At least my mind is telling me that. More on that in a bit.
As you may have pieced together from my recent essays and musings on social, I’m smack dab in the midst of a second awakening. I’m essentially live-blogging it all; feeling called to share in words what my soul, heart, mind and body are experiencing.
Awakenings put you through the wringer, the sifter, the refinery, the crucible. They heal by cracking you open. They lift you up by knocking you down. But in the chaos and reordering, some order does begin to emerge – one of the first being an emerging understanding of the context of the story. This is the “why” of the experience. The point to it all.
As far as I can tell so far, this awakening is about leaving the cozy confines of co-dependency and embarking on a long trek to reach a new place I’m simply calling Intimacy. I am choosing the term Intimacy quite specifically. Intimacy means becoming close with; touching. I am becoming intimate with fear. And doubt. And uncertainty. I’m also becoming intimate with vulnerability, creativity and resiliency. An awakening of this magnitude is the opportunity to become intimate with my unhealed wounds – even becoming intimate with my trauma responses that are an inevitable part of a spiritual experience.
And it most definitely means becoming intimate with my own heart.
I really don’t want to do that.
Alas, a question from a friend (a young woman with an ancient soul) showed me it was time to do just that: touch my own heart. I was sharing with my friend about how the waves of loneliness were leaving me paralyzed and wrecked. I lamented that loneliness was arriving as “wolves at the door”. You see, trauma responses for me are always about fight – almost never about flight or freeze. So like everything else in my life, I wanted to fight, defeat them, eliminate these wolves. Then she asked: What if these weren’t wolves? What if loneliness is an invitation to examine a deeper part of your own heart?
That immediately rang true.
So yesterday, I set aside some solitude time in nature to examine her questions. I had some tears-inducing epiphanies in doing this work. If prompted by the Muse, I will share these discoveries at some point. But the point of this essay is not what I discovered – it’s how I did it; how I got into my heart and what that experience was.
Now for some of you, the idea of getting into your heart is easy-peasy. But not for me. The Fighter in me is both suspicious and terrified of the heart. I’m all cool with getting into my mind and my soul. I’m good at philosophizing about love; about intellectualizing feelings. I was all fine and good with examining my feelings and emotions. And I understand the absolute necessity for an open and soft heart. What I believe I had avoided until yesterday was journeying into the center of my heart.
Here’s what I’m discovering about deep heart work …
- The best starting point for heart work is inquiry; of asking the heart the right questions. As such, my friend’s prompt was quite helpful. It sparked curiosity as a counterbalance to the resistance to doing this work.
- You have to really want to know the truth of what’s in the center of your heart. There’s no guile there. No lies. No illusions. You can’t bullshit this part of your heart. This takes tremendous courage – which is a behavior, not a feeling. In doing this work, I found myself repeating “You are brave. You are brave. You are brave.”
- The Buddhist practice of Tonglen has been extremely helpful – essentially noticing the pain and suffering in the world around you and breathing it in, then breathing out compassion. On the drive home from my time in nature, I had the opportunity to practice this. I saw an older man with health issues pushing his motorized scooter across the street. Rather than just feel bad for him, I placed my hands on my heart and breathed in his sufferings. I felt his anger, his embarrassment, his fear. Then tears streaming down my face, I breathed compassion out to him. Wow. I remember thinking “so this is what it’s like to love from the center of your being.”
- Part of the reason why I say heart work sucks is that it left me ragged and exhausted. You know that high you get when you have an inspiration or an epiphany? Yeah. I had none of that. For me heart work is self-traumatizing. The more time I spent in the center, the more my mind fought back. I found myself experiencing trauma responses (stomach ache, hunger, anxiety, vertigo, shortness of breath) all the rest of the day. I had gotten too close to the bananas and now the monkeys were letting me have it.
The two biggest lessons I’m learning about heart work so far are this:
- Whatever feelings you dislike the most are an invitation to examine this deepest part of you.
- Once you find out what’s in the center of your heart, the first person to receive it is you. Once you’ve figured that out, you can begin sharing it with others.
So yeah. Heart work sucks. But I need it. I need to know this center of my heart and love myself and others with it. This center is the key to Intimacy. Which is the whole point.