“In bullfighting there is a place in the ring where the bull feels safe. If he can reach this place, he stops running and can gather his full strength. He is no longer afraid… It is the job of the matador to know where this sanctuary lies, to be sure the bull does not have time to occupy his place of wholeness. This safe place for the bull is called the querencia. For humans, the querencia is the safe place in our inner world. When a person finds their querencia in full view of the matador, they are calm and peaceful…”

     There are times in all of our lives when we are like the bull in a bullfight – times when we feel attacked, wounded, vulnerable, and scared. The loss of a loved one, serious health concerns, being let go from a job, the breakup of a relationship, and other trials and traumas, can rock us to the core. In reaction to life’s challenges we may, like an injured bull, go on the attack, but inside it is fear that grips our heart. No one wants to be afraid, but it is only when we face what hurts us and feel the feelings resulting from our wounds, that we can experience the inner calm and peace that enables us to return to the “fight” with renewed vigor.

     Author and physician Rachel Remen penned the opening paragraph of this reflection. For her, the bullfight has involved a lifelong battle with Crohn’s disease. Dr. Remen discovered that by retreating to her querencia (soul), she found the ability to face and embrace the reality of her incurable situation. Like hers, our life’s difficulties are an invitation to find our querencia, and to experience the safety, calm, and wholeness that can only be found within. It is there, in our deepest self, that we know we are more than what is happening to us, and it is from there that we can look life in the eye without fear – or at least without being paralyzed by it.

    But it is as if the matador (life) is trying to prevent us from discovering our “safe place.” Its many demands and responsibilities, its allurements and drama, and its message to soldier on, can keep us from stopping, resting, and regaining our “full strength.” It can be courageous to heed the invitation to stop and to rest because doing so can appear to be weak. But if we see that our afflictions are a dark gift, a blessing in disguise, they can be embraced as the way to gather our full strength, and thus become our best self.

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