A Modern Mystic

Musings on life, work and contemporary spirituality

The Fragile Heart

3 Comments

FragileHeartA gift box arrived in the mail this week. It revealed a beautiful blown glass heart, exquisitely hand made in rainbow colors. I can’t help but notice that it comes at a time when my own heart feels fragile.

At the start of the summer I decided to work on re-branding my business and deepening my connection to my work. I set things into motion: hired a branding expert and coach, enrolled in a training and credentialing course, and set lists and deadlines for accomplishing the many detailed tasks associated with moving my creative life forward. With everything planned and organized, neat and tidy, I then went on vacation, looking forward to giving these tasks refreshed attention upon my return.

Life happened instead, and I returned home to find the ground literally shifting under my feet. I first got the news that we had to move and immediately began the process of finding  a new home. The day after signing the lease, a close relative landed in critical condition in a hospital in the Midwest. I dropped everything and flew to be with family. I returned with barely enough time to pack and prepare for moving day, while monitoring my nephew’s progress long distance. And yet life hasn’t let up. There are rescheduled client meetings and make-up classes to attend, doctor’s appointments and birthday parties, Back to School Night, and volunteer responsibilities, new assignments and deadlines. It seems everything, including dinner, has a deadline.

Today I finally said it out loud. I expressed my frustration with not finding enough time to care for myself and a wise woman replied with a question, “Where is your heart?”

It was a gentle question that nevertheless pierced right to the core. What does Carrie need right now? How can I take care of her? I was stunned not to know the answer.

When did I lose the ability to check in with my own heart? Was it when I was a child trying to survive a dysfunctional upbringing? Was it when I got older and learned to associate my emotions with drama, manipulation and shame? Was it as an exhausted mother and exasperated spouse just trying to get one more thing done?

My Mahayana Buddhist training tells me to do everything I do while holding the enlightened intention to become Buddha (True Happiness) for the sake of freeing all beings from suffering. And yet because of my own personal growth work in the past – everything from therapy and 12 Step recovery, story-telling and memoir writing, to yoga and Buddhist meditation – I recognize the self-destructive side of doing for others to the point of exhaustion. I know I am not alone in this particularly feminine style of dysfunction whose root cause sends women to pharmacies and breast cancer surgeons in droves. We women are suffering because, in the face of all we are expecting ourselves to do and be, we are failing to get our own emotional needs met. At the risk of being blunt, we are shirking our number-one priority and responsibility, to take care of our own fragile hearts.

Where are our hearts?

Each of us must answer this question for ourselves. It is only by staying true to our own hearts that we can truly serve others. As women, when we authentically check-in, we do not find lists and deadlines, flow charts and decision matrices. If we are honest, we find tenderness, vulnerability, moods, knowing without being able to show our work, and decisions that fluctuate and flow.

For me, staying too long in my head leads to dysfunctional emotionality. Without the balance of time for meditation, contemplation, dreaming, praying, creating, giggling, cuddling my cat, window-shopping and trusting my wacky self, I become needy and emotionally out-of-control. This always manifests as a messy house, jerky communication, and a chaotic life. These outward signs tell me it’s time to pause and contemplate, to discover where I have given myself away or sold myself out.

I’m sure you can discover your own patterns, positive and negative, if you investigate and make it a priority today.

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Author: Carrie Ure

Carrie Ure is a teacher, editor and happiness coach based in Portland, Oregon.

3 thoughts on “The Fragile Heart

  1. Carrie, Sometimes the turn of events bring unexpected blessings or awakenings. Had it not been for our chance meeting in a hospital waiting room, I would not have read your fragile heart message. Tonight, I just received disturbing news that my nephew is once again in ER, 3x in the past few months. No diagnosis to date and now in serious condition with ruptured intestine. Unable to do surgery because of blood thinners, so we just wait for morning and hope it won’t be too late. His mother, my sister, and I embarked on an unexpected, unplanned adventure and drove to Coronado Island last week where they have a studio apt get away. It was totally out of the norm for me to miss birthdays, football games and other family events but it was a never to be forgotten trip with my little sister. We did whatever we wanted to…road beach bikes, laughed until our stomachs hurt, enjoyed the beauty of Southern California overlooking the bay, the soothing ocean waves and so much more.
    I so understand your comment, doing for others to the point of exhaustion, as I have been doing that for 50 plus years now. Who knows why I am now pouring my heart out to you, someone I only met recently, but I believe there are reasons, sometimes many, that our paths cross with others in very unexpected ways.
    I am enlightened by your words of complete honesty.
    Peace and gratitude,
    Sharon

  2. Thank you, Carrie! Oh too similar to my path at the moment. Excellent question to reflect on often…. ‘Where is my heart?’. xo

  3. Thanks Carrie. That will certainly leave me in contemplation.

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