can I proceed with caution …. and still maintain an open heart ?

imageHow do we deal with the challenges of being human— the fear and pain of loss and experiences of grief and hurt…..?  For some, the question becomes:  “How do I carry on?”   Most of us at some point in our lives retreat in one form or another, finding temporary solace in a self-protective sheath we have carefully woven to safe-guard our hearts from,  and everything else which has the potential to become vulnerable to, the unsafe world surrounding us.  Finding peace, wholeness, and health seems to lie in direct correlation to finding balance between proceeding with awareness, sometimes even with caution, having learned from our past, and maintaing an open heart, willing to experience each moment as new.   This balancing act reads as a boundary issue.  How do I practice self care (establish and maintain a clear set of boundaries) and still be receptive to life and to relationships with others, willing and able to give and receive.


There is a great line in the movie Greenberg (2010), directed by Noah Baumbach and starring Ben Stiller and Greta Gerwig which often comes to my mind as I consider how one’s past history (and past hurts) has  a resounding effect on one’s relationships– family, significant other,  friends, community and ultimately, in some ways … on the world.. ….

Hurt people, hurt people“……..  powerful, sad, and, accurate words.


How do we learn to take our past pain and let it be just that— the past.   How do we resist repeating a cycle of violence, interrupt patterns of dysfunction, or just let go of  the heaviness in our hearts?


I think it begins with a true  acknowledgement of  the past and the depth of  feelings associated with difficult experiences…. not necessarily an easy task but one that requires courage and an intention to be fully awake to and for one’s life.   We must also be willing to engage in an active process of letting go.  We hear this all the time– “letting go of this” and “needing to let go” of that—-Definitely, easier said than done– But, if I am able to forgive; if I could move forward, with the recognition that the past is not  the future….  that it is in my power to change my behaviors, my reactions, and my own story and live the life I were meant to live….  wow…. can you imagine the possibilities…. can you imagine that sense of freedom?

It doesn’t mean we don’t experience pain; rather, it is that we do experience it in all its variations as it is happening, allowing that experience to be real and full, not rejecting or editing our thoughts or feelings– allowing the sensation of the feeling, which sometimes may mean just sitting with it,  without having to change it or make it better.  Eventually,  responding if and when appropriate- NOT REACTING—and then moving onto the next moment– hopefully, with more information, better judgement, more clarity,  ready to experience what is next on the horizon.   The challenge, of course, is how to do so with an openness, a child-like curiosity — a willingness to not limit our experiences only to those that feel safe or familiar.  I think the key here lies in a full integration and acceptance of our emotions and our selves….. not just the “good” stuff or the acceptable side— but, truly, all of it!   By  not dialing down our pain or sadness, not opting out of our discomfort, we have an opportunity to be fully aware–  in our bodies, in our minds, more available  and receptive to experience the world in the present moment– and thereby to the joy and beauty which is so often on the other side of our pain.