My ability to present in the world with an open heart
depends on my ability to be present to myself with an open heart.

Dani Shapiro shared this quote by Sylvia Boorstein in her memoir, Devotion. At our recent workshop, Dani told the story of when she met Sylvia at Kripalu, and how, quite unexpectedly she became an important influence in her own spiritual journey.

In the year since I first read Devotion, my beloved copy has been dog-eared and phrases underlined with the wispy grey of my pencil. Her words were an important catalyst in my own journey.  This quote, in particular, is marked with several !!!, a salient reminder of how it resonated with me.  As I fingered the pages today, thinking random thoughts about how far I’ve come and how far I believe I still have to go, I came across it again.

To be present to myself with an open heart.

This has been the hardest part of my journey.  I’ve learned to recognize and respect my limitations. In doing that, I’ve managed to calm many of my stormy waters, but not to master them. And while this has led to self-acceptance and understanding, I still struggle to love myself.

When I wrote about Dani’s words, I described how Devotion whispered to me with newfound knowledge and inspiration. I discussed how hard it is to accept ourselves, with all our flaws and weaknesses. Not only to accept but to love and cherish. This is truly the ultimate challenge.

She, and many others, unlocked deep and primal longings that had been resting dormant arguably all my life. In the last year or more, the bits and pieces have begun to unfold, to stretch and yawn as if waking from a long slumber. As they have I’ve been rocked to my core by their beauty and turmoil.  In their urgency to be recognized, they’ve become tangled together vying for my full and complete attention.

But my attentions are divided. Divided between real life, and change. And I’m balancing tenuously in between, trying to bridge the gap and fill my life with the meaning and contentment that blends them both.

What I now know, that I never did before, is that there is no rush. As my heart’s cadence has slowed to  a manageable rhythm, I’ve learned that there are pockets of joy in the journey, and while each step forward sometimes feels more like two steps back, this work matters and makes a difference. Piece by piece, I’m slowly untangling the confusion.

As I do, I find myself hoping more than ever that the turmoil will settle completely into beauty, and then maybe I will have learned  to be present to myself with an open heart.


15 thoughts on “Tangled

  1. Lindsey says:

    So, so lovely. I find my heart is hardest to myself, most impatient and easily frustrated towards me, the least open. So that is my work. xox

  2. Stacia says:

    This is such a hard and important lesson. To learn, to accept, to live. Just as you said, it’s trying to always move forward, even when you’re going backward.

  3. Christa says:

    Yes, yes, yes. For me, this is a daily, hourly, moment by moment practice. And I suspect it always will be.

    This openhearted lifestyle is not low maintenance!

    Beautifully put – thank you!

  4. denise says:

    Such beautiful words, Christine. And ones that I identify with so deeply. …”my heart’s rhythm has slowed to a manageable cadence” is such a spectacularly gorgeous line of prose. xoxo

  5. harriet says:

    Yes it’s tough for me to accept that the way I feel is just that and not some enormous obstacle to be overcome. For years, I’ve been trying to overcome my deficits rather than accept or present myself openly and honestly. Lovely post.

  6. Chantal says:

    This is a big deal, coming from you and what I know of you. You always were running full speed trying to do it all. I am glad to hear you have managed to slow things down. And now that you know you can, when things get out of control, hopefully they will be easier to wrestle back to a more reasonable rhythm. Hugs Christine 🙂

  7. Pamela says:

    Wow. I really needed this today. Your post was so beautifully written. This line totally got me –

    But my attentions are divided. Divided between real life, and change. And I’m balancing tenuously in between

    That is SO how it is. I get so motivated to change and then I look down and I am still in the same size jeans cleaning the same toilet and I’m like, “whaaaaatttt?” Real life and change – you nailed it! Awesome!

    • Christine says:

      I always love knowing which bits and pieces of a post resonate with others. I suppose many would say that focusing on real life is really what matters. A part of me agrees, but so often my heart longs for other things.

  8. Amber says:

    I believe the phrase–“progress often feels like two steps backwards” fits in perfectly with this theme. As much as I would like to change instantly, I recognize how much I regress, progress, and regress again. In the end, if the ultimate motion is forward than that’s all that really matters.

  9. I like how you manage to slow down and absorb these truths. I sometimes fail at that. An open heart can mean so many things, and I’d add ‘an open mind’ because sometimes, one or the other seems to be lacking with me.

    • Christine says:

      The only reason I can do it is by writing about it. This place holds me accountable, and forces me to really conceptualize the thoughts and worries that fill my head. An open is critical, and I’m certain an area that I would do well to continue to work on too.

  10. I always feel so comforted knowing that you and I are on this journey together. And this post confirmed for me that we’re experiencing it in many of the same ways. I still haven’t gotten to the point, though, where I feel like there’s no rush. I want to be at the destination already! And so I am very glad of this reminder today. Maybe it’s time for me to reread Devotion and/or spend a weekend at Kripalu with Dani. xo

    • Christine says:

      It’s a tremendous comfort to me too. And trust me when I say that the battle is ongoing, some days are easier than others. Today for example, is not an easy day. Old habits die hard, and impatience has been part of my make-up for far too long to abandon it completely.

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