Maybe you’ve felt this way before too, like maybe a little piece of your heart was missing?
Imagine the scenario: a woman literally, actually, loses her heart. She hopes for a miracle, an easy fix, but doctors can’t find anything wrong. She knows they’re mistaken, so she must go off in search of it.
This would be a very vivid dream; maybe I’ve even had it before, where I make the startling discovery that my heart has disappeared. Was it ever even there? A swirl of images takes me back to all the people I have hurt, the hearts I’ve maimed, even unintentionally, and to the wrecked pile of guilt and bones I’ve known myself to be.
I look way deep inside, maybe with one of the tiny, probing cameras doctors use to perform minimally invasive surgeries in the minuscule recesses of kneecaps and pelvic floors.
Or maybe I start to search with my own mind’s eye. I can do a guided meditation, like a great one I know where you imagine your left eye is the moon, and your right eye is the sun. Then you picture them merging at your third eye, or the middle of your forehead, and it becomes a luminescent entity like a flashlight that you can use for an immersive probing of self.
(This is a great visualization technique; I highly recommend it).
So I generate this light of sun and moon and wade through the cavities and capillaries and mucus, the hardening joints and my thin, airy blood.
And I find it, what I’ve suspected for a long time, as far as I remember being conscious. There’s a gaping hole where my heart should be.
If this were actually a dream, I would wake up in sweats and not be able to shake the feeling that the dream was real. I’d talk to my friends about the significance of this dream, already knowing what it must mean.
It’s so obvious. My friends would tell me otherwise, but I don’t have my heart. I’m heartless. This one word carries so much. Symbolically, I have lost my ability to feel, have emotions, relate to others in the most basic, human way. I have no grounding, whether I can function or not, because an intellectual grounding is no grounding at all. It is a life lived in some stratosphere away from where we can connect with what is real.
The heart, how it feels, is what is real. Emptiness, on the other hand, is what hurts and causes hurt like no other.
I want the ground. The ground is good. There is no field here in the land of groundlessness, no grass, no sensation of soil sifting through fingers. There are no broken hearts and hearts-in-love here. What grounds us more than a heart broken or in love?
Now let’s imagine a scenario where the gaping hole where my heart should be really exists, as an absence, a dark and taunting lack.
This is how it can feel sometimes. Less and less often, maybe, but this it’s also true that when we make a commitment to work on ourselves—hit the yoga mat to breathe into all the crevasses that make us, or sit on the meditation cushion in attempts of reaching the center—we are going to have to confront the things that have haunted us, tested our ability to overcome.
We can welcome this confrontation, and learn over time to take what we have been into the folds of our embrace, to breathe acceptance and love into it all, and then see it off with love.
Because I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz so many times it’s practically a part of my body, I think of the Tin Man. He had no heart and this fact tormented him. He wanted nothing more than to have one, and he sang and danced about his greatest wish with such heart. He didn’t let the wanting get him down. He found a community, gave selflessly, and loved so openly and freely once he learned to believe in himself!
The Tin Man (like the rest of the characters in the brilliant film), is a poignant creation, designed to show us that we already have what we need inside, no matter what we fear to the contrary.
This is absolutely true, and a profound spiritual truth.
I am strong and courageous and full of passion. I am also vulnerable, weak and at times, absolutely overtaken with terror thinking the worst about who I am.
In other words, I am human, and as one of these, I have the ability to feel and self-observe, to go way down to the bottom on the slow but inevitable way back up, and to witness how things change constantly, so that hearts that empty are also hearts that can spill over with the makings of a stunning humanity.
I can embrace all of it. And this is a beautiful thing.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: via the author