Fearing the bitter inside the sweet

Last Friday I had an important epiphany after my morning Shiva Nata practice. I want to tell you about it! But it’s proving difficult to translate into real words.

For one thing, this epiphany seems to need a word that isn’t found in English.

This word would have the meaning of happiness-that-contains-pain. Or sweetness-that-contains-bitterness. Or joy-that-contains-sadness.

But I can’t seem to find the right word.

A few people have suggested the Portuguese word saudade, meaning a longing for something that cannot be…but that’s not quite it.

There is the German liebesschmerz, or love’s pain, which is getting closer. But that’s not quite it, either.

So I leave you with what I learned: that one of my patterns is to pursue something joyful, fun, sweet, without balance. And when I do that, there is often pain to be found there.

(Ah, Balance. The theme of the week!)

And here is the most important part: it’s okay to be sad about it. And it’s okay to feel fear around this entire ball of stuckness. Because this is a very, very old pattern, one from the earliest reaches of childhood. It’s the kind that never disappears — poof! — not just by thinking about it. Not even by Shiva-Nata-ing about it.

It’s just there. I have to give it love and attention. I have to acknowledge the sadness that is there. And also know that the pattern is not set forever: with balance, I can still pursue a joyful thing (like riding my bike) without finding pain (in my back). It just takes some extra care and awareness.

But let me know if you think of a good word for this, in any language!


One interesting thing about this epiphany: for the first time, it was actually an answer to a question I had. This is meant to be a normal Shiva Nata thing, where you bring a question with you into the practice and perhaps it gives you answers afterward. (At Rally it gave me intense visions, but that was another kind of Shiva Nata entirely.) Since I am just a beginner, I’m not really good at bringing questions with me. It’s too hard! Except this time the question seemed to piggy-back its way into Shiva Nata; almost like I wasn’t aware it was there until I had the answer in my hand, and the tears in my eyes. It was a very unexpected moment, but I am grateful for it. This lesson about the bitterness-inside-the-sweetness was a powerful thing to start my Friday with.


About jesse k.

Writer. Mama. Spy in the house of self-awareness. Occasional crafter, letterpress geek, and academic snob.
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4 Responses to Fearing the bitter inside the sweet

  1. AlisonG says:

    For the word you’re seeking, may I suggest chantepleure, which is a French word for spigot but also seems to connote singing and weeping, a mixture of joy and sorrow.

    Thanks for sharing your practice, it’s illuminating.

    • jesse k. says:

      Chantepleure! How beautiful. French was my first second language, so this word speaks to me more than the other words I’ve found so far. Thank you for stopping by! I am humbly grateful if it was illuminating 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Balance Expedition: coming home | my seed house

  3. Pingback: Friday check-in: Indiana Jesse & the Temple of Not Much Doom, Actually | my seed house

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