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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

The Wisdom of a Broken Heart

A note from Erin:
Greetings!

This past weekend was the beginning of my Women Embodied Live group for 2015. I adore teaching this class so much and am always blown away by the wonderful women who grace the group. This past week was no exception. One of the things I look forward to every year is not only sharing the teachings and practices and poems I love so much, but also learning from the wisdom of the group. I am still resonating deeply with our time together, and specifically with a statement shared by one of the women in our circle. I want to share it with you.
She spoke in a voice shaky with deep feeling as she said, “I’m cultivating the willingness to live with a broken heart.” 
My hut (heart + gut) resonated like a bell that had just been struck. Hard.
Oh, such wisdom.
It especially seems important in these days of infinite offers promising to avoid just that. “Get the perfect body, house, furniture, blender, exercise routine, multivitamin, flat screen tv, hair product, fill in the blank and you’ll be happy!”
For me, there’s something so much more deeply honest in this willingness to live with a broken heart.
Not a dysfunctionally broken heart – but one broken open to the reality of impermanence, broken open to being truly touched by the messy wonderful awful delightful heart-wrenching awe-inspiring experience called life.
I was thrilled this morning to find that a favorite talk I’ve listened to dozens of times on cd is now available on Youtube. Martin Prechtel, a shaman who was raised on a Pueblo Indian Reservation, who then lived for many years with the Tzutujil Mayans in Guatemala and is now teaching in New Mexico, gives a stunningly beautiful talk aboutthe inseparability of Grief and Praise. It’s around an hour long in total (there are 3 parts) and it’s well worth the time. Especially if you’re considering the wisdom of living with a broken-open heart.
I thought I’d quote here what touched me in his talk, but I’m so happy that if you like, you can listen to it yourself. (You might want to wait until evening when you can sip some tequila while listening. ;) Listen in to see what I mean.) 
Grief and Praise part 1
Grief and Praise part 1

 

 

Pema Chodron writes,
When we wall ourselves off from uncertainty and fear, Trungpa Rinpoche said that we develop an “iron heart.” When someone develops a true friendship with themselves, the iron heart softens into something else. It becomes a vulnerable heart, a tender heart. It becomes a genuine heart of sadness, because it is a heart that is willing to be touched by pain and remain present.”

She goes on…

“Without realizing it, we continually put up protective walls made of opinions, prejudices, and strategies, barriers that are built on a deep fear of being hurt. These walls are further fortified by emotions of all kinds: anger, craving, indifference, jealousy, and arrogance.

But fortunately for us, the soft spot – our innate ability to love and to care about things – is like a crack in these walls we erect. It’s a natural opening in the barriers we create when we’re afraid. With practice we can learn to find this opening. We can learn to seize that vulnerable moment – love, gratitude, loneliness, embarrassment, inadequacy – to awakenbodhichitta.

 

the painting + quote above is by my dear friend Randee Levine and reads: 

“i have faith in those things that are not yet said and i want to set forth my most holy feelings and what no one else has dared to want will be for me impossible to refuse. you see i want a lot, perhaps i want everything, the darkness that comes with every infinite fall and the shivering blaze of every step up.” – Rilke 
I want to live today realizing that everyone I love is going to die. And I don’t get to know when.
In Salt Lake City, we are having 60 degree days in February. (As our son would say, “What the?!?“)
I want to let my heart be broken open by the beauty of the cheerful yellow crocuses and daffodils and also let my heart be broken open in deep concern for this waaaay-too-early spring when we should be deep in snow, and the drought that’s likely to follow.
I want to remember that my heart is big enough to hold all of this: joy and pain, delight and concern, love and anguish.
I want to live today loving like crazy everything that touches my heart, without any holding back, willing to let the grief at recognizing the impermanence of it all season my loving as well.
That combo is delicious, all the more so for letting my grief flavor my loving.
For letting my soft-spot be just as soft and tender and raw as it is.
I want to live today willing to have a broken heart. 
(Thank you, Kristen, for reminding me.)
With love 
and grief 
and praise,

And YEEEHAW! We’re aliiiiiiive!!!!! :)

Erin

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