Blessings of being Awake: There was a period of time several years ago when I began asking the people I was working with in coaching ‘how do you protect your heart at work?’ Of the many I worked with only two responded ‘why would I do that?’ The rest were willing to make me a picture.
Blessings of Spiritual Challenge: I have been known to spontaneously self disclose that my heart’s default is ‘closed’. This awareness arose when in my early forties during a therapy session I realized that I protected my heart with a wall of China and that this wall had one ladder to get out and a few gates that only swung out and each gate had bells to alert me when someone tried to get in. I even drew my heart in various poses of protection. I am making light about a very serious matter. I believe that when the heart is protected my productivity is decreased. I am using too much energy to keep me emotionally safe and to function at my highest level of good. The Chinese herbalist said I was controlling my passion.
As a rabbi I also know that the heart is assumed to have a cover over it. Why else would there be two times when the phrase 'circumcise the heart' is referred to in the Torah? We are also asked to walk before G!D with a pure heart, one that is uncovered.
The pictures that were drawn during coaching sessions ranged from boxes that you could not see into, to barbed wire and one builder gave me the name of the specific cement blocks he used. One person placed their heart on a hill far away from everyone they worked with. What was in the heart that needed protecting I asked and often people could not tell me. Others had elaborate stories.
The work of Heartmath confirmed my deepest concerns. The heart is connected to the brain and when the heart is full of emotion the brain is confused and cannot make clear decisions.
Blessings of Spiritual Practice: The first person I asked to make me a picture in a coaching session is my most memorable. He was a young man, born in Vietnam. He and his family were ‘boat people’, having survived their escape over water. His first love was architecture and took to the making of the picture with ease. First he drew a heart with a black pen. Then with a yellow felt tip pen he made long strokes, making what looked like rays of light from the heart, all the way around. He was a happy person and so grateful for his gifts and through the week of training had been a participant that the trainers and coordinators were pleased was in the group. At the end of our time he looked back at his picture and noticed that at the end of the yellow rays were silhouettes of people around his heart. 'This is how I protect my heart with all the people who have helped my family and me', he said. As we left the room he gave me his business card that he had hand written after his name 'human being.'
As I prepared to begin my training to become a rabbi I saw my self as circumcising my heart in order to enter into a covenental relationship with my G!D. Recently I read the writings of Alan Morinis in Everyday Holiness, The Spiritual Path to Mussar who said that ‘circumcision of the heart is a metaphor for spiritual initiation, having an open, sensitive inner life’. I am beginning to see that when I noticed that I protected my heart I was simultaneously beginning to remove the covering deepening my relationship with the Divine within me.
A good teacher is one who models what she teaches. I notice when I lie, withhold information and am shy. This noticing is to help me stay awake, conscious and not let old patterns keep me living the illusion that I am not safe, cannot take care of myself or that I am not connected to everything else. I also notice when I laugh out loud, let tears fall and move slowly into a difficult conversation. Paying attention and then accepting what is without judging is helping me feel a bit more emotionally safe in the world and to be a human being. I remember when my spiritual director once said being in relationship meant sometimes I would be hurt how angry I was. I had learned to live a life of protection so I did not get hurt. Protecting my heart may have made me safe and I also missed out of experiencing lots of emotions. So slowly I am removing the coverings of my heart and making mistakes and making no excuses only learning what it means to be a leader. Thank G!D for the vav; all of my life expereinces matter and make me who I am today, as my client who drew the heart with rays coming from it.