Beauty and Terror.

Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

This week as I was flying to Phoenix for work we flew past the most amazing storm over New Mexico. We were up above 30,000 feet and the thunderhead clouds loomed above us. Giant oval domes of clouds. Dozens of them. And for the better part of 15 minutes as we flew past them they were lit up with lightening in an array of patterns and flashes. It was breathtaking.

It really was a moment of beauty and terror. I couldn’t stop watching. And I couldn’t stop wondering what the line was between beauty and terror.

As we passed the storm we came to the edge of the front. A wall of clouds. And here at the edge of the front the wind picked up so that it seemed we were in a wind tunnel—though we were approaching the edge of the clouds, we seemed to stand still.  And once again I was riveted to the scene. Watching the wall of clouds and feeling the strain of forward motion against the power of nature.

I think what was so powerful about the experience was how familiar it was. That feeling of being right at the edge of something huge. The feeling of standing still, no matter how hard you work. The feeling of the powerful forces working against you and the excitement and longing to move forward. It was the experience of transformation all sped up. I know the experience so much slower.

It’s hard to hold both when you are healing—both the beauty and the terror. There are some moments of healing that are so difficult. So massive. Those giant cloud domes filled with lightening. All the pain you experience lighting up as you bring your attention to it.

My dog hates lightening and thunder. When there is a storm, he freaks out and jumps on top of me: he wants to tuck himself inside my ribs and press himself on my spine. He can’t get close enough. And I know this feeling too. It can take such strength and patience and discipline to stay and breathe when the lightening and thunder hits. It can be really tough not to run and hide. You just want to melt into a bigger being—something that can hold you and the pain of it all.

But as soon as you can really pay attention to it. Breathe with it. Sit with it. And be safe in the witnessing of it: you can also take in the power of it. The beauty in the tenderness of it. Healing, like lightning, is magic. It comes in flashes. If you can actually stay with it, it doesn’t last long and you realize that in seeing the hard part you get access to the bigger part of yourself. You can see all of the edges. Let everything happen to you/Beauty and terror/Just keep going/No feeling is final.

© 2015 Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD