The world is too much with us, late and soon. I woke up too early this morning, the weight of the world—my own little one and the great big wide one—heavy on my heart. Fifty Syrian children, and their mothers, shot in cold blood, and Assad still firmly at the helm. Word that our gifted Bodega Bay friend Scott killed himself last week and that Trond’s always robust Norwegian childhood friend has cancer. Then came the news of a Florida man eating another man’s face.
I couldn’t bear to hear any details. And I didn’t need to. Their suffering lived in the bowels of my being, literally, and it prompted this question: How, dear God, can I keep the love alive in me, in the face of so much pain? What does it take to stay open-hearted, sane and loving in a global village rife with heart-rending insanity? Isn’t that what you, dear reader, also want to do?
We are all in the soup together, as I like to say. We always were. Now we know it 24/7 unless we retreat to a Himalayan cave. And God knows I’d sometimes like to—or okay, at least to a cottage in the woods, as Trond often describes his desire for greater extra-worldly simplicity.
That’s what Bapuji did, Swami Kripalvanand, inspirational source of my early Kripalu path and recent book. He threw everything aside to sit and bathe himself in himself—in his humanity and his divinity—until there appeared to be nothing left but the love we all essentially are. It’s a love so great it can contain all the suffering in the world. Exactly what the world needs now!
But how to keep the love fire fueled, short of retreat to a cave? I got my answer to that burning question when, sitting on the couch with Trond soon after posing it, I burst into sweet tears. I say the tears were sweet because as they began to fall I felt myself open and soften into the pain I’d been resisting with all mind’s might. I’d been upstairs in bed since five trying to meditate, to no avail. My brain was a rat’s nest. I’d tried lying down and taking my usually surefire deep, relaxing yoga breaths. But my heart still felt like a stone, closed to myself and the world.
I gave up and joined Trond downstairs. Over tea and cookies, I told him how sad I was about all the suffering we humans are privy to. I wondered aloud how I could keep on loving—myself first, since we cannot give what we do not have—when so much shit is going down all around.
That’s when I burst into tears and finally got in touch—felt in my whole body-being—the horror of the dead Syrian children. I wept long and hard for them, for their mothers and for their murderers, who must have a hell of a time sleeping at night. Soon I found myself crying aloud to our friend Scott how terribly sorry I am that he’d been so unhappy and we hadn’t known. I let the pain of all that and more have me, until my tears were spent.
I had my answer: That if I want to keep my heart open for the love, I must keep it open for the pain and suffering as well. Not just a little open, but wide open. To keep love fully alive in me, I must be willing for pain to live here, too. I must be willing to feel the full force of it, whenever it arises, with every fiber of my blood-soaked heart and swirling gut.
I know, I know. It sounds gory and scary, and it kind of is. But if I shut my heart down to the horror of the face-eating man’s desperation and despair, I shut myself down to myself, to that essential love, which my heart must stay open to receive and, so, to give. Yes!
We can love exactly to the extent we are willing to feel what’s in the way of love—the fear, the doubt, the shame and suffering, whether it seems to be “ours” or “others”—till we burn it up. Until my heart is great enough to contain all the world, my job is not done. I must do what it takes to make room for everything. Does it make sense? Please add the voice of your experience to mine. Let’s learn from each other how to live and love well in these often difficult times.
Categories: Facing Fear, Self-Care