“The best work is done with either the heart broken or overflowing.” Mignon McGlaughlin
A favorite quote of mine. Sometimes the heart can be both broken and overflowing.
This past weekend was beautiful in California. All the winter rain has brought spring flowers, blossoming trees and the most life-affirming color of green everywhere! In the grasses, the leaves, the hillsides.
This past weekend was also my daughter’s 20th birthday. On April 20th. Which also happens to be the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shootings. I remember calling my father in Denver to tell him he had a granddaughter (his first grandchild) and he said “Thank God something good happened today.” He then told me the tragic news that had happened in Colorado. In the United States. Right on this phone call, our hearts breaking and overflowing.
15 years later, living in Boulder, the baby now a teenager. She was cutting her body. Depressed. Questioning life. 5 years ago today, I woke my daughter up at 5:30am and told her that we were getting on a plane. We flew to Durango and 2 wholesome looking strangers walked up to us and took my daughter away. (Staff from the Wilderness program her father and I had chosen.) I never exited the airport, just got on the next flight back to Denver.
Yesterday I got a text from a friend: “Call me when you can.” My first thoughts were ‘who died?’ and ‘who has cancer?’. The news: A friend’s son had taken his life. A howling black hole of wordlessness. Tears.
All I could do is cry and play this Mantra. Chattr Chakkr Vartee by Aykanna. It is a mantra used to remove fear, anxiety and phobias. It is a mantra to lift one out of despair. “Chattr Chakkr Vartee is the mantra for the heart center, it gives direct energy to it. When you are sinking, if you know this mantra and can sing it, you can totally recuperate yourself.” — Yogi Bhajan
Meditation class last night – I’m leading a group for some of the parents of the preschool I work at. Sweet, young parents of sweet, young children. It’s all about being in the now, practicing presence. I wondered how much to share at check-in. I decided to tell the group what I was sitting with – talking about heart ache. About child loss and parent grief. Appreciating the ‘ALL’ of life. Celebrating that both of my kids have bumped along in adolescence and for right now, just for today, they are both in such sweet places in their lives. Heart overflowing with love for both of them. It was a beautiful group, with tears, kindness and connection. Heart overflowing with love for these sweet, earnest parents, and their worries and their struggles.
I taught them a Buddhist meditation, that my dear friend Sue taught me many years ago. It’s my ‘go-to’ when there are no words. When I don’t know what to do, or say.
“Tonglen is one of the richest and bravest practices that we can do. This is one of the great meditation jewels that offers a way us to cultivate our natural mercy.” –Joan Halifax
The practice of Tonglen, or Giving and Receiving, is done to develop our compassion and our ability to be present for our own suffering and the suffering of others. Pema Chodron teaches that Tonglen is a practice of “sending and taking,” an ancient Buddhist practice to awaken compassion. With each in-breath, we take in others’ pain. With each exhale, we send them relief. I like to think of myself as a being of light, composting the darkness. Breathing in the sorrow, transforming it and exhaling out love.
Get still, close your eyes, feel free to place your hands on your heart. Inhale through the nose and breathe in any painful emotion that may be coming up for you (shame, anger, rage, fear, anxiety, frustration, judgement). Stay neutral to the emotions, just breathe them in and allow them to be. On the exhale through the nose, release these emotions and cultivate acceptance and compassion for yourself. Allow the emotions to release through you and surround yourself with an energy of unconditional love.
Note: My daughter gave me permission to write and post this.