Mystic winter path by Roman Malanchuk

Mystic winter path by Roman Malanchuk

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.

About the Author: Suzanne Grenager

A seasoned writer and mentor with a gift for helping people see and be their most authentic, empowered Self.


  1. Arlene Towle January 20, 2016 at 7:27 am - Reply

    good morning! follow your heartbreak grabbed me like nothing else has…i had just been contemplating the next step in my journey, a choice which has perplexed me for about a year and half…the knowledge that i was at a critical point where i would have to choose to step away from “wallowing” in past pain to step into healing…and my real reluctance to do so. my so called “wallowing” was actually my very young self’s best effort at defending myself from the wounds the world had made in me, and i’m torn between honoring the reality of the wound and my best efforts (at the time) to deal with the pain and seeing that actually i have another choice…not a better choice (demeaning my past effort) but the next step in healing. now my young self has a compassionate ally in healing who can scoop up her and the pain and carry them all into the future. there is an answer. or at least the next step, and there is someone who knows what to do and who cares. “follow your heartbreak” put these pieces together for me. before that phrase it looked like choosing meant abandoning my young self and all the effort and struggle she put into preserving my soul for over 40 years…but “follow your heartbreak” showed me that i am strong enough to scoop her and the past in my arms and carry them along with me to the next step and we all will be healed. show her how i appreciate all she did to protect and defend me after we were wounded…thank you for sharing. i also feel like facing aging, being in my 50’s is a a huge obstacle…at this point, what are my options for healing and happiness when aging is the path developing before me…i don’t know, but i do know what today’s step is. thank you. <3

    • Suzanne Grenager January 21, 2016 at 11:58 am - Reply

      Dear Arlene. Thank you very much for showing up so real and raw–and quickly–in response to my words. I love how we inspire each other. James Baraz inspired me, I inspired you. And you are now inspiring me, and our readers, I’m sure, with your courage and commitment to, as you beautifully put it, “scooping up” the wounded little girl inside and following your heartbreak to “today’s step.” If you are moved, please show up again and share as much as you like of your learning around what you call your “options for healing and happiness” as you age. I am honored to have played even a small part in your increased clarity. Good for you!

  2. MaurieA January 20, 2016 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Dear Suzanne,
    As always, your writing invites me to express my experience of my own journey. I recently had the realization that my life has had a pattern of flowing along, sometimes with ease, often with discontent. (I should be living my life on purpose, angst at not knowing what that is for me) I push and struggle looking for signs of what’s next. And then when something comes with such clarity that it is mine to follow, like listening to the call and taking action for you, the clarity comes of what is next.

    Recently I told someone, it’s like having a cold, I could take medicine and try to push it out or let it run it’s course, either will have the experience of the same amount of time. One has push, struggle and something’s not okay and the other has ease and being okay with whatever is happening and trusting I am in the right place on my journey. Inevitably something happens to stir and invite me down a path I didn’t see coming. It’s like being in the ocean and feeling into when a wave is coming that I want to ride, having no idea how long or how deep the ride will take me. My learning again and again is the more I choose not to resist or judge my actual experiences and to choose those gut felt ‘follow this’ moments, the juicier my life has become, especially when I am able to override my mind’s need to understand or try to talk me out of something that doesn’t make logical sense.

    Suzanne, I love that again and again you and I are clearly on a similar journey of being reminded that we are on a spiritual journey.
    Sending love,

    • Suzanne Grenager January 21, 2016 at 12:06 pm - Reply

      Love, love, LOVE this, Maurie. It resonates so strongly I could have written much of it myself! Thank you, as always, for weighing in with your hard-won wisdom. I am especially touched by your expression of the value of not resisting gut-driven calls to action because they don’t make logical sense. You understand, as well as almost anyone I know, the supreme wisdom of the body, which, unlike monkey mind, does not know how to lie. Even though we are now across the country from each other, I am very glad we continue to stay connected through our parallel paths to the light!

  3. Shalom Ormsby January 20, 2016 at 11:35 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing these wise words, Suzanne. I deeply resonate with both teachings. Following my heartbreak lead me to a profound calling and new direction in my work. The heartbreak of learning that my son had a limb difference (he doesn’t have a right hand) lead me to assemble a team of amazing, brilliant, philanthropic people who are starting to work together to develop and build a bionic hand, called The Luke Hand, inspired by Luke Skywalker’s bionic hand. [You can learn more about it at And given that this is such a massive undertaking, every day, every moment, it helps to remember to simply start where I am (while holding a clear vision of what I want to create).

    Your words provide succor on this long journey, and I thank you for them.

    • Suzanne Grenager January 21, 2016 at 12:40 pm - Reply

      Hello, Shalom! You have certainly followed your particular heartbreak in the most direct and meaningful way possible. What a beautiful and profoundly inspiring example you set in that. I can only imagine that this “massive undertaking” of yours would be beyond overwhelming if you were not also able to start where you are, over and over again. And I love your adding that as you start fresh each day (or moment), you “are holding a clear vision of what (you) want to create.” I do not yet have that important “vision” piece in place. But I am trusting it may emerge as I set one foot in front of the other, starting from where I am and following the heartbreak. Thanks for showing up here and sharing. My heartfelt blessings on The Luke Hand!

  4. vicki fox January 20, 2016 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Wow, good to have you back with your pen in hand being vulnerable and willing to share your journey. Yahoo for you, and for all of us. That’s it…listen to our hearts, and keep showing up. Can’t wait to see what is next for you. Love you, Suzanne.

    • Suzanne Grenager January 21, 2016 at 12:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks, as always, dear Vicki, for your loving support for me and what I do. I can’t wait to see what is next for me either–and for what is next for you! So glad that, in the meantime, we can be vulnerable and in the soup together.

  5. Karen Latvala January 20, 2016 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    Suzanne, this is an intriguing post. Your questions are the same ones I’ve asked myself in the past couple of years–so important for those of us in our 70s who know we are not yet finished using our gifts and talents in new ways to benefit the world. I resonate with the 2 phrases that are driving you too, and although I’ve never heard “Follow your heartbreak,” it really gives an important clue to how we can best serve at this point. This, indeed, is a very rich post planted in fertile ground with potential to flourish for you and your readers! Thank you! And I look forward to reading more insights. Love,

    • Suzanne Grenager January 21, 2016 at 12:56 pm - Reply

      Dear Karen, your words appreciating my own are beautifully crafted. I am thrilled if you are right that they provide fertile ground in which others might flourish. That is my intention with everything I write to share. But the greatest gratitude for this post must go to James Baraz and Andrew Harvey for passing along the idea to “Follow your heartbreak.” It is (to use your word) *intriguing* and I for one look forward to exploring its meaning further, possibly in another post. Meanwhile, I am hugely grateful for your kind, encouragement around this one, inspiring me as it does to keep writing.

  6. James Baraz January 21, 2016 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    Dear Suzanne, I’m touched that our conversation broke through your inertia and has gotten you to share your voice again and inspire others. You have a beautiful way with words that clearly come straight from the heart. Underneath the despair, frustration or outrage so many feel is a caring, tender heart that loves goodness. And I believe goodness is contagious. As a friend of mine says, “We’re in a race between fear and consciousness.” At this time, with so much suffering in the world we need all the caring hearts to take on the joyful responsibility (Julia Butterfly-Hill’s phrase) of making a difference in the world. I hope we each find what moves us and find away to express that care skillfully. Keep writing and help us all follow our heartbreak. James Baraz

    • Suzanne Grenager January 24, 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      A huge, heartfelt *Thank You*, James, for showing up here to appreciate my voice and encourage us all to make the difference we are born and dying to make. I love Julia Butterfly-Hill’s phrase “joyful responsibility,” for the reminder it is that whatever we do with joy–and, so, with (joy’s sister) love–foments joy and love, and, yes, of course consciousness. As your friend’s quote suggests, that is the only antidote to the fear raging across our country and around the world, keeping us from being our best selves. God bless us all, and God bless you and your good work. I look forward to growing in joy by taking your Joy 2.0 course starting next month. I encourage others to check it out at your site and consider joining me!

  7. Amy Benson January 24, 2016 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    Reading this makes me feel like I have just slipped into a warm tub to water. There is something oddly cozy knowing that our best ‘work’ can come from (perhaps required) being uncomfortable—to the point of heartbreak and pain. There is such pressure to be ‘happy’ in this world. ‘Heartbreak’ and ‘happy’ cannot co-exist. But heartbreak and contentment, I think can. This is what your post makes me believe anyway. THANK YOU!!!!

    • Suzanne Grenager January 27, 2016 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      You are so welcome, dear Amy, and thank YOU for expressing so beautifully your understanding of “Follow your heartbreak.” I know well from your astonishing work in Nepal that that’s exactly what you have been doing since the subject of your film “Drawing the Tiger” took such an unexpected, totally heartbreaking turn. And I agree that contentment–and maybe even fulfillment–can co-exist with heartbreak. I’d even go so far as to say that if our hearts aren’t breaking, we must be frighteningly out of touch with reality and would have a hard time being truly content! Indeed the related thought of whether great hearts must be breaking hearts (as I think I believe) is a topic for another time. Bless you for your stimulating comment!

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