Friday, March 30, 2012

Trauma, Loss and Heart Opening

Yesterday a friend of mine came over for dinner after just coming back in town from a funeral. She lost a family member last week in a bizarre and tragic way and shared with me a bit of her experience. While she talked with me, her hand held the space on top of her heart and she mentioned a few times that she could feel her heart aching, like a pain that resonated straight back and between her ribs.

I shared with her that across cultures, when human beings experience a great loss, their body literally curls inward, perhaps as a way to protect the heart from more trauma. The tops of the shoulders and the collarbones fold in towards one another, the upper back rounds and the center of the chest sinks inward toward the back ribs. I explained to her that when people experience a great achievement, their body will move the other way - the shoulders open apart and back and the center of the chest lifts up.

When my friend held her chest at another point in our conversation, she said, "I feel like my heart is literally trying to break open and get bigger to take this all in,"

In the last two months, I have experienced waves of loss that has left no part of my life untouched. And often during this time, I've had exchanges with people, sometimes strangers, who tell me of a sudden loss in their lives as well and sometimes in the same conversation, there is a recognition that there is also an opening or an opportunity somewhere else...and this reminds me that loss and growth happen symbiotically. Just like the breath, when you lose space on the exhale, it makes room for expansion on the inhale.

I'm reminded of the sanskrit word for the heart chakra, anahata, which means "unstruck," or "unbeaten." My teacher explained this to me once as our hearts being like a beautiful emerald stone, strong and solid and completely unscratched. She explained that regardless of what kind of trauma we endure in our lives, no matter the heart ache, the loss, the suffering we experience or cause in our lives, within all of it there is at least one space that goes unbent, unmarred, unaffected by the friction of our lives, that there is one space inside each of us that goes untouched by the pain and the worry and the weight of our human experience.

Tonight I am moving my heart-space open in spite of the loss I feel, and the heaviness of that on my shoulders and head. There is a piece of me that remains intact, unharmed, beautifully okay. So tonight I will breathe into that space, trusting that the weight of life that I am more aware of right now will grow lighter and become easier to breath through.

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