We think of divorce as the break up of a marriage. With all the practical upheaval, it’s easy to forget that it’s also the end of a romance. Having your spouse leave you is one of the most painful experiences you are likely to have. We all know the feeling of having our heart broken open in romance. It’s a rich space - and its raw texture means that it’s easy to miss the gifts that lie there. Yes, gifts.
As we honour St. Valentine this month I invite you to think of divorce as the end of a romance.
The language we use to discuss love, relationship and sex is fascinating. Our collective, ingrained choice of words articulates and creates our experience and expectations of romance. The phrases ‘heart break’ and ‘a broken heart’ speak volumes about attitudes towards this experience. The assumption is that a ‘broken heart’ hurts and is best avoided. Well it does hurt and it can’t be avoided. Especially in a divorce, with the broken promises and the end of your life as you envisaged it. The other assumption is that a heart broken needs to be fixed or mended as quickly as possible so we can ‘move on’.
I’d like to reposition this raw and tenderizing experience as a ‘heart-broken-open’. Word play is more than a bit of fun. Spiritual traditions throughout recorded history have understood the power of language. So, if the Word is In the Beginning, let’s start with the word. A heart-broken-open is open: stuff can move in and out, around and through. That’s why it’s such a rich space.
I’d describe a heart-broken-open as the experience of being pulled apart from the beloved. This pulling apart tugs at the fabric of the heart and pulls a part of it away. That’s where the wound is. What are the gifts of this wound?
With a heart broken open our sweetest essence pours out – into our lives and into the world. If we are open to it, the sense of rawness makes us more keenly aware of everything – our senses, friendships, conversations, food, sleep, strangers, the sky, our work, the high street and supermarket. The pulling apart has also tugged away a layer of the veil of our perception and we are more present to life. We become more available to the world. And when we are more available to the world the world finds us compellingly attractive.
We also become more available to our selves. The heart holds our deepest desires and purposes. It’s easy to forget our deep essences in the ‘dailyness’ of life. But they are there – nestling in the folds of the heart. And the wound that breaks open the heart allows them to rise into our awareness, where we can do something with them.
We began with the Word. Let’s move to the Flesh. Have you noticed how some people literally glow when their heart is broken open? I see it often in my clients – they become compellingly attractive to the world when they embrace their broken-open state. There is a good energetic reason for this. The heart is a magnificent organ, pulsing in both the physical and emotional bodies. In pumping blood to the rest of the body, it also pumps our emotional messages to the rest of the body. Psychopharmacologist Dr. Candace Pert has discussed at length how our emotions live as chemical components in our bodies – hence her famous phrase ‘molecules of emotion.’ It is also true that the heart is entwined with the state of our breath. Yogic, tantric and ayurvedic knowledge offer much insight on this.
Physically, the components of air pass between the respiratory and cardiac systems. Psychically, our emotions do. Our breath modulates with our feelings. Strong feelings cause strong modulations in breath. We have all experienced our breath either deepen, quicken, shorten or suspend as the result of strong feelings. When the heart is broken open and raw a continuous flow of strong feeling glides through the heart and pervades the breath. These feelings are re-absorbed by the heart, pumped round the body and breathed out….and in again. This loop between respiratory and cardiac systems causes that glow.
The glow that people get is the visible manifestation of their state of feeling. Intense emotions are literally altering their physique and their electromagnetic field. The breath of course is our most constant means of interacting with the world around us. In and out. In and out – we take in air from the world, absorb it into our being and breathe something of ourselves out into the world again. Albeit unconsciously, when your heart is broken open you are offering more of your essence to the world because there is more feeling in your breath. Now here’s a secret: if you can learn to direct consciously that heart-breath loop magic starts to happen because in directing that, you direct your life force. Now that’s what I call a gift.
Your emotions are a potent expression of your energy and when you direct your own energy you master your life. Start to direct your heart-breath loop by simply bringing your awareness to the breath. Sound easy? Try it and see how long it takes for the attention to drift. If you are experiencing a heart broken open, or strong emotions of any sort, remember that its not about quelling your emotions; its about enabling their flow.
In the yoga/ tantra tradition the heart chakra (indeed all chakras) are symbolized by a lotus. Very apt for the reflections here – the heart has its own logic and it doesn’t so much ‘move on’ as unfold – much like the petals of a lotus. Enjoy your own unfolding.
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