Category Archives: Poetry

That thing you’re calling a failure? Think again!

Sometimes it’s hard to forgive ourselves for what we call our failures.

Maybe it was a relationship that tanked.

Maybe it was an enterprise you invested a lot of energy, money and love into, and it did not bring what you were hoping for.

Maybe you took a wrong turn in life, and ended up totally lost.

Maybe you did a very misguided thing that cost you several relationships.

And even though you have begun to understand that past-you was doing the best you could with the self-knowledge and understanding of the world you had at that time, still. It has cost you a lot.

And even though you have tried to make amends and have begun bringing self-compassion and tenderness to the place of hurt, maybe there is still a place that feels raw. Call it grief, call it remorse, call it what you will: it still smarts when you touch it or remember.

What if you knew that a lovely thing that’s about to happen could not happen if it weren’t for that failure?

If any of this has spoken to you, this poem by Antonio Machado and this painting by Leah Piken Kolidas might be for you.

Art by Leah Piken Kolidas

Last Night As I Was Sleeping

(by Antonio Machado,
with translation by Robert Bly)

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

Alone or lonely? (An important distinction!)

Alone or lonely? (An important distinction!)

Have you noticed that there are times when being alone is the most delicious thing in the world…Loneliness? What loneliness! And then there are other times when you are with people, maybe even people you love, and you feel incredibly lonely. Hmm…

It’s Valentines Day. And today I want to talk about loneliness. (Because, why-ever not!) And about beginning to meet our very own dear selves with curiosity and tenderness.

Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, scientist, and prolific writer among other things, knew a thing or two about human feelings and motivations. He said:

“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.”

In other words: loneliness isn’t so much—or necessarily, at least— about the who but about the what… With the what being what’s important to you, for starters, and then for purposes of not feeling lonely, being able to communicate that what.

So, my dear, what’s important to you? Do you know? Do you even know where to look? No worries if you don’t. We all start somewhere, and loneliness is certainly as good a place as any to start on the journey of getting to know the one person you are guaranteed to fall asleep and wake up with, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part!

Now, depending on where you are on this journey of knowing you, what I just said may make you gulp or roll up your sleeves or jump up and down excitedly. That’s OK. Any of those? Totally OK.

How can you listen for and put yourself in the frame of mind-heart to hear at very least the stirrings of what’s important to you today? And once you hear something, is there a way you can express, even if just one tiny part of whatever it is that stirs you? (I talked about some possibilities for how to do that a few days ago here).

Art by Leah Piken Kolidas

Dreams are one of my favorite ways to listen for important, just under conscious surface, things in me. When I write down my dreams, especially the ones that wake me up in the night or the ones that stay with me upon waking in the morning, it is my way of practicing being curious and turning toward what is important.

Dreams speak in the language of images and metaphor, which is why sometimes (actually, quite often!) they can seem very odd. And often it’s the disturbing dreams that catch our attention. “I had a bad dream last night,” you might find yourself thinking or saying in the morning. But if you turn toward the dream, no matter how seemingly odd or bad (even or especially if it feels like a nightmare!) with curiosity and a wanting to have it open up for you, you might be surprised by what treasures you find.

I’m not talking about dream interpretation here, not per se. But rather an openness and curiosity toward whatever your dream has brought to you.

Years ago —around 20, actually!— I read a little book by Gene Gendlin called “Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams.” It was the book that first introduced me to Focusing, which is a wonderful and very learnable process of listening to and getting to know ourselves. Incidentally, I count Focusing to be among the 2 or 3 things that most has helped me come into kind relationship with myself over the last 20 or so years (after waking up from a failed attempt to check out of life). Changes in my life have not happened overnight, so to speak, but a lot of them DID happen, and certainly started happening, in the night and in my dreams.

Just last night I had the strangest dream. And this here is me showing you how I turn toward whatever it might be bringing me…

First I relay it. Usually this happens by me writing it down. Sometimes I tell it to my husband or to my Focusing companion, with whom I meet once a week, but not always. Even just writing it down for myself counts.

In my dream I’m visiting a hospital like McLean Hospital. In my dream I’m going there for business, though not exactly business, and also not exactly personal affairs either, though of course I have feelings about these kinds of hospitals, having been in a psych hospital when I was just 18. And again 26. Anyway, in my dream I go round the bend to the entrance, which is in the back of the hospital rather than right on the street, and I am met with a very very steep and paved driveway. Incredibly steep. Steep like I don’t know however one would ever go down it, let alone climb it to leave! But I do. Somehow I manage to get to the door and in. The place is welcoming and organized. People who know what they are doing work there and they are neither cagey nor secretive, nor overly solicitous: just straight up decent, smart and doing their jobs well. Someone is showing me around. Then, in the next part, a girl-young woman —not a baby but neither a fully grown woman— wants me to pick her up. And so I do. She gets in my arms and falls asleep there. She is so close to me, right up against me with her head nuzzled into the crook of my neck, and I notice how much comfort and how comfortable and how comforting it is for both of us. She was in this hospital, this girl-woman-baby, and when I arrived she jumped into my arms. A woman who works there keeps showing us around, leading us down maze-like hallways and into and out of offices and rooms here and there and everywhere. The last room we enter in this dream, after which I wake up, has a huge window overlooking a wide and shimmering ocean.

That’s it. That’s my dream. And this is how I get curious about the dream, open toward understanding what it’s showing me as important right now in my life, open to hearing what help it might have for whatever is challenging or “up” for me these days. (For dreams always bring help, always, even if they are just showing us something we otherwise don’t see).

So the hospital in the dream is not unlike the psych hospitals I found myself in when I was 18. And 26. At which time I really was rather alone, literally, and, oh god, lonely as hell. I didn’t have myself, and certainly didn’t know what was important to me (other than finding the next sweet food to binge on!). And I didn’t have much in the way of family or other people.

OK. There is that. That feels resonant. The kind of hospital in my dreams is familiar to me.

But… the one in my dreams is also different! I am arriving to visit it, not to stay in it. I am there on business, though my interest is also personal.

Could this be about the work I do with clients? And the work I am doing much more of now as I focus on helping people with anxiety and depression?

Yes, maybe. Certainly not no, but not quite a full hit of YES. Let me stay with it… What else… What happens next?

There’s that girl-woman who gets in my arms and whom I end up walking around holding while the good people who work there show me around. Ah… that bit, I remember now when I was writing it, that bit choked me up: not a baby and not a woman. Something like me when I was 18. And 26. Feeling so lost and alone in the world. Excruciatingly lonely. A lot like that. And, at the time, in that kind of hospital. Yes. But the part specifically that made me cry is the bit where that girl-woman trusts me so much. And how much comfort and comforting there is when she is in my arms.

There it is. The nugget. The important bit. The bit I wanted to tell. There it is. She is me-then. She is me-then who is still, often, with me now. And at different points in my life I’ve had such shame about her. And I’ve tried to pretend her away. Or hide her, certainly. But not in this dream. I am walking around holding her, holding me, close. And, goodness gracious, could it be? Even telling you my dream about it, about me.

So, my friend, my client, my dear, what’s important to you today? When you turn toward yourself with curiosity, what do you find?

See if you can make room for whatever, for whoever is there. EVEN if (and maybe especially if) what you find is a part of you that’s afraid to look. Because that is often the case when we start turning toward rather than away from ourselves.

Go gently, go kindly, and go ever so curiously. It’s SO worth it! ❤️ Happy Valentines Day, love.

Lastly, I leave you with this poem by Derek Walcott:

Love After Love

The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,

And say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you

All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


 

Featured artists: Leah Piken Kolidas and Emba

Help for your broken heart

Help for your broken heart

A friend recently wrote me of her broken heart. She is crying every day –heart crushing sobs– and tells me that her tears have absolutely no regard for time of day or place where she might be. Earlier this summer she started trying to date other people but then stopped. She feels terrified of ever being in a relationship again: “I don’t think my heart can take it.”

What follows is my letter to my friend, who told me she’d love it if I shared it. We hope it will help another broken heart, maybe yours, maybe someone’s you know.

Have a question or a matter you would like me to write about here on my blog? Drop me a note by email or by using the “Dear Heidi” boxes located on my blog just to the right of this post.

My dear friend,

I feel for you. So much! What grief, whether from now or from way back when, though I imagine it’s some concentrated combination of both. How hard the cyclical experience of what you describe must be, that yearly repetition of ending and then beginning only to end again… So hard. No wonder you are feeling such pain, and, I imagine maybe even some stiff cocktail of emotions like anger, like despair, like who knows what all, for it certainly is hard to tease a whole tangle of heart-crushing and sob-inducing kinds of emotions apart.

It’s not about anyone being to blame, whether it is he for coming back and sleeping with you each fall only to break up with you again by summer, or you for going back to him each fall and being heartbroken again when he breaks up each summer. Our dear minds get some kind of momentary satisfaction from finding blame, but blame heals nothing for anyone and ultimately serves only to deflect from the thing that truly will help. The more useful and ultimately healing thing to wonder about, and the thing to bring every ounce of your energy to is this: how can I be with this now? Whatever is appearing, at any given heart-rending moment: how can I be with this now?

Maybe you close your eyes and feel and sense exactly how the whole heart-crush of it is in your body right now. Notice where it is. Maybe put your hand there and be with it in that way.

Sometimes when I have a hard time being with something —this is especially true for those very big emotion kind of things like what you are describing— I bring to mind people and beings, imagined or real (it doesn’t really matter) who would be able to be with it. These are people who would be incredibly compassionate and moved by what I am going through, though, ironically, they would also not be freaking out about it, not because they don’t care but because they have a bigger and wider perspective and probably they know something I don’t. Those are the people, in lonely and alone and heartbreaking moments, I bring to mind. Actually, I call it “channeling.” (I like to channel, among others, Tara Brach, Kuan Yin, Byron Katie, my therapist, my teacher and friend, Barbara. Sometimes, these days, I even channel an entire village-of-old wherein the elders take care of me. I do this when I don’t have it in me to take care of myself, and when the part that is upset feels so large it feels like the entirety of me.)

Related to the question “how can I be with this now?” it can also be very helpful to wonder: How would this [heart-broken part of me] like for me [or the people I am “channeling”] to be with it? And then pause and sense what kind of company it wants… Maybe it wants a very quiet kind of company. Maybe it wants a song. Maybe it wants to show you something. Maybe it wants to sit under a tree in the park.Maybe it will let you know it wants touch. Maybe it needs the metaphorical village curanderas to make a witchy brew for it. Maybe it wants to hear the beating of a thousand drums. Maybe it wants you —in your mind’s eye— to sit there right next to it where it can feel you. Maybe it wants you in the same room, nearby but not in direct sight… The point is, find out how IT would like you to be with it.

And don’t forget flesh-n-bones people, my friend. Let people help you. Let them know you need company. Let them know you need a cup of tea. Let them know you need a place to stay. And if tears come in barre class, so be it. Good for you for being at your beloved barre class. And if tears come in the grocery store, so be it. I remember once breaking down sobbing on the side of a street over yet-another-moment in something not unlike what it sounds you are going through. A woman came and asked if I was OK. She asked if there was someone she could call for me. She cared, and in that moment, I was not alone. The people who couldn’t handle it —a woman on the side of the street crying— didn’t come. The woman who could, did. Let the people who care and who can step up to help, help you, my friend. You are not alone.

It’s no wonder you are terrified of being in a relationship again. No wonder. Please know that your next relationship will come in its own good time. Not your time, not my time, but its good time. What a relief, isn’t it? Your next relationship will come when it comes, the timing of which you have no idea about now. Good about that. Its timing is simply not any of your business right now. Whew!

Of course something in you would, right now, be telling you how terrified it is about you being in a relationship again. Of course. Please know that its terror applies to now. Right now your heart can’t take even the thought of another relationship, and with good reason: look at the right now pain you are experiencing over the relationship which you are grieving right now. Try as best you can to resist extrapolating from your right now experience onto your future self. Now brings all you can handle and your only job is to take care of your now-heart right now. And when something in you now shows you pictures of your future-self not being able to handle another relationship, know that that is your now-self dressed in a future-self costume and take it as a signal to be with right-now-you. Resist the temptation to believe or disbelieve what the scared parts of you are saying, and the scary pictures of an imagined future they are projecting on the screen of your mind.

Just as right now brings all you can handle now, right now also bring all that you need right now.

Rumi comes to mind.

Every part of you has a secret language.
Your hands and your feet say what you’ve done.

And every need brings in what’s needed.
Pain bears its cure like a child.

Having nothing produces provisions.
Ask a difficult question,
and the marvelous answer appears.

Build a ship, and there’ll be water
to float it. The tender-throated
infant cries and milk drips
from the mother’s breast.

Be thirsty for the ultimate water,
and then be ready for what will
come pouring from the spring.

[This is a part of Rumi’s poem “Joy at Sudden Disappointment,” translated by Coleman Barks. I found it on page 169 of my beat up and dog-eared “The Essential Rumi.”]

Friend, you are much bigger than all of this. Some of the very upset parts of you are feeling difficult things so intensely that they seem extremely big, so big that it is tempting to believe that those parts ARE you. But you, my dear, are bigger, you are wider, you are older, you are wiser. How do I know? For you are noticing them. See if you can spread the biggest possible blanket for all the parts arising in you to be, to rest upon. For surely they want rest. You don’t have to fix them. You don’t have to make them go away. You don’t even have to heal them. Healing happens. Just spread the blanket and let them be there. They will surely also bring, as Rumi says, what’s needed.

And when some part or another in you expresses some great sense of urgency about needing you to do or fix or make some big decision right now? Notice and listen. Surely it wants relief and it wants you to be OK. Of course. Say, there you are, I see you, but don’t let your next movement be determined from that part, for it is limited and partial. Just be with it and listen. I say “just” not because it is necessarily easy to do, but rather because it is all you need to do. And, come to think, it is actually much easier than all the frantic kind of movement we of this age and time are used to watching transpire all around us. But we do not need to be at the beck and call of urgency.

A practical point, is there any way you can move out of his place? Even though he’s not in town for most of the year, I imagine that living in his place necessarily makes all of this —and ending the cycle you describe— much harder. It is very likely that moving out would shift things energetically. Maybe you move into somewhere temporarily, even just a month or two or three, while you take care and make space for your next place (of living) to become available… Remember that you can ask for help. Sometimes it is only in the asking, in the putting forth of our need, that the immediate next step becomes available. Asking is a powerful practice. Allow people to say yes. Remember, the ones who can’t handle the woman crying on the side of the street, won’t come. The ones who can, will. Give them, give you, that opportunity.

When can you come visit us again?

Thanks for the info on the swimming hole. Two and a half hours was, indeed, too far. The cabin we stayed in was magical. We will go back.

I send you all my love. Please let me know if I can help. If any of what I wrote did not fit or is not welcome, please just give it right back to me, for at the very least, maybe I needed to be reminded of everything I’ve told you.

Heidi



 

Dear blog reader,

Would you like company and guidance while you listen and sense into something difficult of your own? Would you like to learn to be with yourself in the ways I describe in this letter? You can book a session HERE. I work with people in-person at my office in Cambridge, Massachusetts and remotely, via Skype, FaceTime or phone.

Make an Online Appointment


A few of the people I “channel” have been  —not coincidentally— my most trusted teachers over the years. In particular the following three offer a powerhouse of wisdom and support:

  • Tara Brach | Insight Meditation Teacher who has taught me to sit still in an intentional way (some people call this meditation) and how to be with what, then, arises. I adore her. Her podcasts are excellent, free, and always uncannily pertinent.
  • Barbara McGavin and Ann Weiser Cornell at Focusing Resources | Barbara and Ann have turned Gene Gendlin’s Focusing into a very learnable process with immediate implications for how we relate to ourselves –and all our parts– as well as to the people in our world. Focusing is a process of listening to the body and being with hard things, big or little. Some of my hardest and most stuck inner places of struggle have changed as a result of listening and being with myself in this way.
  • Byron Katie | When I am stressed out, there is at least one untrue thought I am assuming to be true. Before I notice that I am in the grips of a stressful thought or story, I am at its mercy. But when I meet that thought with the kindness of inquiry, it has a way of unraveling. I never know exactly what will come of asking Byron Katie’s questions, but invariably I end up in a place less stressful, at the very least, and sometimes my eyes are opened to possibilities that turn my stressworld on its head.

Until next time, take care of your dear self and remember to ask for help if you need it.

Heidi

Heidi’s Table

2464 Massachusetts Ave. #405
Cambridge, MA 02140

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