The Perfect Heart
During my recent training at Kripalu, Lee Albert taught that compassion was the most important healing modality around. He shared the following story that touched the hearts of everyone there:
The Perfect Heart (author unknown)
A young man was standing in the middle of the town proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered and they all admired his heart for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it.
But an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said, “Your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine.”
The crowd and the young man looked at the old man’s heart. It was beating strongly but was full of scars. It had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in … but they didn’t fit quite right and there were several jagged edges. The young man looked at the old man’s heart and laughed.
“You must be joking,” he said. “Compare your heart with mine … mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears.”
“Yes,” said the old man, “Yours is perfect looking … but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love….. I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them … and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart but because the pieces aren’t exact, I have some rough edges.
“ Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away … and the other person hasn’t returned a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty gouges … giving love is taking a chance. Although these gouges are painful, they stay open, reminding me of the love I have for these people too … and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting. So now do you see what true beauty is?”
The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart, and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man.
The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his old scarred heart and placed it in the wound in the young man’s heart.
It fit …. but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges.
The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old man’s heart flowed into his."
When we look at the world through the lens of the mind, there is judgement, separation, resistance.
When we look at the world through the lens of the heart, there is connection, acceptance, unity.
We go from believing "You are nothing like me." to "You are something like me" to finally "You are nothing but me".
Our yoga practice teaches us to keep softening, to keep opening to the life that is right here, right now. There is no wasted experience.
Softening to what is ~
Much of our suffering comes from wanting our lives or our world to be different than they are and, as a result, we can be in a constant state of resistance and discontent. We feel our hearts and mind close to certain people or situations. We rage at the injustices of the world. Our receptivity shuts down and, without realizing it, we close off our connection to creativity and divine inspiration.
When we can soften and open to what is happening right here, right now, (because, after all, it is already happening) we are available to receive the divine, creative intelligence that wants to emerge through us in the form of a wise response to the situation. We have the ability to see the next, highest course of action when we are in a space of open awareness rather than in resistance. This is not easy. I find that I can shut down and become resistant many times a day.
Our practice becomes one of constantly softening; of noticing that we are closed and resisting, of having compassion for ourselves and this human experience. We come back to the breath, soften our gaze, look for the divine in every situation and every person we meet. We learn to respond consciously rather than reacting blindly.
This poem by Rumi says it perfectly:
" Be crumbled.
So wildflowers will come up where you are.
You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different.