May You Live with the Ease of a Broken Heart

This post is by contributing blogger Lynne Westmoreland, long-time music instructor and a humane educator. Lynne is a graduate of our M.Ed. program, and is the instructor for our online course, A Better World, A Meaningful Life, which is designed for people who want to put their vision for a better world & a more joyful, examined life into practice (next session starts September 2).

When I was sitting with my meditation community (sangha) last week our teacher was repeating a mantra that sounded to me like “May you live with the ease of a broken heart.” I thought that a bit odd, since we usually think of a broken heart as being painful. But as I meditated on that thought for a while I began to think of it in a different light. When our hearts are broken it is because our spirit is trying to tell us something. Sometimes it is telling us that we need to fix something in ourselves. Often it is telling us that attention must be paid to our relationships. It could be saying that our values and our behavior are not in alignment. Or we may be feeling helpless because we want to be of more service in the world.

Our minister frequently asks our congregation “What breaks your heart?” By that he means for us to examine those things that cause us deep pain and discomfort, because by examining in a non-judgmental way we can discover what that pain is trying to get us to look at and to remedy. Perhaps the idea of homelessness or poverty or hunger causes us to feel broken hearted. Maybe the exploitation of some people for the benefit of others is a reality that makes us weep. For some, it could be that we feel a deep sense of injustice in using the earth and animals as commodities that can be sold and traded. So by asking us to look at what breaks our heart, our minister is asking us to examine those things that our spirits or souls find unacceptable.

This kind of examination can be very painful and is the reason we often shy away from questions that cause us real emotional discomfort. The pain and discomfort, though, are a signal that something needs fixing, adjusting, or attention. Just as our bodies send signals of distress to indicate that we need to pay attention to something that is wrong, our spirits can do the same. And just as a serious condition in our body will tend to worsen if we do nothing to address it, our spirits (or what makes us human) will continue to try to get us to pay attention to that pain and rectify the problem. Living with a broken heart can be a real opportunity to be more mindful and proactive in solving those things that we know could be better.

After our meditation, I asked the teacher whether she had indeed been repeating “May you live with the ease of a broken heart.” She replied that actually she had been chanting “May you live with the ease of an open heart.” I immediately thought of how silly my hearing and interpretation of that instruction had been. It seemed that a broken heart and an open heart were two different things. As I gave it more thought on my drive home though, I began to see those two statements as being one in the same. An open heart allows us to take everything in. Joy and sorrow, health and disease, love and anger, success and missing the mark all become signals to be fully awake and conscious and provide us with opportunities to deepen our commitment to ourselves and to others.

Being fully awake does cause us to have a broken heart at times. This is a great blessing, because it allows us to come up with strategies to heal our own, and others', pain. The more we practice humility, justice, and kindness, the more fully alive and joyful we feel. So here’s to living mindfully awake. “May you live with the ease of a broken, open heart.”

Image courtesy of bored-now via Creative Commons.

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