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.
I heard this beautiful metaphor the other day for spiritual teachings; Absolute Truth is like a multifaceted jewel and different teachings point to different facets of the jewel.
Where we fall down in our spiritual journey is when we hold on to the teaching and forget that the teaching is just a tool.
Like a teacher pointing to the moon, we are so fixated on the finger pointing, we don't experience the moon.
Imagine living in a mansion with hundreds of windows and looking out of only one them, thinking that what we are seeing is the complete view. That is what we do when we take one facet of this jewel of absolute truth and take it to be the whole story.
Absolute truth must be experienced to be fully grasped and we all catch glimpses of it from time to time. Those moments in nature that take our breath away, witnessing the birth of a child, hearing the lyrics of a song that resonate with the song in our own heart, a deep awakening during meditation or yoga practice....these are all universal moments of sublime love and compassion when we feel our hearts open and we feel connected with all that is.
When we hold onto specific teachings, we risk becoming dogmatic or fundamental in our approach. This creates separation and war. Perhaps a more holistic approach would be to stand back, soften our gaze and let go of the seductive teachings that zero in on one facet of this beautiful jewel. Empty our cups and start the day with beginner's mind, with not knowing. As hard as this journey can be sometimes, I am so thankful to be on it, I wouldn't have it any other way.
One of my favorite quotes is by Mary Oliver, who poses, in her poem 'The Summer Day,' the question:
"Tell me, what is is you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?"
I love it. It inspires me, makes me reach...and adds a touch of pressure to 'get it right' !
There are moments in my life where I have felt so connected and expansive and full that everything I ever dreamt of doing feels possible and within my reach. There are also those daunting moments where I have felt so contracted and small that stepping out of the front door seemed beyond me.
I have noticed lately that those moments of feeling scared and small are taking more of a back seat in my life. When fear comes knocking on the door of my psyche, I am more likely to recognise it as the old familiar friend that it is and sit with it for a while, even when it feels really uncomfortable. When I can hold space for myself with tenderness through a fearful moment, I am less likely to be swept away in a tidal wave of emotion that affects not only me, but everyone around me. As a result, there is a lot less drama in my life. I have more energy to focus on what I do want, rather than what I fear might happen.
My yoga practice has helped me to recognize when I lose my center, when I am moving away from love and into fear. I know from experience that when I am centered, open and present, I am living from my heart, from a place of love. I know that I can access creativity and higher wisdom when I am open and present in this moment; not stuck in my head, fretting about what might happen tomorrow or what happened earlier this morning.
So, what will I do with this one wild and precious life?
I am aspiring to live it fully; one precious moment at a time.