Running a blog is a varied experience, and when to publish what depends on many things. Sometimes the writing comes from inspiration, sometimes it’s a creative light bulb, often it answers questions that are asked a lot, and many times content comes from what the need is, what people are presenting with, the challenges and difficulties of being human. Today, it’s for this reason that I’m posting and also because this is the third in the compilation series.
One of the wonderful aspects of writing on a regular basis, is how often the truths that are finding words through you are echoed elsewhere. This is resonant and validating. I’ve been reading, admiring and appreciating Jack Kornfield for a very long time. He’s one of the most experienced, real and authentic teachers who has been in service to the world for many decades.
Here’s a long quote from him, and below it are links to Heart-related posts I’ve had the privilege of conveying over the years.
He gets to the heart of the matter! Pay attention and absorb it, because it’s stellar! Beautiful and profound.
Just as we open and heal the body by sensing its rhythms and touching it with a deep and kind attention, so we can open and heal other dimensions of our being. The heart and the feelings go through a similar process of healing through the offering of our attention to their rhythms, nature, and needs. Most often, opening the heart begins by opening to a lifetime’s accumulation of unacknowledged sorrow, both our personal sorrows and the universal sorrows of warfare, hunger, old age, illness, and death. At times we may experience this sorrow physically, as contractions and barriers around our heart, but more often we feel the depth of our wounds, our abandonment, our pain, as unshed tears…
As we take the one seat and develop a meditative attention, the heart presents itself naturally for healing. The grief we have carried for so long, from pains and dashed expectations and hopes, arises. We grieve for our past traumas and present fears, for all of the feelings we never dared experience consciously. Whatever shame or unworthiness we have within us arises—much of our early childhood and family pain, the mother and father wounds we hold, the isolation, any past abuse, physical or sexual, are all stored in the heart. Jack Engler, a Buddhist teacher and psychologist at Harvard University, has described meditation practice as primarily a practice of grieving and of letting go. At most of the spiritual retreats I have been a part of, nearly half of the students are working with some level of grief: denial, anger, loss, or sorrow. Out of this grief work comes a deep renewal.
Many of us are taught that we shouldn’t be affected by grief and loss, but no one is exempt. One of the most experienced hospice directors in the country was surprised when he came to a retreat and grieved for his mother who had died the year before. “This grief,” he said, “is different from all the others I work with. It’s my mother.” Oscar Wilde wrote, “Hearts are meant to be broken.” As we heal through meditation, our hearts break open to feel fully. Powerful feelings, deep unspoken parts of ourselves arise, and our task in meditation is first to let them move through us, then to recognize them and allow them to sing their songs. A poem by Wendell Berry illustrates this beautifully.
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
Where I left them, asleep like cattle…
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
And the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.
What we find as we listen to the songs of our rage or fear, loneliness or longing, is that they do not stay forever. Rage turns into sorrow; sorrow turns into tears; tears may fall for a long time, but then the sun comes out. A memory of old loss sings to us; our body shakes and relives the moment of loss; then the armoring around that loss gradually softens; and in the midst of the song of tremendous grieving, the pain of that loss finally finds release.
In truly listening to our most painful songs, we can learn the divine art of forgiveness. While there is a whole systematic practice of forgiveness that can be cultivated, both forgiveness and compassion arise spontaneously with the opening of the heart. Somehow, in feeling our own pain and sorrow, our own ocean of tears, we come to know that ours is a shared pain and that the mystery and beauty and pain of life cannot be separated. This universal pain, too, is part of our connection with one another, and in the face of it we cannot withhold our love any longer.
We can learn to forgive others, ourselves, and life for its physical pain. We can learn to open our heart to all of it, to the pain, to the pleasures we have feared. In this, we discover a remarkable truth: Much of spiritual life is self-acceptance, maybe all of it. Indeed, in accepting the songs of our life, we can begin to create for ourselves a much deeper and greater identity in which our heart holds all within a space of boundless compassion.
— Jack Kornfield
Compilation of Heart posts:
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- How Important is Posture in Meditation? - 03/23/2017
- Being Unweary - 03/17/2017
- Practice Methods Lead to Practicing Qualities - 02/02/2017
- Are You a Path Walker or Toe-Dipper? - 10/17/2016
- Resources to Navigate Troubled Times - 09/12/2016
- Meditation Tips for Beginners - 07/06/2016
- The Call to Awaken - 06/14/2016
- Gapless Awareness - 06/05/2016
- The Attributes of Growth - 05/13/2016
- Compilation of Healing Posts - 04/27/2016