“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen.
Over the years I have often been asked “but how do I deal with my feelings when they become too much, too painful, too overwhelming? I feel so broken, how will I ever heal?”
These questions always call to mind for me the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi “to repair with gold”. Since the late 15thC broken pottery has been painstakingly restored using gold, silver or platinum lacquer, with the underlying philosophy being that the piece is to be especially cherished, and even more beautiful, for having been broken.
Buddhist practice invites us to become still, to find the courage to open our hearts, to pay attention in meditation to the rhythm, nature and needs of our emotions and to begin to open what may for some be a lifetimes accumulation of sorrow. The depth of old wounds, abandonment, pain and unshed tears, described by Buddhists as “an ocean of tears larger than the four great oceans.”
Not for the faint hearted, Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart of A Buddha, writes;
“Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call Radical Acceptance. If we are holding back from any part of our experience, if our heart shuts out any part of who we are and what we feel, we are fueling the fears and feelings of separation that sustain the trance of unworthiness. Radical Acceptance directly dismantles the very foundations of this trance.”
We allow ourselves to grieve; for past traumas, the unfinished business of the heart, for present fears and all the feelings we dare not experience in our conscious day to day living for fear of becoming overwhelmed.
Oscar Wilde wrote “hearts are meant to be broken.”
From this perspective, we begin to heal through meditation, our hearts breaking open to feel fully. Powerful feelings and deeper unspoken parts of ourselves beginning to surface.
Our task and invitation in meditation is to let these feelings and emotions move freely through us, and to hear their song. What we find when we truly listen, is that all is transient. The pain does not stay. Rage turns to sorrow, sorrow may turn to tears, tears may fall for a long time, but then the sun rises, and the loss will find release.
“We note feelings and find that they last for only a few seconds. We pay attention to thoughts and find that they are ephemeral, that they come and go, uninvited, like clouds.” – Jack Kornfield
We begin to learn to forgive ourselves and others, and to open our hearts in loving kindness, caring for ourselves with deeper compassion, and finding a quieter, profounder strength.
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”
– Ernest Hemingway
A story I love, is that of a young novice monk, seeking advice from the Abbot at the monastery. Having talked with him, the abbot finished by giving him the following advice “and now, let my words rest upon your heart.”
The young monk was confused, and asked him “but why would you say upon my heart, rather than within my heart?” To which the Abbot replied “one day, when your heart breaks, you will see that my teachings, which have been merely resting on your heart, will find the space there in which to fall. It is then that you will need them”
“Consider yourself blessed.
These stones that break your bones
will build the altar of your love.” – Lynn Park