“I feel like we live in a world where we are always trying to cover what’s hard. Cover what’s real.” – Koshin Paley Ellison
In today’s episode of the Reboot Podcast, Jerry sits down with Koshin Paley Ellison, co-founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, to talk about his latest book, Untangled. In the work he does in the world with his co-founder and husband Chodo, they help people know what to do with their suffering. Together, Jerry and Koshin talk about the nobility of our suffering as a basic part of our humanity and one of the many ways in which we can find connection with each other.
Koshin knows loneliness and grew up in an environment where he felt completely isolated, within a family who had fled from the Holocaust, which meant they lacked deep social connections as immigrants in a new country. He knows what it’s like to be singled out. And, he knows what it’s like to feel heartbroken and not know who you can talk to. He knows epigenetic trauma and knows the epigenetic courage that can be right alongside it.
“It takes noble strength to meet our suffering and to say, “I see you. I’m with you, fear. I see you, terror. I see you, confusion, anxiety, whatever that is and all the things that I’ve experienced in my life,” Koshin reminds us.
Having a space to be honest with our suffering is a gem. Finding someone to share it with, someone who can hold it with grace is a boon in life. It may be a friend who can hear you, however you show up, with whatever’s on your heart. Or, a peer you can reach out to when you need to connect. Such connections are healing. Just our being able to bear witness not only to our own suffering, but the stories others hold is a healing bridge.
It’s up to each of us to learn how to pause, learn how to reflect, and learn how to listen to another. That, Koshin asserts, is how to untangle the tangles of emotional knots woven through our human lives and lineages. When we are receptive and connected to others, the causeway for being seen and heard (and not fixed!) makes for a shared presence that’s a relieving, validating, and life-affirming balm.
In bearing witness to each other’s hearts — the joys and the brokenhearted moments — we find joy in the full range of it all. The most personal is often the most universal, even though we often wonder to ourselves: “clearly, it’s just me who has these feelings or this issue.” And, yet, the opposite is true. As soon as we share, we create a connection to the other hearts in the room, or whoever is there to receive the truth of our noble suffering. “The beauty is to be curious; Tell me about your experience, and I can share mine. And I feel like that’s the beginning of such good medicine for the fear of loneliness and the fear in loneliness,” Koshin says.
In what ways do you feel connected these days? How might you reach for connection if you need more? Who are your lifelines, the folks who can hold all you’ve got and are here for it?