Yesterday I heard that huge tracts of the giant sea kelp forests in the ocean off Western Australia had completely vanished, destroyed by rising sea temperatures, and I died a little bit too. Yesterday I heard that a policeman shot a black man in a car with a missing light in front of his woman and child; my hair stood up on end and I wept while I drove. Yesterday I heard Gloria Steinem talking to a crowd at the Sydney Writers Festival about how she became a feminist: as a young journalist she covered a story about a task force set up to discuss abortion, made up of 14 men and a nun. As she said, you can’t make this shit up, and I gritted my teeth in outrage. Gloria Steinem is 84 years old, and in spite of the Kardashians, the pornification of our young people and the reluctance of young women to identify as feminists, she cannot help but be hopeful, because of the massive amount of change she has seen over her lifetime, and the change that she continues to see. If Gloria Steinem can be hopeful then so can I. Yesterday I sat beside my 12 year old son in my mother’s office as she diagnosed Epstein Barr Virus and started treatment for chronic fatigue caused by repeated tick poisoning when he was little. I was both pummeled by grief, guilt and sadness and buoyed by faith in my mother’s skills and medicine and my son’s ability to recover. Later on the Bear got cranky, not at me, at the bills, but it felt like he was angry at me, and I shrank into myself, worried and wounded. He came and hugged me later and I whispered that I was worried that he didn’t like me any more, and he said he had the same worry. We hugged again. This is not an unusual day in the life of a modern human. Being human hurts our heart, and that’s all there is to it. We have to let it, because the alternative, of not having our heart broken every day, is to not be truly living. We feel our way through our days, and it can be exhausting and ecstatic and everything in between. Life is like that, and it’s no use wanting it to be any other way.
What does it mean to be heart-centered? Our heart is situated in your body, so there is a sense of grounded, loving, connectedness with yourself and other people. Being heart-centered generates compassion, empathy and unconditional love. A heart-centered person connects with their emotions, checking in to see how they feel about a situation, person or event. Their feelings or instincts guide them in an intuitive way, always moving toward joy. This is a person who trusts themselves and their instincts, and acts accordingly.
In a metaphysical sense, the heart is the meeting place between Heaven and Earth, God/Goddess, Father/Mother, Yin/Yang. It is the sacred meeting space of polarities. Our body, in its physical and energetic form, has the capacity to act as a conduit between Divine energy and Earth energy, channeling the flow in a two way stream. When I say ‘has the capacity’, our channels have to be open and clear in order for the energy to flow unimpeded, and one of the big channels through which this energy needs to flow is our heart.
Having an open heart makes us vulnerable to the pain and suffering in the world. When our heart is open, we feel everything, and this can be unbearable, causing us to shut down and close off. We withdraw, we harden, we get depressed, pessimistic, suspicious and distrustful. We think we’re protecting ourselves, and we are in a sense, much like bricking ourselves into an underground bomb shelter is protecting ourselves from a possible attack. What if it never comes? What if it does, and we have spent our whole lives in a bricked up cocoon? We will have missed out on all the good, juicy stuff of life in our quest to avoid possible heart ache.
Think about someone that you know who is open-hearted. Think about their qualities: trusting, open, honest, faithful, happy, generous, joyful. Think about how it feels to be around this person, how you always feel good after spending time with them.These are the qualities of open-heartedness, and we all want to be like that, because we know that when our hearts are open, we are the very best people we can be. An open heart is the doorway to our soul, and we need that doorway to our soul to be open. It is part of our work as humans, to keep our hearts open, even when it hurts, so that we can play our part in the healing of the world and its inhabitants. If we cannot feel, we cannot heal.
Next: The Importance of Spirit