
Become a cartographer of your own heart.
And every time you cry, remember this:
you are embarking on a series of revelations.
So keep your mind wide and your heart open.
Your identity is also at stake; we say who we are by what makes us cry…
Staying with your somatic sensations while having an emotion will take you to places beyond your imagination.
You’ll meet parts of your heart you never even knew existed.
If you are willing to hold the possibility that tears might be your most profound teacher, then crying will become an education about the contours of your own soul.
Let the tyranny of tears invoke your most tender truths.
Surrender to your tears.
And let’s choose crying over lying, at last.