Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Never Not Broken

The Goddess of never not broken.

"You know that feeling when everything is terrible and terrifying and you don’t know what to do, and you find yourself crying in a pile on your bedroom floor, barely able to remember how to use the phone, desperately looking for some sign of God in old letters, or your Facebook newsfeed or on old TV shows, finding nothing there to comfort you?
Come on, yes you do. We all do.
And there is a goddess from Hindu mythology that teaches us that, in this moment, in this pile on the floor, you are more powerful than you’ve ever been."


This came into my inbox today and I was floored by the perfection of timing. 

I was in that place again yesterday and today.  Lulu, my six year old Corgi, started coughing up blood Sunday night.  Always on a Sunday isn't it?  I took her to the all hours vet clinic where they kept her overnight trying to find the cause.  She bled even more, losing an alarming amount of blood, but they could not find out why.  The next morning I took her to Greensville, SC to a vet hospital so that they could do CT scans, scope her stomach and run a million different kinds of tests.  Still no source, they kept her last night and are keeping her again tonight.  No one has ever seen anything like it and I am back where I was this time last year....

Sitting in hospital rooms, expensive tests being run and re-run, knowing there was something wrong but not able to pinpoint or treat it.  Realizing I was going to lose David and having to make decisions about hard things without enough information and from a place of utter exhaustion. 

Broken and broken again.  And the Hindu's have a Goddess for this.  I love that about them.  Also very Catholic, having a saint for everything.  Someone to walk with you through your troubles.  Akhilandeshvari is the Goddess of Never Not Broken.  She rides on the back of a crocodile.  But the point is that living in the broken places allows the light through, allows us to recreate and rebuild who we are, what our story is, and in that brokenness we have the chance to shine with an incredible light and beauty.  But we can only do it broken.

This is not a new idea, every religion and spiritual path has this imagery. 

Christians have Jesus and the cross.  At least, that has always been my image of Jesus.  Broken, dreams lost, the bright and shining future gone, alone and dying.  But he is reborn into new life.  A new life not imagined before his brokenness and only possible through that brokenness. 

We are never not broken and all we can do is dance on the back of that crocodile, riding the waves, allowing the light to shine through and creating something new and beautiful.  The trick is to not become too attached to the beauty because life will break us open again, over and over.  And that is Akhilandeshvari's gift, teaching us to live Never Not Broken. 

It's all I've got.  Living broken open, trying to believe there is beauty in that, and a kind of wild joy if I can find it.


  1. How like you to bring beauty out of pain. I hope that Lulu recovers soon and entirely. Sending you much love.

  2. I came across this and thought of you... Especially the section following Wendell Berry's poem (you didn't think I'd let an opportunity go by to slip in a poem, did you?"))
    Due to the length limitations, this is divided into two comments.
    xo, Kathleen


    chapter from the book “A PATH WITH HEART”

    Jack Kornfield

    Just as we open and heal the body by sensing its rhythms and touching it with a deep and kind attention, so we can open and heal other dimensions of our being. The heart and the feelings go through a similar process of healing through the offering of our attention to their rhythms, nature, and needs. Most often, opening the heart begins by opening to a lifetime’s accumulation of unacknowledged sorrow, both our personal sorrows and the universal sorrows of warfare, hunger, old age, illness, and death. At times we may experience this sorrow physically, as contractions and barriers around our heart, but more often we feel the depth of our wounds, our abandonment, our pain, as unshed tears. The Buddhist describe this as an ocean of human tears larger than the four great oceans.

    As we take the one seat and develop a meditative attention, the heart presents itself naturally for healing. The grief we have carried for so long, from pains and dashed expectations and hopes, arises. We grieve for our past traumas and present fears, for all of the feelings we never dared experience consciously. Whatever shame or unworthiness we have within us arises – much of our early childhood and family pain, the mother and father wounds we hold, the isolation, any past abuse, physical or sexual, are all stored in the heart. Jack Engler, a Buddhist teacher and psychologist at Harvard University, has described meditation practice as primarily a practice of grieving and of letting go. At most of the spiritual retreats I have been a part of, nearly half of the students are working with some level of grief: denial, anger, loss, or sorrow. Out of this grief work comes a deep renewal.

    Many of us are taught that we shouldn’t be affected by grief and loss, but no one is exempt. One of the most experienced hospice directors in the country was surprised when he came to a retreat and grieved for his mother who had died the year before. “This grief,” he said, “is different from all the others I work with. It’s my mother.”

    Oscar Wilde wrote, “Hearts are meant to be broken.” As we heal through meditation, our hearts break open to feel fully. Powerfull feelings, deep unspoken parts of ourselves arise, and our task in meditation is first to let them move through us, then to recognize them and allow them to sing their songs. A poem by Wendell Berry illustrates this beautifully.
    I go among trees and sit still.
    All my stirring becomes quiet
    around me like circles on water.
    My tasks lie in their places
    Where I left them, asleep like cattle…
    Then what I am afraid of comes,
    I live for a while in its sight.
    What I fear in it leaves it,
    And the fear of it leaves me.
    It sings, and I hear its song.

    What we find as we listen to the songs of our rage or fear, loneliness or longing, is that they do not stay forever. Rage turns into sorrow; sorrow turns into tears; tears may fall for a long time, but then the sun comes out. A memory of old loss sings to us; our body shakes and relieves the moment of loss; then the armoring around that loss gradually softens; and in the midst of the song of tremendous grieving, the pain of that loss finally finds release.

  3. Jack Kornfield, continued....
    In truly listening to our most painful songs, we can learn the divine art of forgiveness. While there is a whole systematic practice of forgiveness that can be cultivated, both forgiveness and compassion arise spontaneously with the opening of the heart. Somehow, in feeling our own pain and sorrow, our own ocean of tears, we come to know that ours is shared pain and that the mystery and beauty and pain of life cannot be separated. This universal pain, too, is part of our connection with one another, and in the face of it we cannot withhold our love any longer.
    We can learn to forgive others, ourselves, and life for its physical pain. We can learn to open our heart to all of it, to the pain, to the pleasures we have feared. In this, we discover a remarkable truth: Much of spiritual life is self-acceptance, maybe all of it. Indeed, in accepting the songs of our life, we can begin to create for ourselves a much deeper and greater identity in which our heart holds all within a space of boundless compassion.
    Most often this healing work is so difficult we need another person as an ally, a guide to hold our hand and inspire our courage as we go through it. Then miracles happen.
    Naomi Remen, a physician who uses art, meditation, and other spiritual practices in the healing of cancer patients, told me a moving story that illustrates the process of healing the heart, which accompanies a healing of the body. She described a young man who was twenty-four years old when he came to her after one of his legs had been amputated at the hip in order to save his life from bone cancer. When she began her work with him, he had a great sense of injustice and a hatred for all “healthy” people. It seemed bitterly unfair to him that he had suffered this terrible loss so early in his life. His grief and rage were so great that it took several years of continous work for him to begin to come out of himself and to heal. He had to heal not simply the body, but also his broken heart and wounded spirit.
    He worked hard and deeply, telling his story, painting it, meditating, bringing his entire life into awaraness. As he slowly healed, he developed a profound compassion for others in similar situations. He began to visit people in the hospital who had also suffered severe physical losses. On one occasion, he told his physician, he visited a young singer who was so depressed about the loss of her breasts that she would not even look at him. The nurses has the radio playing, probably hoping to cheer her up. It was a hot day, and the young man had come in running shorts. Finally, desperate to get her attention, he unstrapped his artificial leg and began dancing around the room on his one leg, snapping his fingers to the music. She looked at him in amazement, and then she burst out laughing and said, “Man, if you can dance, I can sing”.
    When this young man first began working with drawing, he made a crayon sketch of his own body in the form of a vase with a deep black crack running through it. He redrew the crack over and over and over, grinding his teeth with rage. Several years later, to encourage him to complete his process, my friend showed him his early pictures again. He saw the vase and said, “Oh, this one isn’t finished.” When she suggested that he finish it then, he did. He ran his finger along the crack, saying, “You see here, this is where the light comes through.” With a yellow crayon, he drew light streaming through the crack into the body of the vase and said, “Our hearts can grow strong at the broken places.”
    This young man’s story profoundly illustrates the way in which sorrow or a wound can heal, allowing us to grow into our fullest, most compassionate identity, our greatness of heart. When we truly come to terms with sorrow, a great and unshakable joy is born in our heart."

  4. So sorry about poor Lulu. I love your image of the crocodile....and the wisdom about living broken. Sending out healing energy to both you and Lulu...