“I will not close off my heart”.
I found myself saying that after a recent romantic relationship ended. The relationship had been quite brief in terms of time and already my heart cared quite deeply.
This time I will not close off my heart. It will remain open.
That’s not what I have done in the past in similar situations. I’ve always tried to shut my heart down. To turn it off or close everything out. I’d become hurtful on top of the hurt I was feeling, berating myself for caring so much. Searching for a way out.
As it remained open, my heart actively felt more. Perhaps not more – it felt differently as it tried to stay present. I noticed. As my heart tried to stay open, I started spinning, driving myself crazy with thoughts of the future. Thoughts of the past. Thoughts of other similar dynamics and relationships that had ended. Thoughts of what to do. Where to live next year. What to be doing with my time. Thoughts that I’m not doing enough. I “should be” doing more.
“I will keep my heart open”.
My heart was trying to stay present and every other part of me was spinning away from this moment.
I drove myself so crazy trying to determine the entire future of my life all at once that I finally burst into tears. It took me two days of frustration and tears bursting out to realize that it had nothing to do with the future or the past.
I was, quite simply, sad.
After I caught on to what was happening I started to go into the sadness. The right now sadness. The primary emotion without the secondary or tertiary responses built up around it.
I went into it and felt sad. I let myself be. And … it passed. Relatively quickly. Afterward there was only deep, blissful, stillness.
Then came another wave of sadness. And another and another. All the same responses happened. Fearing about the future. About how I’m “doing nothing” about how I have “no direction”. Pulling up every related sad moment from the past. Feeling frustrated and angry that I had to be sad right now. I kept going in to experience the sadness. I shared my feelings with family and friends instead of hiding away. I went out into the world, feeling sad. I reached out and asked for help and support.
“I will not close off my heart. I will keep my heart open”.
Every time I acknowledged the sadness in the moment and let myself feel it, the sadness liked the attention and it found its way out. It liked the expression. I met the energy directly and no longer had the momentum and motion of trying to create so many internal restrictions so that it (or I) could build up enough friction to bring on a release. It wanted out and, even though I was afraid to let it move and go, I could no longer tolerate the unpredictability and lack of control that I could feel by keeping it locked inside. Letting it move and go felt good. Letting it go brought relief. Contrary to what I’ve always believed, experiencing the sadness and letting it go isn’t what feels uncontrollable – it’s keeping it in that does that.
It then felt like every moment of sadness I’d ever experienced wanted to come forward – rushing up in joy saying “she’s finally processing – hurry up – her heart’s open – get through here now while you’ve got a chance!”. It felt like the waves would continue to come up for the next thirty years if I started to let all of that come through.
Experiencing the emotion was helpful and even with that release, there was still a yearning for control. Control “over” the emotion or over how much to have or when or how. Do I release every piece of sadness that I’ve ever experienced?
That night I lay in bed, unable to get to sleep. The top of my head felt like it had sprung open and thoughts were racing through wildly. Stress. Emotion. Fear.
With my breath was caught in between my heart and my throat, the chatter felt strong, relentless and harsh.
I began to feel and realize that it always gets to the point that it feels like the thoughts are coming to attack me. One starts to pin me up against a wall and then the rest come in to foist their powers of resistance and aggression. They culminate in narrowing everything down to more acute, precise, infliction of pain. In the narrowing, there’s less room to move. There’s less to see. I begin to get locked into the pain and the patterns of trying to avoid a direct relationship with the emotion.
I start to feel sad and then angry at myself for feeling sad and then guilty at feeling either. I start to believe that “I don’t know what to do”.
If I can’t control the future or the past or the emotions coming up in the present moment, I can be in ultimate control of just how much suffering is inflicted. I at least know how to do that. I know how to do that quite well.
How much suffering is enough?
I’ve never paused to ask that question.
How much suffering is enough?
The answer is none. No amount of suffering is necessary.
Without actively thinking about it, something new started to happen. I sent love to each thought that was coming up. I embraced each feeling and sensation and belief with kindness and compassion.
“I love your fear of the future”.
“I love that you have such an open heart and that you want it to remain open”.
“I love your resistance to feeling sad”.
I sent love to the sadness. Love to not wanting to feel the sadness. Love to the way I constantly restrict myself. Love not only to the actions but also to my essence and being. Direct love.
The love started to move into beliefs and I heard myself saying “I love you for feeling like you don’t know what to do”. I felt what that feels like and loved that too.
I love that you feel like you have to know what to do. I love that you feel like you have to fix everything. I love that you do that sometimes by repressing emotions because you’re afraid that if you have them, people will leave. That if you control your emotions and keep everything inside, then that’s how to control life.
I love you for feeling.
I love that you don’t know what to do. It’s okay.
I love that you don’t know what to do. You don’t have to know.
I love that you want to be in control (and that you always forget that).
That one made me smile.
The more I loved the aspects of myself I was usually hard on, the hardness that has been used to keep pushing and creating pain and pressure, the more I began to soften.
The more love I gave, the more I could feel that I’ve had the belief that “I don’t know what to do” for a very long time. It has been there to try to keep people close. To try to ensure that I don’t do anything “wrong” that will mean they’ll leave (which just leads me to believe I do “everything” wrong). Another sword slicing through my being.
I started to love all of that too. To love that I want to keep people close. That I value relationships so much. Loving that self that emerges when it feels like I do everything wrong.
I continued to give myself love constantly. Consistently. The unconditional love of absolutely every aspect of myself that was arising – even the aspects I don’t like and usually try to attack or “fix”.
Out of nowhere, I found myself repeating the word “ahimsa”.
I perked up and smiled. In yoga, ahimsa is the yama of non-harming and non-violence. Including non-harming and non-violence to yourself.
Inflicting this suffering on myself is harm.
I can see now that so much of my belief system is designed to hurt myself. To beat myself down. To feel inadequate. Especially when I feel insecure.
Until this moment, I never viewed any of this as harmful. The pain felt normal. It was how I was used to coping and surviving. I never considered that I was inflicting violence upon myself in these ways.
When I love it: love the insecurity, the vulnerability, my “inadequacy” or “inability”, my heart softens. The corners of my lips turn up into a soft smile. My brain stops the relentless spinning.
Surprisingly, I found myself laughing. Not a laugh of judgment or ridicule – a laugh of understanding, loving, accepting. Sweet laughter of embracing all the younger versions of myself and myself right now. As the laughter softened to include me, it widened, laughing with love at how serious I’ve been and have felt about myself all these years. Laughing because it’s all made up. It doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been.
“I love that you try to determine the entire rest of your life all at once”. I smiled and then my heart widened more and I laughed again.
Laughing because of course I can’t do that. Laughing because of course I don’t know what to do and laughing because I do know – I’m doing it.
Loving the fear and insecurity and emotion.
The hurt. The pain. The friction. The suffering. All that I’ve created and inherited and absorbed begins to find acceptance. Love.
Instead of berating myself and trying to constrict myself more – to feel the pain more – and focus even more strongly on the internal attack (so I can feel more in control of something), I start to love myself for doing that and when I do that. For whatever reasons.
This love isn’t in hiding or denying any of what I think or feel or say or do. It’s not trying to stop or change or “fix” anything. It’s simply allowing an alternative to the action of my thoughts that are hurtful. The actions that cause harm. The actions that pin me in place to take on even more. It starts to heal the relationship I have within myself.
Energy feeds energy and I can choose to remain locked in that loop of striking myself down – that loop of punishing myself for not knowing what to do. Or I can accept that it’s there and send myself love.
I can feel myself widen. The desire to constrict fights back and I soften again, sending love to that constriction. It isn’t a change that happens overnight. It’s another way to start an internal shift. I know the more I can find compassion for these areas of myself, the less I will constrict against life and try to control the uncontrollable.
When I try to control the uncontrollable, I can love that too.
It’s time to write a new story. It’s time to treat myself differently. To send myself love every single moment, with every single feeling and thought, especially when I’m being hard on myself. To lift that energy and transform it to a different way of being than I’m used to.
There is no reason to keep myself in a place of suffering.
It’s a start and, the next time I forget all of this or become upset with myself that I forgot, I will start again.
With the lens of ahimsa, when that happens, I will send myself more love.
Through this shift, and introducing a tiny bit of new energy, the old energy starts to shift. I start to write a new story.
A new relationship begins.