“To keep the heart space open, we need several things. First, we almost all need some healing in regard to our carried hurts from the past… And to be fully honest, I think your heart needs to be broken, and broken open, at least once to have a heart at all or to have a heart for others.” (Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water, p. 11, 12)
These quotes pretty much explain my spiritual journey since college. I probably came to the second part first. Rohr talks about the importance of re-aligning the head, heart and body. In my head-centered religion, I realized during college that my heart was not open. I remember singing the praise song, “break my heart for what breaks yours,” and realizing that my heart didn’t break for much of anything. And then my friend Nicole died (14 years ago yesterday), and my heart broke. I began to FEEL instead of just THINK. A little bit to avoid feeling, and a little bit to get better at feeling, I went back to Kenya and worked in a children’s home, where I met a young girl named Wamaitha who broke my heart a bit more. Sitting on the bench in the children’s dorm, a crowd of kids tugging at my hair to braid it, and Wamaitha sitting next to me–holding my hand and rocking back and forth singing sounds and words that only she understood–my heart broke open just a little bit more. When I came back to the States and got involved in a community that didn’t need me to think my way to spiritual maturity, I sensed my heart opening to those around me, and more deeply to a Spirit that is mysterious and beyond comprehension.
At times along the way, I have also realized the need for healing in regard to past hurts. This has meant counseling and spiritual direction, where I have been able to sit with that inner 8-yr. old who was dropped off at boarding school and give her some space to name her fears and tears in new ways.
I can see the difference it makes as my heart space becomes more and more comfortable being open. It’s overwhelming and scary–because an open heart space inevitably means the possibility of pain. Not just pain others might cause me, but I find myself feeling the pain of others…of our culture…of the world more deeply. Maybe that’s what Rohr means when he talks about a broken heart leading to a heart for others…