An image and a quote have been dwelling in my mind since last night. The image is a bit of (I think) Catholic iconography that when I encountered it as a young woman I never could understand. I'm sure you've seen it...an image of the Christ with his chest opened up and a bleeding heart visible. It always both intrigued and repelled me. I could not figure it out. Until many years later when I was reading a book by Chogyam Trungpa (I apologize here, I have looked, but I can't find the book in the current disarray of our library.) He was talking about what happens when we open up to compassion and become truly present. He was dispelling the myth that peace is comfortable and he referenced the very image of the Christ with the bleeding heart. When we achieve undefendedness it feels as if our heart is raw and bleeding--open and vulnerable to any and all.
This sentiment was echoed in a quote (again, I can't find it) that I read about ten years ago...before I became a parent. To paraphrase: 'Being a parent is a courageous act. For being a parent is to forever have your heart dwell outside of your own body.'
I believed those words when I read them...I live them now. It is the rawness and vulnerability of unconditional love that lends it such power to transform us and lift us beyond what we could ever have expected of ourselves. It is painful--and the more we can learn to lean into that pain, the more beauty and expansiveness the universe unveils for us.
Rawness. It's how we know we are making progress. It is why peace and mutuality can be so hard to find sometimes. To open up our hearts--to offer them to the world without knowing who, or if anyone, will respond--is a raw and discomforting act. But, I will assert, an essential act for those of us who want to create change in our lives and in the world. Our bodies give us the signals we need to know when we are in the place we need to be. If we are feeling vulnerable, rootless, raw, and uncertain, we are on the path--we are doing our work.
A poem, posted by a new friend, Chris Corrigan, caught this sentiment and connected it with the topic of work. I will retype it here, as I want to make sure I don't lose it.
The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
-- Wendell Berry
A last word...for all the parents out there and for anyone else who loves a child and who loves nature...check out the writing and work of Joseph Cornell. It's beautiful and strong and fun.