Cracking the box: the courage to love and to release what is not love

My mom.

Recently, my mother and I had a remarkable conversation.Two years ago, she was rushed to the hospital with a cardiac aneurysm; and, after open heart surgery, she struggled to survive. Later, after her release from the hospital, Mom continued to struggle – an artist and poet, she had to relearn everything, including reading, drawing and painting.

It took 18 months for Mom to come back to us – and to herself. Last week, at the diner, Mom and I got to talking about love.

I was telling her about an interview I’d just viewed with Robin Williams and Ellen DeGeneres. Talking about his recent heart surgery, Williams said, “You get a total new lease on life.” He said that, “with guys, you know, we armor up,” not showing emotion – guarding the heart. “But you have a heart surgery, and literally they open you up – they crack the box and you get really vulnerable…  very emotional… It really opens you up to everything.”

My mother sighed as if exhaling a huge weight. “That’s true,” she said. “Before the surgery, I was never able to really love. I mean, I loved you – and your sisters – but I couldn’t trust that you loved me. I was so stiff and self-conscious, always doubting myself. But after the surgery I went through this opening where now I just love you. I don’t worry about whether you love me. I just, you know, love you. And then I can feel the love.”

“Back then, when I was in the hospital, when I almost died, God came and talked to me. We were walking toward the light and I asked him, ‘Can I have just a little more time?’ God asked me, ‘Why do you need more time?’ And I said, ‘I want to go back and just once, really experience love. I just want to fully love. I know how to do that now.'”

I cannot tell you how deeply this touched me. I’d sensed a profound difference in my relationship with my mother. Her story felt absolutely true. Since the surgery, she’d been more willing to take emotional risks, to reach out to me and to my sisters. I can honestly say that I have never felt more loved by her.

It got me wondering, whats going on here? Is this opening my mother has experienced the result, as Robin Williams suggests, of having ‘the box cracked open’? If so, what does this tell us about our armor, our guardedness around love and loving? What does it tell us about the field of love energy surrounding and emanating from the heart? There is so much we don’t know.

All the ‘not love’ that we’ve stuffed down.

My mother had a crazy bad childhood. It took courage for her to allow the protective armor to fall away – to open her heart. Still, all of us ‘armor up’ – we’ve all been hurt by something, by someone.  We’re afraid to love – we don’t own our vulnerable humanity, our messy animal nature, our loneliness, our longing because we fear that if we reveal these things, we’ll be hurt again.

It takes courage to open the heart.

I’ve been studying this – and writing about it – for a while now. Here’s what I’ve found: the best way to open the heart is to open to the reality of the loving presence of the Divine. I think this is because, when we call on the Divine and the Divine responds, we are met by a presence that is both loving and non-judgmental: pure and unconditional love. In the flow of this love, our understanding of what love actually is (what is meant to be) gets a chance to recalibrate. We can shift to being more loving, more unconditional, ourselves.

What I mean is, to open my own heart, I surrender to the loving heart of the Divine.

When I open to the Divine, there is a flush of love (and relief) that is so pure and clear that sometimes, it makes me weep. This love – this rush of Divine loving energy – sweeps away self pity, self loathing. It is complete acceptance; pure love; asking nothing in return.

The more that I practice flowing love this way: with an ‘other’ who loves me completely, without conditions; the more I can offer to the people in my life – my children, my husband, my friends and family and my clients.

Through this practice, I have come to understand that, in truth, there is only love and that the only thing that keeps me separate from it is my own fear and misunderstanding.

You have so much to give, God teaches me. Give it with a full and open heart.

When I let God love me, I let myself off the hook for past mistakes. Out of this, I open more. I let forgiveness wash through me, melting the scars that block the natural flow of light. I see that I am part of an organic, whole, free universe, and something shifts within.

I make better choices – freer choices. I feel at home in the world.  Now, when someone comes to the door, I open the door, asking, “What have you come to show me, to teach me?”  I know that each visitor is a teacher – each step on the path of my life drawing me a little bit closer to resonance with the divine heart that lives inside of my own.

I begin to recognize errors in my thinking and the wounds these errors have caused. But instead of feeling guilty, I feel empowered. I could have chosen differently, I see now, and I can make different choices from now on.

It’s a miracle, really: the more I see my own errors, the more forgiveness I have for the errors of others. I am much nicer to my husband, for example. Much nicer, too, to my Mom.

This is what I am seeing and experiencing in my mom. I see it, also, in my clients and students. Opening to this flow of love works for everyone – no matter how scarred, no matter how broken. (And, by the way, it works whether or not you believe in God.) As we open, allowing our hearts to soften,  locked boxes in the heart begin to open, and all that we have stuffed into them bubbles up to be released, expressed. Liberated.

This experience can be overwhelming at first; at first, we may recoil from it for it makes us feel vulnerable – afraid. But if we let the emotions bubble up they will bubble out. Then, the locked boxes become treasure chests of joy; the stuck places flow freely. This can be such a relief that we walk around days afterwards with a lightness we have not experienced for years. This lightness is the bubbling up of trapped energy from the cell tissue of the heart. As this energy is liberated, it’s released back into our lives and waves of feeling arise. This is why, after the burst of emotion, we feel better; we are literally, actually lighter – and infinitely more free.

Having experienced this heart opening, we will never forget it. Now that we know that it’s possible, we will want to experience it again. This is the beginning of healing the wounds of the heart.

(The above is excerpted from the text of The Soul Caller Training.)


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Showing 21 comments
  • Reply

    Beautiful! I’m experiencing much of the same suddenly right now in my life. This opening…
    Thank you for writing about it. I have too.

  • Tracy

    How lovely the photo of your mother, and how humbling her story of love. Depending on what happens to us, we do become more open of heart. It is a gift. We’re given such a gift to be able to love. And I love in your post title, to “release what is not love”… As I grow older I’m better at doing that. Savoring the love. And gently blowing away that which does not resonate with love. This was incredibly profound reading… thank you! And I’m so happy to be here today. :o)

  • Heather

    I so so loved this! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  • Dana Reeves

    Oh Amy … what a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

    I noticed similar changes in my Mom after her cancer diagnosis in 2007. It took a while (years actually) for her to shed the armor (and for us to trust that it was real). But once she did, boy oh boy, what an awesome transformation to witness and participate in! I think of it as the human equivalent to a butterfly’s transformation… I don’t know how else to explain it.

    And even as Mom’s body got more and more ravaged by the cancer, she grew more and more beautiful to me because I was finally seeing who she really was, underneath all the layers of armor and insulation. I felt more loved by her – and loved her more completely – in the last few years of her life. What a gift God gave us in that time. <3

  • Laura Jayne

    Thank you. This touches me very deeply. It resonates with so much that I am feeling these days.

  • Peg Gillard (@gracinginfinity)

    Just what I needed. Not sure how to make this happen. I don’t think we can make it happen. But being reminded of the choices I have and what I can control in life helps find the paths around some of the obstacles that find their way into our flow. Your words matter.

  • Kim

    Amy, I was so touched by this post about your Mom. She (and you) have taught me something about loving, especially my children. But then, I was even more touched by your response to John. You are special!

  • Vicki Roehrick

    Thank you for sharing such personal moments with us. You are wonderful at touching the heart and soul.

  • Florence Jarvis

    p.s. I do plan to sign up for your course…still waiting on my new VISA.

    • Amy

      I encourage readers who may be supporting a loved one with cancer – or struggling with it themselves – to check out Florence’s site. She’s building a community of support, encouragement and humor. The link is in her comment above.

  • Florence Jarvis

    Hi Amy. Beautiful post. I understand where your mom is coming from. Having cancer has opened me to a new way of loving. Since love is a healing vibration, I am not holding back!

  • SarahR

    What a beautiful post Amy, and wow what a story. I am so touched by what happened for your Mum through her illness and the healing that came, I can only imagine how wonderful it has been to really know your Mum in a new and more love filled way. This piece is yet another reminder of the power of story, of narrative. It poses a question for me; how do I assist my clients with depression/anxiety to open to love and the flow without saying ‘god’ or any other spiritual type words (cos I’m not allowed to). Thanks for the inspiration, and the prompt 🙂

    • Amy

      I, too, am always searching for a way to express the fullness of this flow without outdated or overly spiritualized language. I find that the word ‘light’ works really well. Thank you so much for stopping by to read and to comment.

  • Joan Kappes

    Thanks to you and your mom for sharing! Love IS life and learning to open to it is what we call l-i-v-i-n-g!

  • Maureen Mooney

    I cried too… I cry always when I come face to face with purity and grace. Thank you so much.

  • Hilary

    …and here I am back before you even have time to moderate my original comment, sorry. But I am having a day blessed by synchronicity, and found my way straight from your post to this from Susan Piver:
    …and wanted to share.

    • Amy

      Thank you so much for adding Susan’s beautiful post to our conversation – and for your comments. 🙂

  • Hilary

    This is so beautiful – thank you.

  • Julie

    What a beautiful picture of your mom. Both the photograph and the story.

  • john fisher

    Hi Amy,i have to say i started crying from the start,your mom just looking at her picture made me feel like i could sit with her all day and enjoy hearing all her stories good and bad,i am glad that she and you get this time together,i totally get the whole experience,i have always worn my heart on my sleeve even after heart break after heart break emotional at times where i have no control of it,not in a violent way ever,never have raised my hand in anger to anyone my whole life,not even in a verbal way,so i tend to get walked all over at times,and yes i do have to bottle up my feelings cause it only makes people angry or just think i am pathetic,making kindness into a weakness,i dont see a lot of love in this world practically zero,only hate,anger,cruel,self centered,cold hearted,inconsiderate people never giving anything of themselves,shutting myself off from the world,not bitter,but definitely lost and appreciate everything you have done for me,makes me start to cry,knowing you care and have such a warm friends i have on facebook are the best friends i have ever had,mainly the middle eastern women,i dont know how it actually happened the way it did and the few people i had mention that to think that is totally weird,i am thankfull i have them in my life,yes i have issues,but never gone as far as i have with that other than on facebook,when i mention i have only had intimacy once in 5 yrs and twice total in over 8 years,3 times total in over 15 years,never like that but with women they find that hard to believe,starving for affection in the smallest form just in a hug or a hand to hold or a kind heartfelt greeting can mean so much,sorry see i just ramble on,way off course.thank you Amy for being you.your husband and children are lucky to have such a wonderfull person,women, 🙂

    • Amy

      I am deeply touched by your comment, John. Please know that you really are not alone and that, from my perspective, the sense of isolation is a call for connection. I am so glad that you followed that call and reached out. This note is me, reaching back. 🙂

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