December 17, 2013

How to “Soften” Our Hearts.

I see your shield is up. I’ve got mine on, too, today.

Scales sparkling like dragon skin.

I layer on my shields like pulling on a pair of silk long johns, and then my black cargo pants before I throw on the rest of my gear and head out into the crisp winter morning.

The air is an illusion of purity.

Breathing deeply, I smell a mixture of wood smoke, car exhaust, and then the cooling menthol of eucalyptus as I bike along the path.

I slow under the eucalyptus, noticing the tan bark peeling like a sunburn, baring the smooth gray layer. How do I shed my shield?

How do I “soften” my heart?

A few days ago, I felt secure in knowing that I approached my experiences with a sense of generosity and love.

I imagined that I knew how to craft words that would provoke awareness of our connections with the greater world, yet I realized that my societal upbringing—rooted in the American way of righteousness—may no longer suit me.

A reminder arrived in a surprising place, so I took the advice for once. I pulled off a layer of my shield, letting in the suggestion that I could write in a way that was filled with grace. A perspective that opened up the world for me; a shift in consciousness as it became one of those moments in which time slowed almost to a stop, so I really read the words. Filled with ambition, I set off to write with grace.

But I couldn’t write.

I tried. Pen tapping, but nothing arrived.

How could I “soften” my heart? I love openly. I try to see the beauty in every one of us. I look for the light in the underbelly of the clouds.

I love so much that I am drawn to defend when I see injustices. I want to protect those who don’t have a voice, or those finding their voice.

I learned to fight these problems with a fierce love—words that may pierce with their tenderness while uprooting the source of a problem. Yet some may not receive this fierce love as love, but as an armor complete with a silver sword swinging with precision.

I am not the only one wearing the suit.

Fierce love is a shield that so many of us wear, proudly. Strong hearts. Valiant voices. Beautiful, but it’s still a shield that gets in the way of our authentic selves.

Gracious love may be the new path.

I wondered how to step into this new journey. How do I change my way of being—my writing style—to embrace grace?

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao-tzu

My journey into writing with grace must begin without words.

Art becomes my first step; words slip away as I take a break from writing to “soften” my heart through abstract painting.

After my kids settled into their beds for the night, I rolled out my yoga mat, put down a piece of cardboard, and then the canvas before opening my box of acrylic paints.

My cat sauntered over sniffing my tools, eyeing a space on the yoga mat on which to scratch, but there wasn’t one, so she moved onto batting an ornament on the Christmas tree.

I squeezed reds and yellows onto my palette, knowing that words wouldn’t work to unravel my shield.

With heavy quick strokes of color across my canvas, I thought about what held me down (righteousness), the thing that made me feel uptight (navigating the path of my son’s late diagnosis of Asperger’s) and hardened me (being “good” enough), so I reacted with fierce love instead of grace.

I moved my brush as the answers unfolded in the art.

After putting down the first layer, I got up and stretched for awhile as acrylic paints dry quickly. I mixed the paint for the next layer. Swirling white into red, I found the color I needed, but decided to try something new.

I dipped the tips of a small grainer brush into black, then dotted over the red, as I thought about the genetics of Asperger’s.

I accidentally made an X that morphed into an XX, and then into a XY, so I connected one off of the other until they ended up looking like a web over the layer of red.

As I crafted the web, I thought about how the creation of a child with special needs is a heavy weight for some of us to carry. We—parents—wonder why? Even more so, I am curious about the creative process that developed my son—not the love making (obviously I got that part), but the making of a soul, body and mind.

Mothers wonder about all the details: was it the three crabs that I ate on that one January day (I really craved them, and they were fresh from the Pacific) or immunizations or perhaps that statistics class that I took while pregnant?

Then again, genetics may play a larger role than we know, but in the end: the answer is that there is no clear answer.

We are all abstract.

We all are brilliantly vibrant colorful works of art, I realized as I blended in my second layer—my softness. I worked the blender brush (yes, there really is such a thing!) with a touch of pink over the blazing red, feeling how I can soften my shields. Tone down those reds.

I imagined the things that bring joy for me—my son’s gregarious laugh that tapers off into a giggle, the sun as it is about to drop behind the Pacific’s horizon line, little notes left for me or seeing my other son’s “boredom” turn into a Lego masterpiece.

Softness is grace; it comes in the receiving—in holding the space for the unexpected to form.

As I blended the pink over the red, I left holes in which the under layer of heavy red showed through to the surface. A reminder that I am strong, not hardened. Gaps in my memory for reflection, so I do not repeat the same patterns, yet I allow them to be subdued by softness, letting go of anger.

I took a break for this layer to dry. After brewing a cup of peppermint tea, I returned to my painting on which I shaped a quick outline of a yellow heart. The halo beneath the pulse.

I swirled a sea green color with white and began making my soft heart over the yellow heart. Layering a new shield, I blended sea green over the yellows, pinks and reds.

I learned to “soften” my heart, as I wished for words to describe my first footsteps on a new path, knowing they will arrive in time.

For now, I enjoy this silent mixture of paints into a colorful manifestation: wearing a gracious heart on my sleeve.



Relephant reads:

The Heart Center. {Chakra of the Month}

Wisdom of a Broken Heart.

Cultivating the Heart. 

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo Credit: Steve Dormer/Pixoto

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