We've all been broken, battered, & bruised.
We've shut down, shut out, & shut up repeatedly & heedlessly.
The ego hurts, the brain hurts, & oh, our poor, sweet hearts hurt.
But we keep moving. Growing has pains & some of us are slow learners. Painfully slow. Monumentally sluggish, putting together a pyramid by hand, kind of slow. But we keep moving because we don't have a choice.
I feel, all the feelings, all the time.
There's your garden-variety personal-feelings that I'm getting better at navigating (slow learner).
I feel the homeless person on the corner.
I feel the abandoned, abused, forgotten creatures.
I feel my mother, brother, sister, father so deeply that I have to move two countries away to deal.
I cry private tears for the heartbreaks of the women I share sisterhood with & the men I see as warriors.
I literally feel like I'll be crushed by the injustices of the world.
I feel you.
This used to debilitate me. My poor 20 something heart was not equipped for what felt like a crippling responsibility. Maybe it's because of the small lines I now find on my face that I see the beauty in the cracks & fissures of my heart.
Each, a holding space for the memory of emotion. Each carrying with it, a teaching more precious, than all the protection of an armoured heart. Each brought about by the tenacious work an open heart & loving mind demand.
It can be a total bitch.
It can be paralyzing but grazing over the lines of my heart is like a roadmap to where I've been. Over time, they've filled themselves in with stardust & gold.
A heart of gold.
Japanese culture has a beautiful perspective that celebrates the stories of brokenness. When pottery breaks, it's repaired by fitting the pieces back together with lacquers of gold, silver, or platinum. Kintsugi honours the brokenness as part of the history. The integral part of the story that makes it interesting, memorable. So it is with our gentle hearts.
Of course living in the heart isn't all pain.
It's beautifully liberating. It's where miracles happen & magic made. It doesn't seem so at first because at first, we're unaccustomed to being ripped open, abnormal in the anomaly of vulnerability. It requires a departure from the comfortable space of indifference. You must dare lay it all on the line, every time.
It's trusting that no matter what does or does not happen, you will be fine. You will prosper. You will be protected. But especially, because you have mastered the art of love, you will always have an abundance of it.
Because of it I also feel every rescued animal.
I feel lovers' first kiss.
I feel children playing & sun shinning.
I get to feel the emotions of the trees & the subtle energies of the moss covered grove.
This is the privilege of an open heart.
Every moment becomes sacred.
It takes the heart of a lion to live in a state of love.
It requires daily courage & a steadfastness you didn't know you had. But you have it. You are strong enough. You are brave enough. You are bold enough. Fuck ya, you are good enough.
You are enough.
Believing this & fully embodying it is the first step to an existence of love. We are always reminded to love ourselves first. It's eye-rolling cheesy but we cannot have true love to another or from another if we don't yet have it for ourselves.
Budddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh shares a story in Teachings on Love:
One day, King Prasenajit of Koshala asked Queen Mallika, "My dear wife, is there anyone who loves you as much as you love yourself?" The queen laughed & responded, "My dear husband, is there anyone who loves you more than you love yourself?" The next day, they told the Buddha of their conversation, & he said, "You are correct. There is no one in the universe more dear to us than ourselves. The mind may travel in a thousand directions, but it will find no one else more beloved. The moment you see how important it is to love yourself, you will stop making others suffer.
Once you fully accept yourself, you can love yourself. "To love is first of all to accept yourself as you actually are. 'Knowing thyself' is the first practice of love." The only way to 'know thyself' is to spend time with yourself. Thich Nhat Hanh shares the following meditation with us to set us on our way:
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding & love.
May I be able to recognize & touch the seeds of joy & happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify & see the sources of anger, craving, & delusion in myself.
As you do this meditation, the goal is to embody each phrase. Listen to how your body feels in your presence. How do you feel physically? What emotions are you withholding? Where do your strengths & weaknesses lay? Find these spaces, embrace them, & cultivate acceptance for them. You will gradually feel more at home inside yourself. You will grow gentleness towards yourself. With practice, you will accept & love yourself completely.
To practice this exercise, begin by learning to touch the positive seeds that lie within you, & also the seeds of suffering. Recognize that they are there, & look deeply to understand their nature — their root cause. Once you understand the roots of your suffering — your anger, your hurt, your frustration — your heart becomes peaceful, calm, & light. The roots of anger in you are transformed, & it becomes easy to accept & love. You have succeeded in extinguishing the fires in yourself, & you can help others do the same. Touching the seeds of joy & happiness in ourselves, identifying & seeing the sources of anger, craving, & delusion in ourselves, we truly become peaceful, happy, & light in body & spirit; safe & free from injury; & free from anger, afflictions, fear, & anxiety.
Once we've mastered this within ourselves, we can authentically & wholly offer this same empathy & acceptance to others. Even our worst enemies benefit as we begin to experience the humanity in them. Our view of our beloved becomes clearer & our love for them healthier. All benefit from our commitment to self.
When you live in a state of love, every day is an offering of hope & gratitude.