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The Open Heart

As we let our hearts be tenderized by this sorrow-filled world, we discover that joy and sadness are one, that we can’t always distinguish between the two. Perhaps you have had this experience, of feeling tender and overwhelmed, heart wide open, vulnerable, overcome by tears of joy that also felt like sadness. In these moments of deep emotion, it doesn’t matter that we can’t define this feeling with simple words. We are inside the heart of a profound human experience, so very different from our everyday emotions…opening ourselves to the world as it is, not flinching from what we see, keeping our eyes and heart open… And what we see will always break our heart.
    – Meg Wheatley, So Far from Home

God breaks the heart again and again and again until it stays open.
-Hazrat Inayat KhanThe text message came at night from out of the blue. It was from a colleague whom I hadn’t talked to in several years. I was surprised that he still had my number. He asked whether or not I had heard of the demise last month of a mutual friend, almost certainly an early COVID-19 death on the West Coast…
This friend is the first person I knew personally who has succumbed to the disease. I had thought of checking in on him about the time he passed, and I let the chance go. Life can be very fragile, our opportunities to connect so fleeting. There is so much suffering pressing on us these days, almost more than we can comprehend. After a long day of other dire reports the enormity of it all brought me close to despair for a time. Heart-broken.
And yet I also see that the space in the human heart for compassion and caring is showing itself to be enormous. There are thousands of examples in print and social media of people opening their hearts and lives to their communities and even to perfect strangers. Millions of essential workers are risking their lives every day to serve the rest of us, many with limited ability to protect themselves, aware that they could be sacrificing their own health and that of their families. Doctors and nurses from San Francisco where the curve has begun to flatten are on their way to New York City to lend a hand. Amazing. Open-hearted.
The heart broken open may also be what most connects us to the full human experience. Sadness and joy simultaneously inhabit the open heart in ways we cannot explain, in ways we cannot avoid and still be truly alive. We don’t really need to understand it all, but only be open to what it is telling us, and how we can use it to be of service.

– What is breaking your heart today?
– To what does your heart now need to be opened or to stay open?
– How do joy and sadness combine in your life? What is it telling you?
– How can you use this open heart in your leadership?

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