Sadness and grief are feelings that we all know, but how can we handle these sometimes troubling emotions skilfully? The energetic movement of sorrow, flowing in our bodies or through our tears, is a universal human expression that we all understand. Right now, in this moment, people here and there throughout the world are feeling the movement of sorrow in their hearts. It is part of our inheritance as sensitive, loving creatures. But this sorrow is not just a burden – it has the potential to deepen our dignity, strength and kindness, if we handle it with tenderness and care.
I remember sitting by the sea late one evening, mourning the loss of a relationship very dear to me. In the flowing of my own tears, I recognised that my tears and my sorrow connected me with the tears that have been shed across countless generations. I imagined my ancestors sitting here on this beach, weeping. I saw the great, swelling mass of the sea as all those tears shed across the centuries and millennia. My sorrow connected me in compassion to the countless others across time and space who know as intimately as I do this tender movement of sorrow.
Many of us have had the experience when someone we are still getting to know opens up to us for the first time and feels able to really share with us a difficulty they are facing. Suddenly, they begin to cry and in seeing that tender side of them, we begin to understand their difficulties and feel their humanity much more vividly. We know that tears such as these are not something carelessly offered – the person needs to feel safe enough with us, needs to feel that we are really listening, to show their tears. Our hearts know an innate dignity – they only open up to show our deepest grief when we feel safe and held.
These moments of authentic grieving, whether alone or in the attentive care of another, can be doorways, allowing us to see more deeply into what is most precious to us, what truly moves us. In this way, the embracing of difficulty becomes a practice guiding us to live our lives in deeper alignment with the things we really care about. Perhaps we are moved by the plight of the refugees we read about in the newspaper; perhaps it breaks our heart to see the plastic lying on the beach, washed up every day and bringing death to the animals who swallow it. Whatever it is that most deeply moves us, our hearts hold the key.
Heart-based living is about exploring how we can support ourselves and others to open these transformative doorways that help us to express our most beautiful aspirations in daily life. As one of the Four Keys to the Heart taught at our heart-based living intensives and events, and in our learning materials, embracing difficulty is a crucial practice for our lives. It enables our hearts to grow and to flower in a world that has the potential to touch us, and sometimes to wound us, deeply.
Just like a tiny flower, we have to remember, too, that our hearts need more than just the water of sorrow. That’s where the other three Keys to the Heart come in. We also need the warmth and energy of the sun, our ability to touch authentic happiness and joy in the everyday – the smile of a friend, the beauty of a tree, or our own kind words to ourselves or others. We need a sense of belonging and connection, knowing that we are supported by a wider network of family, friends, and community, including the living community of the Earth herself. And finally, we need to know how to truly stop and to rest, trusting in the capacity of our bodies and minds to heal and to grow when we give them a chance to renew themselves.
Through learning these heart-based practices, we can support each other both in times of celebration and in times of difficulty. When sorrow is alive in our heart or in the heart of someone close to us, we can receive it as a reminder of our shared humanity and offer it the tenderness and dignity that it deserves. Looking out at the great sea before us, we recognise the capacity that these tears shed have to help our tender, loving heart to bloom.