A fresh year. A clean slate. Two rousing reminders—Start where you are and, still more arrestingly, Follow your heartbreak. With that, I may have emerged from the fertile, if often disquieting void and set one foot on an encouraging new path of service. We shall see.
Start where you are? Follow your heartbreak? Why did those particular calls to action, one simple, one pretty darned strange, get my full attention the other day, resonating deep into my soul like nothing else lately has? And why should they perhaps resonate deep into yours? To answer, I will back up.
“Start where you are” and “Follow your heartbreak” were phrases given to me during a recent group phone conversation called The Gathering, offered by The True Purpose Institute. Start where you are is the title of a book by the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, with whom I am familiar. The plea to follow your heartbreak originated, I think, with Andrew Harvey, a spiritual teacher whose long ago book Hidden Journey had a transformative effect on my spiritual growth. But I heeded the call of those resonant phrases only last Wednesday, from a man I’d never heard of named James Baraz.
I am not yet certain. But I suspect the simple act of dialing into that Gathering call—starting, even before James’ exhortation, from where I was—opened a window. That one step made from my wintry home office may have begun drawing precious light into what has for a while felt like a dark night of the soul.
Ironically, at this gloomiest time of the year, a simple decision to pick up the phone may finally have lit a fire in me. It may just have set me on the precise path of worldly service I had imagined might be mine to follow and hoped could define the rest of my life. Seriously! More about the nature of that path another time. First, let’s look at starting from where we are.
Where I was for the last 24 months, where I started from, was a state of for me unprecedented external and internal struggle, about where and how to live, and what do do with myself and my gifts in this last, late stage of my life. My struggles were accompanied by deep doubt about whether I would ever emerge from my chaotic cocoon to be useful again. During that time, I, a self-proclaimed writer with a lot to say, wrote barely a word other than emails. Also, although I made several attempts to connect with interesting people doing compelling things around issues I thought were calling me to service—and many people responded—nothing fruitful came of it.
But happily for you and me, I am not here to elaborate on the unexpected challenges I faced in 2014 and 2015. Rather, I am here to thank God and Goddesses—and my dear despairing but deliberate Self—that in 2016 I took one simple step I easily might not have taken in the direction of the light. What happened next is helping me understand that a single intentional step may be all it takes to line up with and activate the universe on our behalf. For that I am grateful!
Over the last year or two, I’ve attended several of the monthly True Purpose Gathering calls. While some got my attention, none resonated deeply. They all feature a speaker and topic designed to inspire those of us who feel, as the organizers put it, a deep, heart-felt calling to expand our impact and contribute our gifts to the emerging global shift. (And that would be yours truly, although I don’t recall how I got on their list.) The call format features a presentation and Q and A’s with the presenter, followed by small interactive group discussions.
I was home the other day and happened to be free at the time of this month’s call. The topic sounded promising. And so it was I decided at the last minute to dial in. Almost at once, it was as if the presenter James Baraz was speaking directly to—and for—me, talking purposefully about how to turn our individual heartbreak over an anguished world into compassionate action. Yes!
And okay, James did speak directly—and very kindly—to me as it turned out. This is where it got interesting, especially if I am right that, thanks to taking that step, a new path of service may be opening before me through him. First, I had chosen somewhat randomly to show up on the call. Second, when it came time for questions and no one pressed the #1 button on their phone to speak up (which had never happened on any of the calls I’d been on), I impulsively jumped in.
Thinking I was too late, since after a long silence the moderator seemed about to give up, I hit the button anyway. More silence, then “Oh, good…a question! “Suzanne,” the moderator said identifying me by my PIN number. “You’re on.” I had no idea what I was going to say. I simply knew I was supposed to connect with James, if only perhaps to let him know he had inspired me.
As James listened and responded thoughtfully, I began pouring my heart out. I found myself telling him—and everyone else on the call—how very eager I am to put my experience as a writer, yoga teacher, body-mind therapist and coach/mentor to work again in a world rife with pain and suffering. As an elder who’s been on a long, winding wisdom path and is interested in aging and death, I know I have much to offer. But, I confided, I’ve had trouble finding my way. Did James have any guidance about how I might discern what is mine to do next?
Well, as it happened, he certainly did, and our enlivening exchange ended with him suggesting for starters that I write about the discernment process I am in and share what I have written with him as well as with you. I hung up more heartened by possibility than I had felt in a long time. As you can see, I was inspired to write my first blog post since September of 2014. Yes again!
Thanks to what happened next, I may be inspired to do much more than that. I may by moved to take large, committed steps toward a path of compassionate service around the heartbreak of getting old and closer to death. I look forward to sharing more with you as that path evolves.
In the meantime, please leave a comment to let us know what has happened, or what you think might happen, for you when you start from where you are. Can one small step precipitate big change? And what, if anything, might the words follow your heartbreak mean to you? Sharing your truth serves us all. Thanks for reading and for passing this post along if you’re moved.
Categories: A Writer's Life, Inspiration, Surrender