Breaking Open the Heart

When was the last time you were moved to tears? Are you afraid to cry? I have read that crying is the highest devotional song in yoga. As I delve more deeply into my own meditation and prayer practice, I find this to be true. Where once many, many moons ago, I fought my tears because I found them so uncomfortable, today I welcome them as a sign that my heart has been touched. Thankfully, I no longer refuse my heart. Years ago I defined myself as a sad person. I knew sadness so well. It hurt to watch the news; my heart would ache at all the pain in the world. Not knowing what to do with my sadness and other feelings, I became a stuffer. I would stuff my emotions and this eventually led to physical imbalance and problems. As fortune would have it for me, my path led me to people, teachings and understandings that taught me how to reverse that conditioning, to express rather than stuff and to transform my sadness into compassion.

During my recent travels I visited Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia. As I entered the garden area, through unusual and beautiful terracing and flower potting (this is an understatement – but I am afraid much of what one would say in words about the gardens would ultimately be understated), I exclaimed repeatedly to my husband, “wow, this is amazing, so gorgeous –look at this…” and so on. Thankfully he knows me, loves me well and understands that I cannot help but become expressive in this situation. We strolled up the path towards “The Sunken Garden” enjoying more garden extravaganza along the way. My husband entered the sunken area first, which is viewed from above, and I followed. My first glimpse, as he moved more forward, literally stopped me in my tracks. “Stricken by beauty beyond words” is perhaps a good description of what happened to me. And then the tears began to flow. I could not have stuffed them had I tried. It took quite some time for me to recover to a place where I could speak normally, so moved by the artistic expression before me. Throughout the remaining garden stroll, for nearly two hours, I continued to be moved to tears.

This morning I sat in meditation and prayer and read, as I do most mornings, a few poems from Rilke’s, Book of Hours, Love Poems to God. This has been a part of my routine for more than four months now; I am reading the book for the third or fourth time. I do this because, as I read aloud to myself, more often than not, I am moved to tears by these words written so long ago. And with that movement to tears, I am brought directly into my heart, where any prayer that takes place is heartfelt, emerging from the depths of my being where my inner self sits quietly in wait for me to connect. I am immediately grateful for those in my life who love me well each day and care for me, for my life that I love, for my work that I love, for life itself. The gratitude is bountiful in that space. And it is through this space that I experience a sense of wonder and connectedness with all of life.

Much of my work as a psychotherapist takes me into the space of holding others emotionally (this is different than physically) as they cry. I encourage it and often seek their tears. For I have come to learn that without our hearts engaged in our daily experience we are often lost souls. We live in a culture that in many ways sends messages that crying is not allowed! We often have learned to feel embarrassed or ashamed when we openly express heartfelt emotion. This is an unfortunate reality and one that serves no one well. For it is our hearts that understand the depths of life, that respond to beauty that deeply satisfies, that can reside in compassion when others need our attention and love and that sense our deepest connections to the sacred.

In breaking open our hearts we become able to live fully engaged in the moment. When we know we are alive in our hearts, saying yes to what life has to offer in all its richness, we may experience all the intensity of life. Tears may hurt, but regret hurts an awful lot more. When was the last time you were moved to tears? Are you afraid to cry? I hope not. Learning to allow and eventually welcome tears opens a door to new worlds. Welcome, tears, welcome.