Posts

“There is no instinct like that of the heart.” —Lord Byron

It is nearly midnight and I am lying in my bed with a heavy heart. My boys have been resting in dreamland for hours now—snug in their beds down the hall. My eyes are closed and my left hand is resting on my heart—a habit I developed in my teen years when recovering from a painful hospital stay. My right hand is resting on my abdomen—a practice I learned from one of my teachers—Renee Trudeau—in a seminar at Kripalu last summer. I’m lying uncovered in my bed—my two hands anchoring me, rising and falling with my breath—and I’m floating around the idea of being, “broken-open” as is so often discussed in conversations surrounding spiritual awakening and healing and living. I’m floating around the idea of lingering in this space and noticing what it has to reveal.

Outside my window-filled room, rain falls rhythmically. I am listening to the various notes sounded as the raindrops land melodically on the window sills, on the air conditioner unit, through the trees. I am lying in my bed, noticing my breath and taking in the stillness. Listening so very closely to the rain, I can almost feel the raindrops coming down and landing—each of them—on my heart. My heart is wide open—like a cavern—each drop is landing with a beat inside of me, watering up all of the spaces that are lacking sustenance. Each raindrop feels weighted and comforting. I am thinking about the times that I have felt broken-open before—it happens again and again to some. At times, I have been very aware of the slow yet powerful internal cracking taking place and leading up to the tectonic shifts—like the time I dialed a therapist I’d never spoken to before from the bed of my tiny, NYC apartment on a dreary, Sunday morning. Other times, the breaking open is more sudden—more jolting—like the time in which a long and dear friendship changed drastically over the course of a few days. And sometimes the breaking-open-of-the-heart seems more ordinary. It seems to have to do with difficult transitions and bothersome illness and insufficient support. It never really is about those things, though. It’s about learning where we abandon ourselves and where we abandon others. It’s about discovering the ways in which we act out our fear of judgment and the ways in which we judge. It’s about witnessing all of the ways that we try to protect ourselves from being seen. There is nothing ordinary—at all—about this type of breaking open. It may be the best and most transformative breaking-open of all.

The rain has come and gone a half-a-dozen times since the night of my heart-watering. Our garden is the most lush and green that we’ve had since coming to Maine five years ago. Jonah and Adrian’s legs are covered in scratches and bug-bites—a testament to a summer moving in the right direction. I’m sitting and I’m writing and I’m aware that the gaping opening in my heart from a few weeks ago has been peeled back and massaged and molded into shape once again.

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” —Kierkegaard

I am grateful to have a garage that is connected to my home. It makes for easier winters and for fewer distractions when loading my boys up into the car for outings. From the  rearview mirror of my car drapes a pair of teal, prayer beads that I bought at The Kripalu Center this past summer. I remember seeing them from across the gift shop and hoping they could be mine. In the center of the necklace dangles a single clear colored bead. I often place that bead between my fingers, smoothing the fibers that hang beneath it before buckling my seatbelt, peering behind me to double-check carseats and then turning the key to start my engine. Something about climbing into my car and heading out on the road makes me more able to breathe, more able to sink into myself as I go. I savor the longer distances of rural living with the boundless trees to get lost in along the way. Journeying to the historical, port-town of Bath has become a favorite excursion for me. The process of creating a memory quilt for a beloved family member has taken me there recently. The owner of the shop that I visit says that her long-deceased grandparents make themselves known in her store quite often. It is my kind of place. The drive is not long, really, but as I drive, time begins to stand still and I feel overcome with a sense of expansiveness. The road widens and so do the possibilities of my life. Noticing the inlets that pepper my travels, noticing the way the water sparkles—like diamonds. Noticing the quiet. There is so much time for noticing. There are so many beautiful things to notice. Adrian, my littler boy, is with me. He is not sleeping, but he is still. Still and looking, too, out his own window.

It has not always been this way. There was a time when I drove this route and felt like a lonely, drifting balloon. I was new to Maine, new to motherhood, and new to driving after a long hiatus of thirteen years. I traveled to Bath for a weekly chiropractic appointment. There they gave out little quotes on tiny slips of paper—like you might find in a fortune cookie. I still have some of them secured to my refrigerator. A favorite reads, “There is nothing that makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is so.” I have noticed this to be true for the beautiful women that I know. There is another one that reads, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I long to make habits of pausing, of noticing, of lingering.

I was invited to attend a mother’s self-renewal group last weekend based on the work of Renee Trudeau. We were asked to bring one item from our homes that represented ourselves. I knew what I wanted my item to be but I also wanted to be certain that my choice was true to who I actually am, not just who I want to be. I asked my bigger boy, Jonah—nearly five years old, now—what item he thought best represented me. I was slightly afraid of what he might say. He might have said the vacuum cleaner, or the stove. He has many times seen me using these things. He might have chosen my phone or any number of books—items that I am frequently holding, perusing. He might have thought of one of my gardening tools or my new, nifty fireproof gloves for building fires in my wood stove. He might have thought of a paint brush. He didn’t say any of these things, though. I was in our kitchen when I posed the question to him and then—looking for his answer—I peered through an opening between where I was and the room where he was and I saw him—I witnessed him. He was standing, warming himself by our wood stove. He was thinking, looking up a little and then he began sort of squinting his eyes tightly, like he was thinking really hard. I relished that moment—his earnestness in answering my question, his deep commitment to connecting me with an object.  And then he answered. It was not what I expected or could ever have hoped he would say. He lowered his head back down and he looked at me. “A prayer,” he said.