My hurting heart

In yoga, I often teach a very heart-based class.  I tell my students to open their hearts, to lift them up, to express how they feel in their anahata chakra.  I do this because I feel like in general that we tend to close off as we age, we let pain and scars and disappointment close us off to letting love in.  I truly believe (with my whole heart, wah!) that an open heart is a precursor to living a wide, expansive, authentic and open life.

But this week, I’ve been struggling a lot with my own heart.  As much as I try to live with an open heart, and encourage others to do the same, the down side is sometimes your heart gets hurt.  This week, I felt the deep pain and disappointment caused by a deep gash in my heart.  I got hurt, I feel disappointed and extremely vulnerable.  I feel a deep shame for trusting people so easily, and for letting myself get hurt.  I feel angry and disappointed in myself for not protecting my heart.  My face is extremely swollen from crying, my pockets full of wadded tissues. My physical and spiritual response to this has to been to want to run far away.  I want to close off my heart and never let anyone in again.  I want to be distant and cold and protected from harm.  I want to vow to never let anyone in again.

It’s funny, when my heart hurts (unfortunately, I’m rather too familiar with this pain), I start to question everything.  I wonder what is true in life, what is a big lie.  I wonder if people really love me, or if they only love me if I act the way they want me to.  I wonder if I’m worthy of any love in my life at all, or if I deserve to be treated badly for the mistakes I have made in my life. I wonder about karma and if a lifetime of checks are being cashed.

I’m trying to reach out to find the answers to all this shame, disappointment, hurt, and vulnerability.  What I’ve found is that in order to heal, you have to open up that heart again.  A closed down heart can’t heal. 

Last night, I did a few heart-opening poses in my home practice and they hurt so badly.  I thought I could feel my heart breaking open in a very literal way.  I did them because I know that I have to find my way out of this, and the way out is not through my intellect, but rather through my heart.  I can’t run from my own soul.  I can’t hide from my truth.  I have to trust in myself again, and not worry about what other people say about me and my integrity.

I thought it was important to share this pain, because I want you to know, dear one, that everyone feels pain.  This is part of our human condition, part of what keeps us grounded in our souls.  While I am feeling this pain, I know that in my blessed life I can also feel joy, and happiness, and relief, and pride.  I can feel open and expansive and excited and passionate. 

As I become wiser, I know that the pain does lessen, and love and light to begin to crack through the darkness.  I am not alone. You are not alone.  By being true to the pain, by feeling it with your whole heart and soul, the path forward will make itself known. In it’s own sweet time.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save the only life you could save.

~Mary Oliver