So hard to open the heart

I am a yoga teacher and I do heart openers every day. I teach heart opening asanas. I teach how to make more space for the heart to shine in all directions; to give more freely, to receive more deeply. How to correct the slumping of the shoulders that we blame on computers and cars but probably has more to do with trying to create some safety and protection around the heart, yes make a little cave of protection for the heart; like a turtle's shell that we can draw backwards into. Daily I hold my hands in prayer position in front of my heart and in prayer position behind my heart so that my heart may open in the back and in the front and to the sides. But what is all this sweet work worth if my heart still closes like a fragile mimosa that folds inward or droops when touched or shaken by intimate love. 

Yesterday I saw a dear friend.  I see myself in him -- he is much younger but, like me, he has journeyed on the spiritual path from a very young age. Foregone parties and drugs and frivolity to sit in deep meditation in faraway meditation halls. We both prostrated ourselves for years to the Tree of Dharma of Tibetan Buddhism in Europe and we have both kneeled till our knees hurt in Catholic churches imploring the Holy Mother to hear our song, fill our hearts and protect us from the hurts of the world. But yesterday he wept with me. Which is brave for a young man to do even in 2015, he wept for all the relationships he passed up in order to pursue his spirituality, to go to all these meditation retreats in remote locations, far away from the world and far away from the lovers that touched his heart. Far away from lovers that might have broken his heart -- instead he left and maybe he broke their hearts.

I still see myself in him. I see how I struggle when love touches my tender, battered heart. How, just like my young friend, I struggle just the same to stay open and vulnerable in the face of romantic love. How cleverly and how often I have looked for reasons to run away and leave and be anywhere else but right here where my heart is being touched and invited to open. How dramatically I fear the heart break before love has even begun, how the petals of my heart slightly contract, just a twinge really, but in the world of new and tender love even a subtle twinge in my heart toward closing is all it takes for the other heart to do the same and for the my heart to do the same and for the other heart to do the same until the hearts that were open and childlike in their excitement about new love and each other are not open anymore. But scared. And when the warmth of the heart is blocked, the cool voice of reason will start justifying, in terms too logical to defy, how life is already so full and busy and demanding and who has time for dangerous sidetracks such as opening one's tender, longing hearts with so much risk of pain and so little promise of true love. 

So, now my left shoulder is caving in a bit on the left; shielding the heart below. It hurts all the way up my neck. It started the day I kissed the handsome man who has touched my heart. It was down by the river in the waning, golden light of a Sunday evening not long ago at all. I think I knew that day; that I would be challenged to meet him with out guarding my heart; and I wanted to be brave and I wanted to open my heart. But my shoulder is not convinced that an open heart is a good idea -- so my shoulder is doing the guarding and it hurts constantly. I have seen my acupuncturist three times since the first time the handsome man kissed me tenderly, I have seen my chiropractor too and yesterday I saw my somatics mentor -- they each gave me a bit of relief but  a few hours later my left shoulder is back on her guard post, watching out, staying tight and alert and not losing a moment of information. And if you make a point to look, there is so much information and so many ways to prove to yourself that love cannot win, that egos, and reason and the humdrum of the day will drown love and keep your heart safe from being open to another. 

The man who kissed me so sweetly and touched my heart so deeply in no time, brought me lilies today. They are beautiful and their scent fill not just my bedroom but my whole house and yet my shoulder is on high alert, responding to my heart's perceived, urgent need for fact, I think my right shoulder may be joining the defense team as we speak, trying so hard to protect the heart from stepping up to its God given job of staying open in the face of anything whether it's the beginning of love or the end of love. Otherwise, I fear that I, and my young friend too, might just be using meditation and the 'spiritual path' and even heart openers as a means to run away and not be right here, right now with exactly what is going on. 

Here is my favorite poem by's so sweet and full of longing.

Love’s Philosophy


The fountains mingle with the river

   And the rivers with the ocean,

The winds of heaven mix for ever

   With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single;

   All things by a law divine

In one spirit meet and mingle.

   Why not I with thine?—


See the mountains kiss high heaven

   And the waves clasp one another;

No sister-flower would be forgiven

   If it disdained its brother;

And the sunlight clasps the earth

   And the moonbeams kiss the sea:

What is all this sweet work worth

   If thou kiss not me?