First, I want to say thank you for all of the loving, empathetic responses that came to us after what Erin wrote last week about her miscarriage. We have been deeply touched and grateful.
Several times I have watched this short animation of a Brene Brown talk on empathy that Erin included last week, and there is so much that is alive for me in this.
One line that has been particularly moving is:
Rarely, if ever does an empathic response begin with
This one hit home for me. I notice how reflexive it can be to counter something that is suffering with ” well, at least…” “look one the bright side…” This happens on occasion with other people, but also so often in myself.
It is like I have some perky inner cheerleader that is trying to point out all that is good when something in me is truly struggling.
I think this is a fine edge:
How do we connect with the rawness of our own suffering, with the suffering of the world around without trying to sugar coat it, but importantly, without becoming consumed and overwhelmed by it?
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote of the tender heart of sadness:
“For the warrior, this experience of sad and tender heart is what gives birth to fearlessness. Conventionally, being fearless means that you are not afraid or that, if someone hits you, you will hit him back. However, we are not talking about that street-fighter level of fearlessness. Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.”
What if our heart has the capacity to be touched directly by the grief and loss in this life without any need for sugarcoating?
What if being touched by the grief and loss is not counter to, but is right along side, being touched by the beauty, wonder and goodness?
In my experience, touched-ness doesn’t choose what it is touched by. I am touched by life, which can tickle my heart in so many ways.
Martin Prechtel, the shaman and writer, speaks of grief and praise as each being implicit in the other.
That when we are grieving something, it is praise for the connection, the gratitude, the way we have been touched.
And when we are praising something or appreciating something, there is the raw and tenderhearted grief of seeing its impermanence.
So much goodness and beauty in this world, so much suffering and confusion.
And have you smelled those lilacs?
Can it all be there?
always said well by Mary…
In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive
Wishing you a touched heart,