There are many paths to enlightenment,
Be sure to choose one with heart
– Lao Tsu
Everyone seems to want to make deeper emotional connections with others but often fail in the process.
Part of feeling frustrated with the limitations of heart-felt responses is captured in the title of a recent article “Don’t Google me. Talk to me.” This reflects a world where people seem more comfortable looking at the screens of their mobile devices than having eye contact with others. In the face of this interpersonal disconnect, relationships are superficial, fact-oriented, transactional, and head-only.
This last week our beloved cat of 16 years had to be put to sleep. In the throes of grief we went to a local restaurant for dinner.
The server gave us the “How are you?” ritual greeting.
When we replied “Not too good!” she quickly added, “Fine, what would you like to order?”
Our very obvious feelings were quickly dismissed.
Contrast that encounter with a two-minute exchange I had on a plane with an ordained Buddhist nun whose writings I deeply value. I drummed up the nerve to approach her and ask, “Are you Pema Chodron?” When she replied affirmatively, I thanked her for her writings. She looked directly into my eyes, held both my hands in hers, asked me my name, and thanked me for my expression of gratitude. In those few moments I felt a profound sense of connection and acceptance.
There are lessons to be learned from cultures that are more comfortable with matters of the heart. We are deeply indebted to the Mexican people (where we lived for seven years) for teaching us the value of expressing our deepest emotions. For instance, when it comes to grieving, in our Western culture we are supposed to “get over it” and are given the message, “Don’t bother me with your feelings.” In Mexico, the Day of the Dead celebration, embraces the ongoing life and memory of the deceased and gives folks permission to experience the full range of their emotions.
The price we pay for cutting ourselves off from our hearts is that we,
- Seldom know the joys of a soul to soul relationship or the oneness of our shared humanity
- Miss the depths of joy and gratitude for what we had or have. As poet Kahlil Gibran said, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
- Stay stuck in our heads and seldom engage our hearts for fear that we will be rejected, feel uncomfortable, or lose control
- Mask our feelings with addictions like work, shopping, and substances (alcohol and food).
How have you moved from intellectual only to the depth of heart relationships?
For a reflection on the way to navigate our sorrow you may want to read the Sun Magazine’s interview with Francis Weller on “The Geography of Sorrow.”