The Yoga of Broken Heartedness

Today I feel heartbroken and alone. And this mood helps me recognize things about my humanity and connection to others – who paradoxically seem so remote.

There is no real reason: my heart has not recently been broken by circumstance, death or love. I have my three adorable dogs and my husband at work.

Outside this window,the trees’ last, scratchy leaves still cling to twig and bark, and the sky lays low, nearly groaning under snow. The mountain is obscured behind the slate of the sky.

It’s a fact that I’m feeling heartbroken and alone. A fact among other facts. Some people believe facts are cold and lifeless, others believe that that’s all there is in the world: facts, facts & more facts. I agree with the latter, but believe that the fact of consciousness transforms all the other facts.

We often attribute our feelings to nearby causes, especially feelings we’d like to escape or to squash. If we can find the cause, maybe we can wriggle out from under this burden. And then, we can spend the rest of our lives struggling with that story about what a feeling means. For me, brokenhearted aloneness (you probably have your own name for the feeling) connects up in intriguing symmetry to a childhood feeling I never could shake or communicate to the others around me who always seemed engaged and paired up with others who seemed granted by God to confer understanding. My folks had one another – though in the time honored tradition of love, having each other was occasionally crazy making – and my twin brothers had depth of communication acheivable, evidentally, only by zygomatic companionship, even if they sometimes had to endure twin jokes or looking so much like another human being it could disconcert the uninitiated.

But then it was more. It was a secret I kept, because I didn’t know words for it. A secret that seperated me from others, bound me to what and whom I didn’t want to be bound and left a gaping draft through my heart. But it would be years before I found words and courage to own my secret and my connection to my world.

Once I did, the emergence of this feeling I have today ceased to overwhelm and overcome me. But it never ceases to come, because it reveals something elemental about embodied consciousness. We’ve all had tragedies minor and major to which we attach this rent-chest drop-gut feeling. And it’s easy to get caught up in that net of explanation, as if it were really a lovely cashmere blanket knit just for our shoulders, just to contain our grief and pain. But stories aren’t the ulimate containers of our truths: We are. And while our stories are important to be able to tell, they’re more important to shed.

More important than the stories we use to make initial sense of these feelings is the way these feelings, while apparently so isolating, chilling and enveloping, actually connect us.

There is something heartbreaking, alone and primordial in being a conscious adult human. There’s a reality to our seperateness in space and time which both cannot be overcome and allows all that is useful, delicious and delightful, everything juicy and two-toned and worth our energy. And part of what is chilling about it is that it also facilitates everything diabolical, dark and dreadful. They are connected, because it is the same capacity and condition of humanity – temporality – which allows them both.

There’s a truth in this heartbreak that affirms our seperateness as well as our connection: the universality of what is required for self-consciousness.

So my feelings and my mood are facts among facts. This is both chillingly objective and a glorious recognition of ontological connection.  Which is where my yoga asana practice becomes so important. As I meet myself on my mat, it is so much easier to let go of the story line and allow the mood and the emotions to just be and to recognize that I am, my experience is, more than any mood or emotion, no matter how long it lasts. And it is fascinating to me that even after fully giving into a particular feeling, I can watch it transform as I choose backbends or forward bends, twists, challenging poses or restorative. What I do with my body matters in the most basic way – in my mood – for how the world appears to me to be.

Just realizing how cool that is steadies my hands and my heart, and allows me to lift my heart up to the low slung sky.

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2 thoughts on “The Yoga of Broken Heartedness

  1. I like this part a lot: And while our stories are important to be able to tell, they’re more important to shed.

    It’s such a challenging part of the process of growing to let go of something – even when it’s something painful.

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