12.5” x 20” Mixed media/panel
The powerful pumping muscle of our heart is miraculous. Yet the fuller concept of heart is far more than the mechanical wonder that keeps so many beings alive on this planet. It’s an aspect of our being that interconnects fortitude, courage, and love. Our physical body is sustained through the amazing process of oxygenated blood propelled by our heart, coursing through our arteries and cycling for replenishment through our veins. We also locate the idea of bravery within the heart; “cor” is the Latin root for heart, from where we get the word “courage.” And throughout the ages hearts have been the assigned abode of love, both the ebullient joyous kind, that of stalwart loyalty, and the ache when love departs.
Although I’ve not always been up to it, I’ve come to believe to love sincerely requires courage. Not the false idea that says courage is to be made of solid impenetrable armor. Rather, an open vulnerable form of courage, where we embrace our fears, accept there will be pains, and still are willing to act. To become truly vulnerable to another requires removing my armor, being willing to expose my feelings and soul, and taking that courageous leap not knowing whether we will land smoothly. To try and love half-heartedly, with reservations, or while harboring secrets and unspoken fears may feel safer, but it’s not to love. When I’ve acted this way, I think it was my attempt to retain a measure of control within the unseeable mysteries of love. We all get scared—the difference is how we respond to what is scary: denying or burying fears doesn’t help us transcend them. The seemingly safer path may offer some shelter from temporary rains, but such protection is a covering with no foundation. I’ve taken this route, and when I have, over time steady storms inevitably wash my cover away. In the effort to guard our selves in a relationship this way, we starve our souls.
Rather than making us more rigid and unbreakable, I’ve come to feel sincere love makes us more flexible and porous. We empathize more, feel joys and pains deeply, sense our interconnectedness. It’s a hard challenge all around. It means looking inward rather than assigning blame to distracting external causes. Beyond cultivating sensitivity it requires intelligent awareness — only when I love without assuming the responsibilities for a loved one’s emotional ups and downs am I beginning to be wholly and healthily compassionate.
Further, in being open we also risk being misunderstood; we may be avoided for making a shared complex life more complicated; or even outright rejected. Still, when we can muster the will to move toward authentic honesty, it enriches every aspect of being alive. Authenticity is a potent magnetic force. It’s gentle power changes the dynamic of those close to us. It radiates a subtly different presence that affects those near. It may even be why we sometimes find ourselves unconsciously attracted to another. Sometimes it kindles a similar spark and nurtures a shared glow that becomes larger than our individual lights. But not always—at times we may not be in a place in our lives where we feel we can remove our protective armor. We might need room to heal, or require space and time to gather our worn selves, perhaps rebuild a neglected center. In such situations although not directly shared, an honest, lived love may still act as an inspiring beacon for healing.
Approaching life in a heartful way is a form of atonement. An “At-one-ment” with the energies of the universe. Like the pulsing pump cycling life within our chest, in living this way we absorb from others, are obliged to generously give out (and so will become emptied), and must accept the need to be replenished. When we do so with awareness we sense how we’re interwoven with others and the ever-shifting natural flows of life. By earnestly and fully engaging in love, being willing to feel and, as crucially, openly share our concerns, pains, joys, and peace with those we love, we forge a bond and nurture sincere trust. Such trust is at the core of our soul’s serenity. Like the rhythm of two hearts sharing a deep hug, we partake in the flowing energy uniting all. An open heart can withstand even a tempest.