We use the word heartbreak as if it only occurs when things have gone wrong: an unrequited love, a shattered dream, a child lost before their time. Heartbreak, we hope, is something we can avoid; something to guard against, a chasm to be carefully looked for and then walked around; the hope is to find a way to place our feet where the elemental forces of life will keep us in the manner to which we want to be accustomed and which will keep us from the losses that all other human beings have experienced without exception since the beginning of conscious time. But heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way…
I grew up in a post-Depression household. My parents went off to work, so my grandmother did a great deal of the mothering, and I remember her bathing and washing and dressing me and making braids and preparing the kinds of foods that I liked. The only thing that she was not moved to respond to was the coming and going of childhood bouts of “I’m not happy.” I’d say, “But I’m not happy.” And she’d say, “Where is it written that you’re supposed to be happy all the time?” And I actually think it was the beginning of my spiritual practice — that life is difficult. Then 40 years later, I learned that the Buddhists said the same thing, that life is inevitably challenging, and how are we going to do it in a way that’s wise and doesn’t complicate it more than it is just by itself?
photo gaijin biker
Inside the huge Romanesque church the tourists jostled in the half darkness.
Vault gaped behind vault, no complete view.
An angel with no face embraced me
and whispered through my whole body:
“Don’t be ashamed of being human, be proud!
Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly.
You will never be complete, that’s how it’s meant to be.“
Blind with tears
I was pushed out on the sun-seething piazza
together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Mr Tanaka, and Signora Sabatini,
and inside them all vault opened behind vault endlessly.
Tomas Transtromer, Romanesque Arches
More thoughts inspired by the desert, a place where we notice our thirst. As the original story tells us: “Tormented by thirst, they complained to Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out into the desert?’ “. We try to quench this thirst in numerous ways. However, the Buddhist tradition tells us that we need to come to a direct and felt understanding of a basic truth of human nature, which is the ultimately unsatisfactory nature of the contingent realities we encounter every day:
Desire full stop is always the desire of the Other.
It’s crucial for all of us to find a practice that will help us have a direct relationship with groundlessness,…a practice that will enable us to touch in with the transitoriness of our thoughts, our emotions, our car, our shoes, the paint job on our house. We can get used to the fleeting quality of life in a natural, gentle, even joyful way, by watching the seasons change, watching day turning to night, watching children grow up, watching sand castles dissolve back into the sea. But if we don’t find some way to make friends with groundlessness and the ever-changing energy of life, then we’ll always be struggling to find stability in a shifting world.
Pema Chodron, Living Beautifully
photo Karl and Ali
For many of us, when our particular place of insecurity or woundedness is touched, we easily regress into the fullness of trance. At these times there seems to be no choice as to what we feel, think, say or do. Rather, we “go on automatic,” reacting in our most habitual way to defend ourselves, to cover over the rawness of our hurt. Yet, the very behaviors we use to keep us from pain only fuel our suffering. Not only do our escape strategies amplify the feeling that something is wrong with us, they stop us from attending to the very parts of ourselves that most need our attention to heal.
As Carl Jung states in one of his key insights, the unfaced and unfelt parts of our psyche are the source of all neurosis and suffering. The good news is that when we can learn to feel and face the fear and shame we habitually avoid, with compassion, wisdom, and courage, we can begin to awaken from trance; we can begin to free ourselves to respond to our circumstances in ways that bring genuine peace and happiness.
Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance
photo eric kilby
The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.
David Whyte, Vulnerability
photo aditya maurya