Straight from the Heart
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
Straight from the HeartLooking beyond your garden of despair.
After beginning my book Writing in the Sand, a new chapter in my life began. I discovered, to my surprise, that I have heart disease. One minute my life was going along with its usual speed and unconsciousness and the next I was dealing with all the implications of my mortality. From my personal point of view, I could well do without this intrusion, but I am already learning many new, transforming lessons as I deal with it. I see firsthand that it takes a spiritual perspective to get beyond the basic position that illness is a problem to be solved. There is a line in Mircea Eliade’s diaries where he says that illness is an initiation, a rite of passage, and represents an opportunity to go to a new level in body and spirit.
I have always thought of myself as someone who lives and works from his heart. When I write books and essays, I always try to give them a heart, partly by not hiding in the words and ideas and partly by bringing some warmth and openness to the language. When I lecture, I don’t use notes and I try not to give a “canned” presentation. When I sign books for long lines of people, I try to be present to each person and I usually write a brief original message.
Obviously, these are small things compared to the heart needs of the world, and clearly I could go much further toward opening my heart. It is a perfect time for me to be writing about Jesus, who was honored in my Catholic heritage for his “Sacred Heart.” And, as I try to show in the pages of my book, he did indeed live and teach with an exceptionally open heart. He could feel deeply and could empathize with all except those who treated others with coldness.
I realize that in many quarters these thoughts could be construed as part of the sentimentality associated with Jesus. But to speak of the heart is not to sentimentalize but to ensoul. There is a toughness and intelligence about living from the heart, and if we interpret the widespread occurrence of heart disease in modern life as a problem of the emotional and relational heart, we can recognize our failure to live with sufficient and sincere compassion.
My heart problems have led me, among many other things, to reconnect with life in two ways. In preparation for a course I am to teach, I came across the powerful African ritual of calling on ancestors and trusting that they are the ones who heal and help sort out life. So I connected to my relatives and friends who have recently died and those who left this plane years ago and even those I never think about—the great-great-grandmothers and great-great-grandfathers and granduncles and grandaunts and far-branching cousins. I brought to mind my daughter’s potential children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, for whom I already feel love.
I also discovered a huge heart-shaped boulder in the thin woods that line our road, and I regularly place my heart against it and feel the granite as part of my existence. In his time of torment, Jesus had his olive trees, his brook of Kedron, and his hill of Gethsemane. I have my New Hampshire heart-rock and the ghost-white paper birches and the crisp, flowing, low-mountain streams. I heard another healer tell of how his powers seem to come from the lines of the land, and I adopted that insight by taking into my deepest imagination my own heart and the particular forms of nature that fill my outward environment and are mirrored in my inward soul.
I see the Jesus-nature in that mammoth rock in front of our house and understand just a bit more of what he meant when he said, “Lift a stone, and I am there.” I can’t lift that stone literally, but it lifts me when I touch it.
I find that in this time of personal threat it isn’t easy to follow the way of Jesus in the garden—entering fully into my fears and my own will and then capitulating to the design life has for me. Is there anything quite as difficult as attuning your desires to those of the life flowing freely through you? To say, “Whatever you want of me, I submit.”
My own wish to enjoy the full flow of my life, to be there with my wife and children as they mature, now meets a blockage in a main artery of the heart, where life has failed to flow and where death clearly has an entry. My own desires are clear, but I can only wait and watch for signs of the father’s intentions. How difficult it is to pray, “Not my desires, but yours, be fulfilled.”
We all have our olive gardens of despair. The key is to realize that life finds its ground in these moments. It is no time to fall into unconsciousness. Indeed, the garden of despair is a portion of bliss, not to be avoided or discounted.