Finding the Heart

Where is the love?

We tend to look for love outside of ourselves and forget that it can be found inside of us at any given time.

The end of May is a time when I look forward to summer, but it is also a time when I am reminded of things that brought me to completely change my life 17 years ago. This period marked a huge wake up call for me, and the resulting changes have taken time to fully integrate into the person I am today. What happened 17 years ago brought me to evaluate how I was living my life, what my future would look like if I did not make a change. I had to pause and ask the deep question within myself; what was really important for me?

What matters?

May 30th, 2000, I lost my mother very suddenly to breast cancer, without time to resolve what lurked in the shadows of our relationship, without being able to say goodbye, and without getting the chance to tell her I loved her. I wanted to – I had a brief moment where I could have – but I did not know how because at that time, we did not say such things in my family.

My mom and I had a somewhat difficult relationship for most of my teens, though there was no doubt in my mind she loved me. I misunderstood her attempts to reach out, and she likely misunderstood mine as well. I don’t think either one of us knew where to begin to solve things, so we ended up staying in a daughter/mother relationship that was not as nourishing to each other – or to ourselves – as it could have been.

I had experienced loss before, and felt the intense pain of heartache before, but I was not prepared for what I felt when she passed: the emotional pain that comes when there is nothing we can do about grief, other than to grieve. We realize there is nothing we can do to fix it, or go back in time and do it over, or stop the event from happening. More than any other emotions I had expected to feel, I felt humbled by life. And because my dad was rather ill from cancer as well, I knew I would shortly be facing another profound loss.

It was at this point that grief became my teacher.

The ‘Waking Up’

Being busy living my life and pursuing my career, I had “forgotten” that those who were most important to me might not be around for the duration. Parents are a given when we are younger, and as an adult I simply assumed that we still had time, especially since my parents were not yet old enough to be considered at risk of dying. As it turned out, though, they both died far too young.

The year following my mother’s death I spent time with my dad mourning the loss of his life before he was even gone. We knew he was dying, we just did not know when. It was at this point that I learned to not waste any more time working a job, or living a life without my whole heart being in it. The passion I had for succeeding in my job was replaced by a passion to learn about how to help others through suffering and struggle. Or, rather, to help people learn how to accept that living our lives while being true to our hearts can also cause a lot of pain. But once you learn that pain and love are two sides of the same coin, suffering can shift into a very peaceful embrace of Self.

Buddhism teaches us to live everyday as if it is our last. But this does not mean we should live irresponsibly! Quite the opposite, actually; it really means to live with intent while being present to the moment, because that is indeed all we can be sure of.

Now I don’t mean for this to become a source of stress over never being able to say no to anything, but rather, serve as a reminder to be aware of what matters to us, and pay attention to it here and now. There is nothing like the profound experience of grieving that can bring us into our hearts, and nothing like truly being in our hearts that can bring us into the present moment, and keep us there.

Love is always there

It hides in the shadows, the shadows and the darkness that we are so scared of. The darkness that we think is the unlovable, and yet in there, deep inside, it is lurking, behind the sadness, behind the anger. If we could live that life we really wanted to live, the life that we long for, but believe we are not allowed to live, or the one we think we are not good enough for or the one we think others will laugh at or dismiss. Yes that one. Do you think you would love more? Probably. Not just the romantic kind. The deep loving life kind. Loving the blade of grass that is wet from the morning rain kind. Or the dogs running after a ball kind. Or the nourishing food kind (without the need for excess kind), the laughter with friends kind, (without needing alcohol to loosen up kind), or the driving down the road and noticing the sunlight playing on the hillside kind. Or the just sitting quiet and listen to the birds kind. Not always the performing and working hard kind, but that kind too. The kind where you dare to speak up for what you believe in kind, no matter who is going to agree with you kind, because it matters to you kind. The kind where you go to bed at night and say, that was a good day, I’m happy… that kind.