Ballast For A Tender Heart

A note from Erin:

Hello, friends!

How’s your heart?

This morning I’m feeling it all.
Full. Raw. Grateful. Heartbroken. Overwhelmed. Spacious. Tender. Deficient. Humble. Humorous. Wary hopefulness. Inspired.

I’m grateful there’s room for all of it.

This morning I woke early, grateful to beat my kiddo’s awakening hour so I had time to meditate, to contemplate, to go for a walk in my blossom-filled neighborhood. I also peeked at the news on my phone’s NPR app, and felt nauseous, heartbroken, and nearly fell into the paralysis of despair.
Then I walked. Uphill. I stopped a dozen times to pause and appreciate the tender blossoms, sometimes with my camera, often with just my eyes, nose, and heart. I did tai chi in the spot in the park where I’ve practiced on and off over the past 20+ years.

I was thinking of a quote from Francis Weller’s wonderful book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow. “For us to tolerate the rigors of the images, emotions, memories, and dreams that arise in times of grief, we need to fortify our inner ground. This is done through developing a practice that we sustain over time. Any form will do –writing, drawing, meditation, prayer, dance, or something else– as long as we continue to show up and maintain our effort. A practice offers ballast, something to help us hold steady in difficult times. This deepens our capacity to hold the vulnerable emotions surrounding loss without being overwhelmed by them.”

I’m grateful I have so many practices that act as ballast. I’m grateful I dipped into their well this morning and drank deeply.  I could touch the horror of the story of the Syrian nerve gas attack on civilians, as well as the concern for a friend who’s child is suicidal, and deep care for my dad’s lovely wife who recently suffered a heart attack. I could make space to really feel the pain of caring. It hurts so good. Sometimes so bad.

I love the image of practice being ballast. Knowing of the brain’s negativity bias, I understand how important (not indulgent) it is to take the time to seek out beauty and appreciate the hell out of it. My heart is broken open,  not just by the sorrows and tragedies– but also by the tenderness of heart-cracking beauty, by the precious moment of snuggling with my kiddo on the couch, and by the kindness of friends so generous that it makes me want to weep. And oh, the temporary nature of all of it! Here we are. Right here. And right where your butt sits is sacred ground. Surrendering to the support of the earth again and again is one of the very best ballast practices for me. Can you give yourself over to gravity and receive the support that’s there right now? Maybe a little bit more?

It’s so liberating when I’m grounded enough and can let myself have the multiplicity….
Knowing that the joy needn’t cancel out the sorrow and the tender sorrow needn’t cancel out the joy.
The fact that my sitter just cancelled due to illness (again) two hours before I have a full day of clients? Oy. The news of Syria? Overwhelming heartbreak. Part of me wants to drop to my knees collapse.
Maybe I will, but I’m also grateful I can lean into the ballast of blossoms and not forget gratefulness for all that IS working in the world.
I remind myself often, “There’s room for it all.” Wow! There really is.

I found this quote from Chogyam Trungpa who died 30 years ago, but whose words, for me, are always as fresh as the spring blossoms.

“Awakened heart comes from being willing to face your state of mind. The sitting practice of meditation is a means to awaken this within you. When you awaken your heart, to your surprise, you find that it is empty. If you search for awakened heart, if you put your hand through your rib cage and feel for your heart, there is nothing there — except for tenderness. You feel sore and soft, and if you open your eyes to the world, you feel tremendous sadness. It is not the sadness of feeling sorry for yourself or feeling deprived. It is a natural situation of fullness. The genuine heart of sadness comes from this feeling that your nonexistent heart is full. Your experience is so raw, tender, and personal that even if a tiny mosquito lands on you, you feel its touch.


What’s your ballast? How do you fortify your inner ground? 

Wishing you a broken open heart, filled with tenderness toward life, including your own.
And wishing you abundant ballast.
Much love,

p.s. We’ve been in process around here…. after a few weeks of recovering from our trip to Asia, we had a month of travels and hosting workshops. This weekend we’re having a much-needed working date to update our schedule and get our Art of Siting registraiton page up and running. Can’t wait! Next week we’ll have a big schedule update including local workshops, meditations, courses and more, plus we’ll open registration for Art of Sitting online course at long last. We have so much we’re excited to share with you! We hope some of what we offer might be ballast for your own inner ground.

We also wanted to let you locals know: There is just one spot left in Carl’s awesome new class that begins tonight. Want to join? Email or text him. or 801-671-4533.

Since April is national poetry month, and since reading poetry is such wonderful ballast, I want to share one with you. Thank Goodness for soft mornings.

Softest of Mornings

Softest of mornings, hello.
And what will you do today, I wonder,
to my heart?
And how much honey can the heart stand, I wonder,
before it must break?

This is trivial, or nothing: a snail
climbing a trellis of leaves
and the blue trumpets of its flowers.

No doubt clocks are ticking loudly
all over the world.
I don’t hear them. The snail’s pale horns
extend and wave this way and that
as her finger-body shuffles forward, leaving behind
the silvery path of her slime.

Oh, softest of mornings, how shall I break this?
How shall I move away from the snail, and the flowers?
How shall I go on, with my introspective and ambitious life?

– Mary Oliver

Don’t miss this:  September 21-24, I’m hosting an amazing retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, with dear friend and gifted guest teacher, Nan Seymour. Details are below and here.

 Carl’s next Thursday Evening Course is Waking Up Through The Body: Embodying Presence in Everyday Life.  It begins April 6th, and will be an amazing collection of lessons and practices exploring how to deepen embodied presence in our lives.  (Details and registration link are below.)

We are still quietly working away on our new and long-coming online course, The Art of Sitting. We are so passionate about this topic and can’t wait to share with you! Carl and I will be sharing movement lessons, short teachings, guided practices, and “quickie” somatic practices in our upcoming course to help meditators and all of us who sit a lot to do so with greater ease, comfort, and presence. We are so excited! Registration will open in a few weeks. More details coming soon! We’re intending to begin class sometime in April.

We’ve got some really exciting developments in the works. A youtube channel with somatic support for these crazy times is at the top of the list. And more too. We can’t wait to share with you very soon!!!

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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.

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