Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.
Susan Piver writes a brief little piece on the importance of sadness for Mindful.org. I love this:
What if I told you that the way to change the world was not to be bold, resolute, brilliant, or even compassionate? What if I told you that the way to change the world was to be sad?I have a feeling that many of us have found direction in our lives -- that one thing that feels like dharma, like passion, like what we're "meant to do" (or what Piver calls "your brand of helpful activity") -- because of our own particular sorrows. I love how she connects the activism of folks like Gandhi and MLK, Jr with their own roots in sadness. Rather than setting their suffering aside as a forethought to their later work, it becomes the very engine, the fuel, that makes it all possible.
It sounds so improbable. When we think of those who have taught us the most about meaningful change, we think of people who are very, very brave, say, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama. Unwavering. Deep. Devoted to others and willing to die for what they believe, quite literally.
How do you get to be such a person?
Well, I have no idea, but I would put money on the idea that the ground, path, and fruition of their lives is sadness.
When you look out at this world, what you see will make you very, very sad. This is good. You are seeing clearly. Genuine sadness gives rise, spontaneously, naturally, completely, to the wish—no, the longing—to be of benefit to others. When your wish to help is rooted in love (i.e. sadness), it is effective. There is no question.
But because it is so uncomfortable, we immediately want to turn sadness into what we imagine will hurt less: anger, hopelessness, helplessness. When the wish to help is rooted in anger, it will only create more confusion. And of course, when we feel hopeless or helpless, we take refuge in non-action, which also creates confusion.
Meditation teaches you to relax with the discomfort of sadness and stay with it, not turn it into something else. At this point, you can lay claim to your brand of helpful activity (whether it takes the form of activism, leadership, charitable work, making art, prayer, and/or simple, basic kindness to all).
Even now, here, seeing and knowing (and loving) the work that I do on a daily basis, this yoga stuff, that writing stuff, I know it's rooted deeply in those very own sorrows of my life. And I feel so intimately the ways in which those sadnesses over the years have transformed themselves, flamed into the fires that keep me hungry to do this work, knowing what I know, having felt what I've felt, and knowing how very universal those sorrows are. And perhaps that's why I see such great truth in this tiny little piece. And I'm grateful to writers like Piver who say it out loud, who acknowledge in particular that bliss and devotion, direction and joy, are so often rooted in sorrow.
How can you channel your own sorrows into the kind of passionate work that's life-giving and love-creating? What are you waiting for?
The Importance of Sadness (Mindful.org)