Cracking the box
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.)