June 7, 2022
Living with an Open Heart
By Amba Gale
The Buddhists ask the question, “How do you keep your heart open in hell?”
It is a worthwhile question, a relevant question, in all times, and perhaps, particularly, in these chaotic and anxiety – producing times, in this time of war, and despair, and senselessness violence and children dying.
And underneath it all, is pain, anguish, brokenness.
The importance, nay, the criticality, of living with an open heart, confronts us on a daily basis, for if we close our hearts, we die.
“The brittle heart is easy to break,” my poem, “Heartbreak,” says, in my book, Crossing Thresholds. That message came to me while reading Parker Palmer’s beautiful book, On the Brink of Everything.
We must keep our hearts open, lest, closed and brittle, they break easily into many sharp shards of glass.
So how do we live with an open heart, a soft heart, when we are besieged?
When the news, day and night, if we truly listen, wounds us to the core? When we identify with the grief and the loss, and the struggle in the world?
May I suggest: living in peace starts with a commitment, a stand to keep our (sacred) heart open, no matter the circumstances.
When we are that commitment, a priori, versus being identified with the suffering, we start with finding a way to live a spacious life, a life with our hearts open, with a kind of grace and gratefulness, and spaciousness that follows us into the day from the night time dream state of our imagination.
We have, as a prior commitment, lighting up our lives, for only by doing so can we light up the lives of others.
When that is our (created) priority, when keeping our heart open is essential to our work, we find our way into our day. Sometimes it takes grieving. Sometimes it takes immersing ourselves in our grief. Sometimes it takes moving into our losses.
Sometimes it takes meditating first thing. Or journaling first thing. Or writing a poem, first thing. Or reading a Mary Oliver poem, first thing. Or taking some action that brings us to peace within ourselves.
Sometimes it takes immersing ourself in our practice of meditating, or of breathing, of connecting with our breath.
Sometimes it takes not turning on the radio.
Perhaps, we can find our path to Creativity – to music, or to our own poetic imagination, to our inner, wise guide and teacher: that which can be tapped into from finding a core place of silence within.
Vincent van Gogh (see photograph, “Self Portrait”) knew: living in deep despair, emotional and mental illness, he found his pathway to connecting with his own creativity, his artistry. When we, now, are present to his work, he lifts our hearts to the heavens.
Beethoven, after losing his hearing, composed “The Ode to Joy.”
We are good to ourselves, kind to ourselves, access forgiveness for ourselves, when, more than anything, we are committed to gifting ourselves with light.
Only then, resting in our Selves, can our own awakened state awaken others.
By Amba Gale
When Heart break
makes its way
toward us from
the farthest horizon,
we start to close
in fear that we will be flattened
by the loss,
never to stand again.
When heart breaks come
close like this,
we close ourselves,
Never to face or feel our wounds.
The brittle heart
is easy to break.
Pain shut off and shoved aside
hides in the years
until a time
when fearless heart we grow
and our fierce soul
takes on the past,
releases all our tears
and heals the broken heart.
Broken open now.
This is how I heal my heart.