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LET GO AND LIVE IN THE NOW
Awaken the Peace, Power, and Happiness in Your Heart
By Guy Finley
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2004 Guy Finley
All rights reserved.
To Heal the Hidden Heart of You
There are so many wonderful mysteries not only in this world through which we journey but also right within each of us! For instance, did you know that the distance from your heart to your toes is, proportionally, approximately the same distance as our sun to the most distant planet in the solar system? And did you know that all creatures—from the common garden gnat to the great whales that swim the seas—all have roughly the same number of heartbeats in a lifetime? What a mystery is this heart whose character we share; how unfathomable, how attractive, how powerful, how potentially perfect is its undiscovered promise.
But down through the ages the Wise have spoken of a still deeper mystery. Great prophets and sages alike have long taught that this heart hidden in the center of us—our own physical heart—is but a three-dimensional reflection of an invisible Celestial Heart whose outpouring life secretly animates our own. Imagine something like a water drop shot out from the spray of a huge coastal breaker—complete in itself with all the qualities and capabilities of water, and yet only a microcosmic version of the timeless ocean from which it springs and to which it returns—and you'll have some idea of this wondrous vision.
If this description of the heart strikes you as being majestic, tireless, and timelessly magical, that's because it is just that! And in some ways each of us knows this heritage to be true. Each time we intuit our native home to be among the unmeasured stars, or sense within us a vitality and capacity to give from resources without end, we have felt the beating of this Real Heart that dwells within our Hidden Self. And strangely enough, as we will see in the pages that follow, it is this vast potential that we feel beating in us that often makes our present state of Self seem so unsatisfactory, a captive of our own unrealized possibilities.
EIGHT INDICATIONS OF A BROKEN HEART
Katie was a bright young woman who knew something wasn't quite right with her life. She also knew that she didn't have a clue what her sense of discontentment was about. After all, the Fates had been relatively kind to her, or so her friends had always said. That's what made her state so confounding. In the truest sense of the words she had "been there and done that," but in the end she remained as she began—unable to resolve a nagging sense of disappointment with herself and with life.
And so, not knowing what else to do, even beginning to wonder if perhaps her problem might have some physical cause, she decided to call upon the family doctor, an elderly man who not only took care of her as a child, but who had also watched over her parents while they were alive. Katie trusted him and his judgment; she knew that he would be able to help her. With one quick call, she scheduled her appointment for the following day.
Walking into the doctor's small office that sat tucked in the back corner of his modest home, Katie was flooded with memories of what felt like better days gone by. Not much had changed; there was still an old candy jar sitting on the faded cabinet, where equally faded-looking instruments rested in small metal trays. A moment later, she began to wonder if this visit was a mistake but it was too late to change her mind; the doctor walked in and his warm smile washed away all her concerns. "Hello, Katie," he said. "I haven't seen you in such a long time. What brings you here today?"
Suddenly she felt silly, and he must have sensed this because he interrupted her: "Come on," he teased, "Let's have it. Nothing can be that bad!" His simple manner overcame her self-consciousness and almost in a gush she told him about the sense of dead weight she couldn't shake; how part of her distress was that no matter what she thought of to make herself feel better, it felt pointless to her even before she began. She continued: "The truth is, I just don't know what's going on with me. By all accounts I should be happy." Between breaths she paused to look up at him.
His gentle smile in the face of her confession put her a bit more at ease so, in spite of being humiliated by her own words, she finished her thought, "Am I a hopeless case, or what?"
The good doctor studied her eyes for a few moments, took her hand in his, and spoke in light but serious tones. "Let me ask you a few simple questions and, depending upon your answers, I should be able to make an accurate diagnosis." And then in a slightly more serious tone he added, "But Katie, you must be totally honest with me. Will you?"
His question seemed to break some unseen dam in her and she felt a flood of apprehension. "What in the world is this about?" she thought to herself even as she managed to say, "Well, yes ... of course I will."
"Good! Then let's get started shall we?" But he didn't wait for her reply and his first question took her completely by surprise. "Katie, do you have any regrets over things that happened to you in your past?"
Her hesitation wasn't from doubt over whether or not she had past regrets; of course she did. "And who doesn't!" her mind mocked the question. But through this mental clatter she was more curious than anything; after all, what on earth does such a question have to do with her degraded sense of well-being? A second later she nodded her head, indicating she did indeed have misgivings. "All right then," he continued, "That wasn't so bad was it? Let's keep going."
"Do you daydream a lot about better days to come?"
Surprised by the pressure behind her own words, she semi-snapped at what she felt was an invasion of her privacy. "What's wrong with that?" But he seemed to ignore this and went on to make a note in a small journal. "So then," he effortlessly brushed away the uncomfortable moment, "I guess that means you do. Good; let's keep going.
"Is it hard for you to be happy with yourself when you must be alone for a period of time that is not of your choosing?"
She looked down and momentarily lost herself in the weave of aged carpeting at her feet. Head still lowered, she agreed to the truth of this. He went ahead. "And what about anger or resentment? Are there people in your life—either living or passed on—who bring up unpleasant feelings in you when you think of them?"
Katie looked back up and noticed she felt as though she had to defend herself. "Well, wouldn't that be natural?" But he just made another note for himself and continued on, this time asking two questions at once: "Do you have any fear of being hurt by others; and would you say that you tend to be cynical and judgmental when it comes to considering the lofty aspirations of others—especially when they speak of looking for a love that won't betray their trust?"
Katie was becoming uneasy. The truth is she felt a twinge of pain just to hear these questions because she knew such things were true of her. The best she could do was to offer his inquiring eyes a kind of small grimace with her mouth, as if to say, "True enough."
The doctor must have felt her suffering because he told her, "Just a few more questions and we will be done. Are you someone who isn't happy unless you're busy all the time?"
Katie couldn't resist answering this question with one of her own, "Are you going to ask me any question about myself to which I can say, 'No, that's not true of me?'" The laugh they shared brought some welcome relief. Then he asked his last question:
"Do you ever catch yourself pushing away a certain indefinable sense of disappointment that you feel about people around you, especially those with whom you are the closest?"
She quietly lowered her head again as if to admit that this question, along with all the others that he had asked her, had to be answered in the affirmative. And while she didn't understand what these confessions had to do with her inability to find happiness, she did sense something was unfolding there in that little office. And so when she spoke again there was a bit of hope in her voice even though she masked it with a bit of sarcasm, "So, Doc, what's the prognosis? Is the patient hopeless, or what?"
Nothing in Katie's thirty-five years of existence prepared her for what she was to hear next. His answer struck home with the effect of a large mallet upon a metal gong, leaving her stunned, unable to formulate even a single thought.
The doctor took a small deep breath and spoke in a kind, but serious voice. "Katie," he said, "You have a broken heart."
A sudden sense of fear pushed itself out from the center of her, heading in two directions at once; but before it could spread the doctor stopped it cold, "No, Katie, physically there is nothing wrong with you." And just to relieve her obvious concern he chuckled quietly as he finished his thought, "So don't be afraid of some impending doom."
Taking him at his word, she began to search his eyes for some indication of what he meant by "a broken heart." And even though one part of her was now thinking that he must be joking, her intuition was on high alert. It was telling her that she had just been told some vital truth about herself. And even though she didn't understand this strange diagnosis, her life experience supported his finding. Unsure of how she really felt about what he had just told her, Katie looked to him for some kind of sign. Unexpectedly, the next thing she heard was the sound of her own voice asking, "What on earth do you mean ... 'I have a broken heart'?"
"I'm sure you must be as surprised to hear this strange diagnosis as I was when, many years ago, I was told the same thing. But truth be known, Katie," he paused to ensure that he hadn't lost her attention, as he was about to tell her something equally staggering, "everyone on this planet, save a very few, has the same broken heart." Again he smiled to comfort her.
"But what do you mean by 'a broken heart,'" she implored him to expand on the idea. "How is it broken? What's wrong with it? Do you mean 'broken' like it needs healing or 'broken' as in doesn't work right, or what?" His answer caught her off guard.
"Is there any difference between the two?" Then he went on to say, "But if you're asking me if our suffering has its origin in something physical, then the answer is no. Our hearts are broken—meaning they don't work right—because they have been compromised." Katie was even more confused by his supposed clarification but she was intent upon getting to the bottom of his growing mystery.
"How is my heart compromised?" she asked. "What does that mean? Can't you be more specific?"
Again his answer caught her by surprise: "Well, to begin with, "Our heart is not created to be a self-filling instrument." She looked at him as if to say, "And what on earth is that supposed to mean?" He pulled up a chair and began to speak as he sat down next to her.
"Katie, think for a moment because in some ways you already understand what this means." Then he continued: "Don't we all have parts of us that are always telling us what we need to do—or what we have to get—in order to feel good about ourselves?"
She thought for a moment and nodded in agreement, so he went on, "Now comes the strange part. The day we win what we want, when we get the new relationship, the better job, or plan the trip of our dreams, we feel great, happy as a clam. But the next day or a little farther down the road something unforeseen comes and well, you know the drill, the next thing we know what we thought was the source of our contentment becomes the cause of our suffering!"
Again she nodded, thinking about the lost promise of a recent relationship that ended painfully when the man she thought was a prince turned into a toxic toad right in the midst of a silly disagreement. And yet, even as she was responding with her silent consent, she was struck by a contrary thought, and it was this that she gave voice to, "But what's wrong with wanting a nice relationship, or working to get nice things to call our own?"
"Not a thing, Katie, not a thing; all in all, these simple desires are not a problem in themselves. Our heart breaks as it does not so much because of what we want but because there are certain unconscious parts of our present nature that would have us believe that these things we want—or that we come to possess—have, in themselves, some power to fulfill us or to make us feel content." Then, to strengthen the point, he quieted his voice, "It is this unquestioned belief that lies at the root of our heartache because we find ourselves continually forming attachments to people and possessions."
"Even though I can see this is true, I still don't see the connection. What do attachments have to do with one walking around with a broken heart?"
"Everything Katie, only it's so obvious that no one sees it. Don't you see, we can't keep anything in this life. Our own lives don't even belong to us. It isn't a question of if things will change but a constant when. No part of life is static. All things are in a constant flux and only seem to hold still because there are parts of us that need to see them that way in order to feel secure. And so it goes. One's heart almost always feels as though one thing or another is trying to pull it apart. It finds itself living between two opposing forces. On one side there is that too-familiar sense of our self that feels as though we must hold onto what we have that makes us feel whole or otherwise face some terrible ordeal. And pulling away on the other side is the movement of reality itself: that undeniable river of life that comes along and washes away our happiness as it runs through its own inevitable changes beyond our ability to control."
Katie could feel a flood of new impressions pass through her as she allowed the doctor's comments to sink in. So much of what he said made sense to her in ways she felt she knew already, but what to do with these things she was hearing was beyond her at the moment, so she just sat there. Then one thought surfaced in her mind that seemed to tell her where everything she had just learned was heading: "So then," she paused to be certain that she had the right question, "If I understand what you have said then how do I begin to cure myself of this condition that, up until now, I had no idea was the cause of my unhappiness? I mean, what do I have to do to heal my own broken heart?"
The doctor smiled at Katie with genuine warmth. She had heard what he said; now he knew that it was only a matter of her making a few more discoveries and she would be well on her way to healing her own heart. But there was more she needed to know and even though he knew it would get a sharp reaction from her, he answered her question with what she took to be sarcasm. It wasn't.
He looked directly into her eyes and said, "We heal our heart by no longer injuring it."
Then, waiting for her anticipated negative reaction to pass, which it did, he smiled again and added, "The truth is that once we stop hurting ourselves, we realize we don't need ninety-nine percent of the things that we think we do to make us feel better about our life." Again she knew, intuitively, the truth of his words. And in spite of a frustration that was getting the better of her, she composed herself enough to ask her last question in another way:
"So where do I start, and with what? What must I do to free myself of this fight for the possession of my own heart?"
The doctor had the answer ready: "We must learn how to let go."
A surge of pressure pushed these words out of her; "That's just great!" she said. "But let go of what? How do we know what to hang onto and what to let fall away? There's got to be more to it than that! Besides, who knows what is the best ..." He had started nodding halfway through her words and interrupted her thought midstream.
"Katie, that is exactly what I said the day I heard what I am now telling you. And of course you're right, to a degree. We must gain a higher understanding of the world around and within us if we wish to heal our hearts, and this wisdom requires new self-knowledge. So let me tell you the short story that my friend told me the day I learned about all this. I am sure it will help you to better understand how letting go is one and the same with the work of healing a broken heart.
* * *
REALIZE AND RELEASE THE ROOTS OF PAINFUL ATTACHMENTS
Celeste was a happy young girl—happier than anyone else, she often thought to herself. After all, her every day was spent alongside her father taking care of the royal gardens. Hummingbirds and bright butterflies were her daily companions and there was always something growing in the garden that seemed to need only the attention that she could give it. And though her days always came to an end before she felt like they should, it wasn't as if her life was an idle one spent in childish dreams. She had real responsibilities.
Excerpted from LET GO AND LIVE IN THE NOW by Guy Finley. Copyright © 2004 Guy Finley. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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