Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Thoughts of Snakes & Heart Breaks

I've thought before about the way a broken heart feels as though it just isn't working properly anymore, as though the shell around the form has broken open and everything is tender and at risk. Oddly enough I began thinking about this in terms of growth rather than destruction or disrepair. This morning I had the deepest feeling about snakes and the way they literally lose their skins in order to allow for growth. They do not mourn the old skin, truly a sense of non-attachment! Nor do they worry about the size or shape of the new -- no grasping!  This happens several times in their lifespan, as it does, seemingly in our own human life span whether we see it that way or not.

It is amazing to see a snake swallow its nutrition in the form of whole animals. I think of the long slow sustaining absorption process that takes place along the enormous length of its digestive track.  Could it be helpful to think of ourselves in this way, that these huge inputs require a long slow digestive fire to take in the full meanings and sustain our growth? It seems we far too often think we ought to know in an instant, or learn over night, or get the message that first time. I know from my own teenage journals that I really did experience much that led to insights only to go on and repeat the lesson until I was able to actually absorb the insight.  What if we give ourselves the benefits of time without judgment, using  the kernels of understanding as they break free from the mass?

And then there's that wild way that snakes move, always with strength and grace, yet more often than not, resting quietly absorbing the heat of the day, or breathing slowly in the coolness of shade. They spend much more time just being than being busy. Wouldn't this help us too?

I'm not saying that we are snakes, or that snakes are we (at least I don't think that's what I'm saying), but I do think we suffer far too much heartache without associating that ache with the growth it so often makes possible. No matter what kind of day I'm having, if someone near me allows me to see they are struggling, I feel the ache. Years after a loss, or a painful scene, the heart can revisit its old shapes and replay the cracking of what felt like the safety of the shell.  We do this in our sleep through dreams, we do this in a split second when the air smells a certain way, or the light hits the edge of a leaf. You know what I'm talking about. Our hearts are very open to being broken, to feeling soft and exposed. Perhaps this belies a suppleness we have overlooked.

We go to a movie and weep for the characters. We hear a voice singing of heartache and ours responds. (I think of Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah.") If we are not grasping at the past, are we yearning for the future?  Can we re-visit our snake ancestry and allow the cracking to open us to the self that is already there growing into who we already are?

I come back again and again to this kernel that broke clear:  I am not waiting for anything. I am already right here. If that is so, then nothing is broken and I have what I need to make of this moment all it can be. I can allow myself to let go of the cracking shards and truly break open.  Is this a frightening idea? It is so only if being more fully oneself is frightening. Isn't that where life expands? Filling in the new skin, growing into the new shape, and going on until the next cracks let the light in to see the soft, supple and unfettered heart?

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