What’s Breaking Your Heart Open?

What’s breaking your heart open?  Powerful question and powerful to notice how one little word in this question can completely change the tone of it from “what is breaking your heart?” to “what is breaking it open?”

Meg Wheatley opened the ALIA module “Leader as Shambhala Warrior”, that she co-hosted with Jim Gimian and Gerry Granelli at the beginning of this month, with this question and it was the question I woke up with this morning.  Some people answered with what is breaking their heart.  Sometimes the response stops there because that is as far as we have come in our understanding of the circumstance we are sitting in.  Sometimes it is so fresh we have not yet been able to move on to the next phase.

Meg was really suggesting that what breaks our heart can also break it open and in this place of open heartedness, even when that is about sorrow, we have a greater capacity to act and act with strength and compassion.  Her heart is broken about what is happening with the devastation in the gulf as a result of the oil spill and she speaks about this in in this blog posting in YES! An Antidote to Urgency.

In answering the question, I focused on what happens when our heart breaks open.  It is this question that most resonates with my journey over the last few years – learning to live into my experience – including and maybe especially my emotional experience, rather than walking through it as if I was going through the motions of some else’s story.   I think I tried to just walk through the motions for so long because I was afraid of being overwhelmed by sadness, despair, loneliness and hopelessness.  I tried to hold those things at bay and it did nothing to keep life from periodically crashing down around me.

What a difference it makes to notice and acknowledge my experience as I’m in it.  Contrary to my fear, it is actually freeing and liberating!  This morning I’m noticing how much I’m missing my seven year old son as we begin establishing the rhythm of a separated family.  It breaks my heart that he can’t be with me all the time and it breaks my heart open knowing how much I love him, how much he loves me and how much he is loved by others including his father and his father’s family.  This is a rhythm and a pattern we will all grow into, served by love.

Over the last five years, an expanded  story of my life has been pieced together as information has been unexpectedly  revealed to me about my journey, essentially since birth.  As I have absorbed all the information, it breaks my heart open to now know how loved, supported and guided I have been from the time I was an infant – even in my darkest days.

All those moments when I reach beyond the physical world and feel my connection with spirit or non-ordinary reality, it breaks my heart open to know there is so much more than our physical bodies and the things we can touch and see.  We are supported and loved in ways often beyond our knowing.

When I watch my older children grow into their own life paths and step into the next phase of their lives with both the maturity and immaturity of their age, it breaks my heart open to know that they have strong foundations and love in their lives.

And as I recount all the things that break my heart open, they all come back to love in one way or another – feeling it, accessing it, living it, speaking it.  Letting people I care deeply about know that I love them – in how I show up for them and in speaking it aloud from time to time.

My heart is breaking open, more fully and completely every day – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It has shifted the shape of me, my life and my business.  Thank you Meg for the question.  It lives on in me and in my journey.

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Can We Be Done Now?

Last week, round about session 3 of my ALIA Module: Leader as Shambhala Warrior, as we were going back into creative process yet again, I recall sitting there thinking: “Can we be done yet?  I’ve had enough.  I’m ready to move on to the “real” work of the module.”

Immediately I chuckled at my own thought and the awareness that came with it.  Just a few weeks before, a colleague and I had been in that same question with a client about the status of the long term shift process we were in.  We told the client, we have reached the point where some of the people will begin to say: ” We have our document, can we be done now? Can I get back to real work now?.”

This raises two things.  The first is our concept of “real work” as something that does not happen in a conference, training or retreat.  If it’s not real, is it imaginary?  Un-real?  If it’s not real, why do we do it?  I love challenging this notion when it arises – this is real work too.  For myself, when I’m in retreats, I now think of  the outside world that does come knocking and “real” work happens in both places and many others in between.

The second thing is that when we encounter in ourselves or others this question of “Can we be done now?” it’s a pretty good indicator we’re in the groan zone.  The groan zone is a place that feels a bit murky because we lack some clarity in the moment about where we are and where we’re going – or how we are going to make use of what we’ve been learning or experiencing.  We may be tired or challenged and just want to get beyond it — or usually get back to wherever we were before we started.  And this is the opportunity in the groan zone.  Stick with it just that much longer and the opportunity for emergence and for clarity is primed.

What happened when I was in the groan zone last week around the creative process?  Well, we were being led, through exceptional leadership displayed by Jerry Granelli, to become a “blues band”, writing our own lyrics and actually singing them out loud while other people witnessed us – or really, while we witnessed each other.  I don’t sing. I don’t know musical form.  I can’t carry a tune.  I don’t write music lyrics.  The day we were asked to just hum the blues form, I felt a visceral reaction along with my sharp intake of breath… and then, I did it!  I told Jerry, he had butted me up against my fear.  He laughed, in a gentle and wonderful way.  I told him the good news was that in previous years, that would have been my terror I butted up against.

Last week, we had marvelous and thought provoking teachings from Meg Wheatley and Jim Gimian and I will write more about that in future blogs.  We knew though, as we were at “band practice” at 9:30 one night, that this band experience was bonding us into a community as we supported each other in writing our lyrics and setting them to the blues form and that this was the thing we would most easily and fondly remember as a collective.

In all my years of attending ALIA’s Shambhala Summer Institute this one stands out in my memory for the bond created within my module.

I traveled through the groan zone, pushed the edge of my learning, wrote my lyrics and sang them… sang them first actually (not because I volunteered though), finding a place of greater ease, peace and playfulness within myself and understanding the groan zone at a whole new level.

Thanks Jerry, Meg and Jim and my band mates!  Be warned – you now just mind hear me singing in places other than to my young children – like on the street when I’m out walking and “shape shifting, shape shifting in a soulful way…”.