the starting point of anything that matters

Thank you to Danya Ruttenberg for linking to this beautiful speech, When the Wounded Emerge as Healers: The Study of Religion is Like a Labyrinth, given by Dr. Kimberly Potter, to the graduating class of the Harvard Divinity School:
...So, as long as I thought I could impart to you something oracular about the future—your future—something splendid or clever or wise, I never had this opportunity. That day did not come until all I could tell you about was the one thing that I truly can say I know, and that is the broken heart. Even if a broken heart does not lie in your past or present, it awaits you in your future, at some place, at some time when you will almost certainly be unprepared. But in myth, in ritual, and in theology, the broken heart is not a regrettable symptom of derailment, but is rather the starting point of anything that matters. As Laurette Séjourné describes the heart in ancient Mesoamerica: "The heart is the place of union where the luminous consciousness is made. . . . Human existence must reach out to transcend the world of forms that conceal the ultimate reality. This reality lives in the heart and must be set free at whatever cost. . . . Thus to reach one's heart, to possess oneself of it, means to penetrate into spiritual life. The operation is extremely painful, and that is why the heart is always represented as wounded, and why the drops of blood issuing from it are so significant that they alone are a sufficient symbol for it."


Looking deep into the religious traditions of the world, one learns that we need not fear these initiations, these times of breaking apart. The soul cannot grow or change without them. What the human ego or the human body experience as traumas, the soul instantly recognizes as opportunities to shed what is no longer needed. When the heart is broken, the soul is released from its prior constellations. It begins the ancient process of dissolution, dismemberment, and new life. The soul rushes toward rebirth. This is not a comfortable process. But it is a normal one.

In the words of Jalaja Bonheim: "[M]ake no mistake: those who tell us we can have whatever we want, be whoever we want to be, and have full control of our lives are merely playing into our desire to avoid the discomfort of feeling our vulnerability. True wholeness has nothing to do with getting what we want. Paradoxically, we achieve true wholeness only by embracing our fragility and sometimes our brokenness. Wholeness is a natural radiance of Love, and Love demands that we allow the destruction of our old self for the sake of the new. 'If anyone needs a head, the lover leaps up to offer his,' says the mystic and poet Kabir. Life did not intend for us to be inviolable, but to be used for fodder for its workings. We are meant to be chewed up and digested and transformed into the blood and sinews of the world."
The Torah portion that I'll be chanting from and giving a little talk on in June includes Moses telling the people "cut away the thickening around your heart" (literally: "circumsize the foreskin of your heart" "umal'tem et orlat l'vavechem") so I am thinking a lot about what it is to be open-hearted in this world that is so full, about the open heart and the broken heart and the heart that is somehow cut open, in analogy to the covenant of circumcision...I have a feeling that what blogging there is here in the next couple of months might be a lot of rumination on heart stuff...