I was reading a post from a Facebook friend, Francis Bennett, a couple of weeks ago. She was a Franciscan monk – previously being a ‘he’ who transgendered.
She is spiritually Awakened. She wrote about the suicide of a spiritually Awakened friend of hers Wayne Wirs.
The comments about his death were really fascinating, many and varied. I just loved one written by Birelle Eden. She says, “In my understanding we are born with our hearts wide open…This open, whole state is inherently joyful…But when our authentic selves are met with rejection, betrayal and abandonment, our hearts freeze to stop the overwhelming pain…this is the ONLY thing that can disrupt our basic faith in the goodness of ourselves and life.”
Over the years I have watched this closing, this freezing in myself and in my clients.
How This Happens
I am feeling relaxed and comfortable – open hearted with someone – and they say something critical of me, I feel hurt, wounded and either want to withdraw or attack them.
My heart closes.
This movement is involuntary and incredibly fast. My noticing and thinking about it happens after my heart has closed. In the moment that it happens I have absolutely no control over it.
What I can then do afterwards is work with the pain, the hurt, the anger, the sense of rejection, which over time has enabled this ‘heart closing’ to soften. I find that I can also recover faster and more effectively than was the case in the past, but nevertheless, the closing still happens.
I think that one of the greatest challenges in life is: How much do I need to close my heart in order to protect myself and how much of the time can I keep my heart open?
One might argue that we need to protect ourselves and close our hearts from the many dangers out there in the world; toxic, aggressive people, betrayal, violence and physical threat in many forms.
I am reminded of a story told by Byron Katie in her beautiful book A thousand names for joy!
She describes how, when confronted by a man holding her up at gunpoint, her first thought was compassion for his guilt if he were to kill her!
Of course you may not believe her story.
If she is being honest, then what is so remarkable about this is that in the face of her imminent death, her heart remained completely open.
For most of us, this is an utterly foreign concept. What happens to our hearts when someone gets irritated and is critical toward us, or suggests we are stupid or selfish or insensitive?
It closes down.
What happens to our hearts when we get irritated and critical toward ourselves? We simply have a thought, “I’m a failure, I’m not good enough” and our heart shuts down.
Human beings are, for the most part, Wanting Machines.
We close down when we don’t get what we want, just picture a child having a tantrum. Much of the time, adults have subterranean tantrums – ie you can’t see them, but they’re happening beneath a veneer of calm.
We walk around, perhaps consciously feeling okay, but beneath this exterior lie our wounds and so our hearts, are to varying degrees, closed.
If your heart closes down enough, you stop living. You are no longer connected to life, to people, to nature, to your work.
You’re going to get depressed.
You might feel safe, but you’re living with calcified pain.
Of course you can’t love or feel loved either!
Our hearts also close down when we are in pain, when we are sick or tired and most significantly, we close down to boredom.
It closes down when we feel inferior or when we lose or when we simply believe that things shouldn’t be the way they are – ie to reality.
Just notice how closed your heart is when you are rushing around, living in the future or stuck in the past.
Essentially we close down to anything that isn’t pleasure and indeed, when pleasure goes, we often close down too.
Our hearts open to birth, but not to death. They are inseparable. Anything that is born must die. So closing down to death is a disaster.
I have worked with so many couples over the years, seeing them in deep pain, angry and hurt, hearts totally shut down, helpless in the face of this closing that leaves them isolated and blaming.
People talk about being broken hearted. I’m not sure that this is very accurate. I would venture to say that the heart feels like it is dying, locked and barred in a doorless cave of accumulated agony.
Michael Singer has written an extraordinary book called The Untethered Soul. He describes how we can’t tolerate the natural unfolding of life, which is largely speaking uncontrollable.
This stimulates fear in us. Anything that stimulates this fear, an inner problem, becomes not okay.
Anything that doesn’t, is okay.
Now here’s the really critical piece. How we view the exterior world is defined by this problem or resistance and fear on the inside, which is the neurotic and messed up part of us.
Singer then says,
“If you are defining creation based upon the most messed up part of your being, what do you expect creation to look like? It’s going to look like a frightful mess.”
In essence, if our attitude to life is defined by what we fear, then life is going to be hell for us and we justify this by saying how crazy the world is, how difficult life is, how stressful the modern world is…on and on our justifications for defining life as a mess will keep our hearts closed and we will suffer.
To keep the heart open and to release all of this pain, stacked up over the years, is perhaps the answer.
It’s like alchemy, turning lead into gold.
We transform the pain into love and we come alive.
If you would like to meet face to face or via Skype to discuss any of these issues, please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org