Two hearts diverge in the center of my chest. One is right, absolutely certain of what it deserves, red, furious, sulking, adrenalized, ready to explode. This one does not like change, at least not change that does not go in the direction it wants – the right and fair direction, the direction that I can see so clearly.
The other is quiet and at peace, in relationship, observing, taking in the whole, engaging without attaching, nimble as a stream flowing over rocks, flexing with what truly is.
What a grip the first heart has, and how complete the blindness and stranglehold. And how utter and painful the defeat if it carries the battle to the end and loses. Or how empty the victory if it wins and beats its perceived opponent into the ground.
It is all the same heart, of course. It is mine and I make the choice, just like choosing whether or not the giving tree under which I live is going to be the Tree of Life or the other one.
But how can I make that choice when I am so thoroughly blinded? The truth is, sometimes I can’t, or don’t, and I drift further and further into the hell I create with my own sightless determination. How difficult, but how important it is to change course and to bring it all back home. Sometimes the path is long and painful because of the bitterness built up inside and the damage inflicted on others around me.
What are the turning points, the places of repenting? Sometimes it is awareness of the misery, sometimes it is the voice of another who can see me more clearly than I can see myself. Sometimes it is the practice of quiet prayer, the prayer that seeks, in a mantra of willingness or a broken open silence, to let in a small sparkle of light, a trickle of healing water, finding the pinhole through which a larger landscape can be seen.
Always the turn involves practice. It involves breathing and conscious letting go. It involves releasing my death grip attachment to a self-determined and willful outcome.
We do not diminish ourselves when we choose willingness, the open connection to the whole. Rather, we become our true selves, the Self of paradoxical oneness with all that is.
The picture is always larger, and I am only a part of the whole, not the entire thing, as I want to believe.
When we practice willingness, when we practice being open and available, expanding our vision and releasing our determination to have the speck of sand we thought was everything, we experience healing. We find that the ache and inflammation begin to subside. The poison is leached little by little from our system and the blinders fall away. We are able to see both the detail and the landscape. The stream flows in its ripples and pools, turning with ease to follow its natural course.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:10, NRSV) It’s not so much a new one, but rather a connected one. And it is already there. We don’t have to beg or grovel for it, nor do we have to tear out anything as though it is wrong or defective.
Rather, we choose. Will we be willing or willful, separate or connected? Our spirit and our heart are not other than that with which we are gifted in our creation. There are no defects. There is only choice, the choice of isolation or the choice of connection. When we are real and whole, we are both individuated and connected. We are the gift of our own place and being. And we are the gift of the entire universe. It is the paradox and beauty of being a thread in the fabric.
In any case, our heart is truly only one, our very own, offered willingly in connection to the whole. Ah, the wonder and taste of the Tree of Life.
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