TrueHeartWork | heart
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heart Tag

Heart Shaped World

rosetruffles3Dark chocolates wrapped in cerise or shiny scarlet foil. The promise of red satin, the feminine fluff of pink lace, gift-wrapped in tissue paper and arranged in a heart-shaped box. This week commerce pays homage to the Heart.

A muscular pump that can be replaced or fixed with a set of stents? Or the source of Love that transcends our humanity? In many spiritual traditions the heart is believed to be the repository of the soul. From the lifeless bodies of lovers and poets, from the ravaged remains of chieftains and warriors, from the noble ribcages of  kings and martyrs,  hearts were removed, carried home and buried. Cardiologist Professor Dr. Armin Dietz writes, “If it proved impossible to either transport the body home or conserve it, the heart at least was brought home, being the seat of the soul and therefore most important part of the body.”

Some say it was the deep green curve of an ivy leaf, or the generous spread of a fig leaf that inspired potters of prehistory to carve hearts into clay. Some say it was the immaculate feathered  necks of two courting swans or bright coloured flowers that fluttered like fallen hearts in a fresh spring breeze that were immortalised around the rims of bowls and slender jugs discovered in splintered shards in ancient Greek and Roman middens. In dank catacombs, in the silent vestibules of monasteries and convents, heart motifs represented a love that was paradoxically both hotly erotic and transcendent of mortal concerns. The original iconic heart might have its origins in the little seed of the silphium plant. It was highly valued all over the Mediterranean and ancient Egypt and traded from the North African city, Cyrene. It mainly used medicinally and as a contraceptive. Two simple curves that join to represent a symphony of human emotion, heart-shaped pictograms were carved into coins of pure silver. Then, just like now, hearts were bought. And sold.

Ivy leaves became the red hearts on playing cards. Red suggesting life force, the heat of passion, the white hot flame of a spiritual, eternal love.  As physical love evolved into stylised courtly love, qualities of loyalty and faithfulness were celebrated in art and literature. Across the world as  the broad green leaves of the Bodhi tree fell sofly onto decks of playing-cards they grew into stylised hearts too, and for the Buddhists, it was enlightenment, not earthly love that was highly prized. For the self-deprecating Jesuits, The Sacred Heart represented the  painful longing for eternal life and redemption, stoked by the fires of Catholic fanatics who longed to purge and burn away anything that threatened the stone pillars of patriarchal power.

Eternal love, passion, or simply sex, the heart is a symbol that transcends culture, class and centuries of human muddle as we seek this thing called Love. So on this Hallmark day of commercial brouhaha and the echo of the death cries of the mythical  martyred Valentine, let us pause a while amidst the plethora of heart-shaped second chances to speak our truth, buy those red roses,  to dare to say I love you. Let us celebrate the confounding mystery of the human heart and spin like whirling dervishes, gone giddy with  delicious excess, the pink and red flourish of kitsch, cheesy, craziness of it all. Happy Valentine’s Day!old-2-red-love-hearts-flowers-arrow-valentine

Chris Isaak reminds us that this is a Heart Shaped World

 

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When All is Said And Done

Loss can be a seismic shock that cleaves us open to release a torrent of pain or anger. There’s an art to grieving, I believe. An art to embracing the conflicted feelings: shock,  denial, bargaining, anger, and the bleak finality of acceptance. To grieve well requires patience and enormous courage, in a culture which has few rituals to swaddle the weeping heart, to embalm the wound till we grow scar tissue to venture into our lives once again. We are not taught how to grieve. We are taught how to name, categorise, label, mostly,  not how to deeply feel in our fast-food culture of “closure” and “moving on” as if  Love and Loss were malls, or drive-thrus.   Many of us don’t do “closure” easily. We find it excruciatingly difficult to cauterise, tie a torque around seeping lamentation.  We lack the will to dam up the tears that flood the excruciating emptiness. We stand naked in the winter of our discontent.  We sit, immobilised,  in the ashes of our grief.  The salt of our  tears lubricates the keening of our aching heart.

A young woman client arrived today, bowed with grief. She raged with Tiger-fierce anger, then imploded, numb with disbelief, as she told her story of betrayal and humiliation after a unilateral break-up. Her lover’s masochistic behaviour made her realise that she was still loyally clinging to old stories she had told herself about love. Still playing the powerless Victim, still meekly turning the other cheek, afraid to ask, afraid to want.  For some of us, part of the soothing balm of healing is the realisation that we can be angry when our former lover slithers up to us at a party, arms outstretched in a pseudo hale-and-hearty-greeting, hapless trophy-girlfriend firmly in tow.  It is permissible to recognise that the plume of white hot indignation that rises means we are still triggered, and that our pain does not have a short sell-by date. We do not need to be the compliant “good girl / boy”, and force a friendship with someone who has behaved despicably, or go through the motions of “learning lessons” when our inner brat wants to scream obscenities from the abyss of our pain.  We might need to knead and roll out the resistance patiently and creatively. Self-soothe, rather than push down further the bloodied blade of “whys” and “what ifs”.

New Age psychobabble has a lot to answer for sometimes, I feel. And, as for the much extolled virtue of “turning the other cheek,” or the misguided belief that our feelings are infallible truths, or we must think only “good and positive thoughts” lest we do ourselves harm, energetically, I have found that we often muddy the healing waters and prolong our wretched agony. Seeing things from your partner’s perspective can be useful – up to a point. But all we can really change is our own perspective – with a no-nonsense, “is this true?” as we question the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the one who did not, could not, want to love us. Even this takes some doing, and can be just another form of self abuse if we have not allowed the anger to rush up and release.

Anthropologists guess that humans first developed language and a bulging cerebral cortex about 1.6 million years ago, taking us down a very different evolutionary path to our close cousins, the chimpanzees. We developed, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, a sense of self, and importantly, a reflected sense of self, which shapes our choice of partner, as it is reliant on feedback from others. So, being humiliated, abandoned, or betrayed by the one we love has a devastating effect on our neurochemistry.  Emotions like anger and deep grief can hijack our positive self-talk and blaze through the libraries of books we have read on self-growth and spirituality, leaving us charred and utterly bereft if we do not have a solid sense of Self; and very few of us do. “Forgiving before you are ready is an act of violence against yourself.  And, you may never be ready” says Nicole Urdang.  Yet, once we are aware that all our long-term relationships and brief encounters are mirrors of our inner beliefs about ourselves, mere shadowy reflections of our shaky sense of Self, we can “love our neighbour – and ourselves.  No more pathological childhood trauma – wallowing in how your parents disappointed or abandoned you. The gift of grief and anger is another step in growing up. And if you honour the process, take your time to self-reflect, not self-flagellate, your tears will turn to pearls.

Astrologically, the transits to your own birth chart may suggest that this drama of grief and pain is happening through you, not to you. You have constellated the actors on the stage of your life, and you can access the power to change old patterns, even short-circuit family fate that has been mired in your ancestry for eons. If you can see your own collusion – not trusting your own instincts, perhaps “settling for” a lover who does not desire you enough to move from gridlock, who does not value you enough to commit to working through the power struggle.  To observe your own stonewalling, withholding, fear, criticism that has polluted the space between you, to have compassion for yourself as you revert to old default buttons, replay threadbare scripts. Only then can you begin to allow the cool tears and the hot anger to cleanse your heart, and make ready to Love again. Astrological Mars, representing anger, libido, fear, the Masculine Principle and our ability to fight off disease stationed early on Monday morning, then moves into retrograde motion on January 25th, reversing through Virgo for the next three months. This suggests that globally and personally, this is a time of turning points, of critical tipping points. A time that it might be helpful to examine how we betray ourselves, deny our intuition, stuff our anger and indignation down, tyrannize ourselves through negative self talk. A time to accept that the soul contract you had with your Lover-Betrayer was one of forgiveness and compassion.

Last word goes to Abba in that tremulously poignant song, When All is Said and Done:

“Thanks for all your generous love and thanks for all the fun
Neither you nor I’m to blame when all is said and done…”

Abba – When All is Said And Done 

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All Along the Watchtower

 

Ten years ago, I made a conscious decision to step aside from the torrent of fear that gushes from the media.  I have not watched TV news, read a newspaper. I’ve shunned magazines, except a desultory glance at those stacked along the shelf at the hair dresser.

I’ve allowed those friends who choose to live in a miasma fear to slip out of my life. I’ve smiled as people have called me an ostrich, unpatriotic, because I do not watch Carte Blanche, or gorge on the maggot-ridden garbage tossed out by crooked politicians. I question conspiracy theories. I choose to eschew urban myths. I am aware that there is a very noxious, very dark Shadow on this earth. I am aware of gluttonous greed, a surfeit of suffering. I choose the messages I feed my mind, because I like my serotonin high. I know what the stress chemical, cortisol does to my body.

Today, I came across an eloquently written blog which made me feel like the ugly duckling who finds her swans. It is worth a read.

We are living in challenging times. Novelist Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities in 1859, during a time of huge social and political upheaval and violent revolution.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, and in 1846, it was time for the planet Neptune to be “discovered”. Now as then: “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

 The celestial markers of our human journey, Neptune and Chiron have been in tight conjunction in the sign of Aquarius all through 2009. Together, they dipped briefly into the compassionate, ouroboric waters of Pisces for the first time, in April 2011. Neptune fully enters Pisces in February 2012  and remains there until 2025. Neptune is about sacrifice, victim consciousness, addiction, pain, renunciation, delusion, romance, spirituality, a longing to transcend this earthly realm. Neptune can embalm us in a glutinous cocoon of immobility. Or lift us up spiritually and creatively. Neptune also symbolises the energy of Christ Consciousness and compassion.  Chiron was “discovered” in 1977. Like Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, it was silently, invisibly there all the time. Chiron embraces the archetype of the “wounded healer” or Shaman, and compels each one of us to imbibe the sacred medicine of suffering as an initiation into our wisdom and conscious understanding on  our spiritual journey.

Times are tough on so many levels for so many. As above so below, the macrocosm is reflected in the microcosm of our lives when we open the Pandora’s Box of relationships and intimacy. We fear we are not loveable enough, not good enough, beautiful enough, young enough … the shoulds, musts, and the buts, which entomb us in a mausoleum of self-imposed limitations fly out, shrieking. We keep ourselves small, in the darkness.  Though inner saboteur and the inner critic have their place in our psyche, their voices need now to be silenced as we follow our hearts, trust our intuition and cast off the self-imposed shackles that bind. Fear hides behind perfectionism. Fear lurks behind cruelty.  We fear death, change, poverty, love and loss. We fear happiness. We fear the pleasure of sensuality and the soul connection of sex. We fear telling the truth, or making those smallest behaviour changes that will save our relationships from tumbling over the dark abyss. We fear reaching across the expanse of the bed in the dark of the night to hold our lover’s hand after a fierce argument. We fear saying, “I’m  sorry” or “I forgive you.”

So we continue to continue… leaking leak vital energy; remaining trapped in what Eckhart Tolle calls the “pain body”. We use the instrument of our minds to scare ourselves with repetitive and useless terrors that corrode our joy and leach our life force. Says Marianne Williamson, in A Return to Love, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

I’m going on a fear fast while Mercury is in retrograde until December 14th. Would you be willing to join me? To commit to being aware when you shame or criticise yourself. To watch for the “Victim/Persecutor” dance in your relationships.  To avoid watching or reading “the news”. To lovingly examine the hidden agendas in the melodramas in your own life and in the lives of those around you. To choose to set aside time each day to focus on those things that nourish your spirit.  To stop scaring yourself. 

Open your heart; embrace the changes and challenges in your life with a sense of curiosity and wonder. Know that you are held and supported at all times on this rollercoaster of life. Remember, that after all the evils of the world had flown out of Pandora’s Box, it was Hope that remained.

Hope and All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” St. Teresa of Avila.

All Along the Watchtower, written by Bob Dylan: YouTube

“There must be some kind of way out of here,
Said the joker to the thief,
There’s too much confusion,
I can’t get no relief.”

 

 

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Say Yes to Love!

It may take a lifetime to learn to Love fearlessly.

Or, you can choose to do it right now, like Alex Lewis.

My romantic Gemini husband, Barry, recounted this deeply moving story to me which he came across on the bbc website. With the Sun’s ingress into the sign of Leo, the focus this month is on matters of the truly passionate, courageous, heart.

This is a tribute to the life of Alex Lewis:
Like so many young men, Alex Lewis played tennis and loved football. He had been feeling a lot of pain in his arm for several months, and guessed it was a probably a pulled muscle. At 17 he was diagnosed with bone cancer, which had already enveloped his lungs.

Despite conventional allopathic intervention – chemotherapy, radiotherapy, an arm painfully replaced with a metal prosthesis, the tumours grew. Alex accepted his inevitable death, and made a decision: the cancer would not define his life.
“It makes you realise just how precious life is. Life is actually amazing, but to make the most of every minute, you do have to look at everything in a positive way,” Alex said.

So, Alex went parachute jumping in New Zealand, riding the dunes in a buggy in Dubai, cliff diving in Cornwell, and died at 22, shortly after marrying Ali, the love of his life.

The well worn old cliché – Life is short has lost its currency. We still postpone adventures, resist even the smallest pleasures. Still we proclaim, “when I have enough money,” or “love will find me when the time is right,” or “when I retire, or the kids have moved out…”
We never really grasp the reality of what Love and Living our lives fully truly mean until we are met by some catastrophic event that shakes us to the core.

Astrologically, the sun, source of our vitality and health, ruler of our heart, moved across the elliptic of the sky into the sign of Leo on July 23rd.
A new cycle of life begins, as one year ends and a new year is celebrated for those who have birthdays between late July and early August. Happy Solar Return to all Leos! And for the rest of us, let’s celebrate Life and Love today!

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
— Mary Oliver

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