Jumping might use the legs, but Leaping starts in the heart. Before we can expect our hearts to Leap scary, yawning chasms fraught with uncertainty, we must learn to allow our hearts to be moved. We must walk before we can run.
Christina Pratt bookends her Why Shamanism Now? podcasts with beautiful invocations and blessings, including the wish that her listeners allow their hearts to be moved. This isn’t just feeling, and feeling deeply, but it’s letting that feeling propel you into action. In the context of her podcast she means donating if you find the show valuable, sharing it with others if you’d think they’d like it, or letting it set you on a path of further study or healing. It can take a lot to crack through our apathy and routine to take heart-based action, but it can happen.
Many of us have armored hearts. When life wounds us, we recoil from the pain and surround our vulnerable selves with multiple layers of defense. Sarcasm, distance, coldness, apathy, anger, cruelty, distraction. All so we can avoid that pain again. If we examine how well these strategies work, however, I think most of us find that we are still hurting, and we are also constantly seeking happiness, contentment, pleasure and joy. What’s going on here?
When we harden our hearts against pain, and all the things we think bring us pain, we are hardening our hearts against ALL feeling, including happiness and love. The walls we erect to keep us safe are actually tools of isolation, and we become entangled in a dance of seeking to bring the good close to us while keeping the bad at arm’s length. And it just doesn’t work.
When I started my shamanic apprenticeship, one of my main goals was to learn to open my heart. And I learned to do that, with the help of my mentor, my circle of peers, and the Helping Spirits. I distinctly remember during a series of shamanic journeys where we explored the concept of the medicine wheel, we did a journey to see what Spirits resided in the direction of Within. I immediately met a beautiful Lynx that lived in my heart. She took my breath away. After our introduction I was able to see a larger picture, that She lived as a wild thing amidst the untamed wilderness. And that her movements were limited as She was trapped beneath a glass dome, captured in the most desolate alpine landscape. Her energy was restless and prickly; She wanted more, She wanted freedom. And it was my task to give it to Her.
My work on unarmoring my heart (and keeping it that way) was and is a winding path that has little to do with logic and reason, much to do with expressing emotions appropriately, and a heaping dose of trial and error. I’ve had to embrace that my heart is a wild thing and cares little for “shoulds.” I’ve learned that pain is preferable to numbness, and if you feel pain in the moment, breathe your way through it instead of trying to avoid it, that it will usually go on its merry way instead of settling into depression. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I feel deeply, that it’s ok to do so, and to express those feelings as messy tears and raucous laughter. I have learned this from both my shamanic experiences and by navigating my way through the unfolding events of my “everyday” life.
I’m still getting my open-hearted sea legs. My sensitivity often catches me by surprise. On my commute I can be moved equally by the sight of roadkill and sweeping mountain vistas. Yet amidst these swirling emotions I am able to be balanced. Sure, I still make plenty of mistakes, but more and more often I can be firmly rooted when needed, and moved when needed. When something breaks my heart, I strive honor the pain and then act! I advocate, I speak up, I go into ferocious Mama Bear mode. When my heart is full to bursting with joy, I honor that too and act. I embrace my loved ones, I speak up, I give thanks. Allowing my heart to be moved refines my Listening skills, limbers up my courage and authenticity muscles, and lays the foundation for the Leap-taking when it comes.