Join Our Mailing List

I'm listed in Life & Lifestyle

You are currently viewing archive for October 2011
Posted By Opening the Heart

During High Holidays in my religion, in October, the ten days between Rosh Hashana (the new year) and Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) are called the Days of Awe. I was sitting in the Rosh Hashana service and exploring our new prayer book. The new book has commentaries in the margins of each page, comments and poems from famous learned rabbis of the 12th century and also from men and women who are contemporary writers and poets. There was one short line that caught my attention: "There is nothing as whole as a broken heart".

I thought about that line during the Days of Awe, not really knowing what it meant, but it intrigued me and it had a certain deep ring of truth even if I couldn't give words to explain it's meaning. Whether it was dealing with matters of the heart in my role as a psychologist in my private office; or helping to lead the Opening the Heart Wokshop for over 30 years; or being deeply moved by sacred poetry that bypasses the brain and goes straight to the "thump of the heart", I have been drawn to the mysteries of brokenness, healing and transformation. And, usually, I've found that these mysteries chart their course directly through the heart.

So, during the Yom Kippur service, as I rose to do the yearly ritual of "Vidui", or Confession, I felt the heart stir, as it does each year when I take a corner of my prayer shawl in my right hand and, with each repetition of a personal failing, we "beat the chest", bringing my fist and prayer shawl to my heart, and my eyes filled with tears.

And then I got it- I understood what the sentence meant: "There is nothing as whole as a broken heart". In knocking at the door of the heart, in asking for forgiveness, we crack the heart open, and in that cracking, we become whole. Isn't this what I had witnessed so many times at the OTH workshop. Isn't this the same message of my favorite poem "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye: "Before you can know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing..." Roger Housden, in his essay on the poem, writes that Nye invites us to open our hearts to the fact that everything that we cherish will pass out of our lives. He says that it is the Bodhicita, "The Great Beating Heart of Compassion" that puts us in touch with the fragility of our existence. When we know this truth "as a lived experience", then compassion and love are born.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes in '"Women Who Run With the Wolves" tells us of the fisherman, who doesn't run from the ugliness of Skeleton Woman, but waits and stays with her and cries one tear as he  tries to untangle her. Clarissa says "Without the tear, he would have never wakened to love".... I should add from my own experience that the forging of a broken heart can sometimes take time and it may require great courage to stand steady in the storm- and to wait and to continue to breathe.

With Love and Respect, Jon