Over the past few mornings I have felt such a sadness and I’ve wondered, is it because my kids are back to school and I’m left with that familiar sense of being apart from them as they slowly grow up and find their own way in the world? Is it that I’m homesick for Canada and lingering in that difficult and murky phase of transitioning and readjusting to life in South Africa? Or is it something much bigger than that, something reflective of the troubling place that the world is currently in? Could it be that my heart is connected to many hearts around the world and that as our hearts crack open we grow in our capacity to tune into one another more intimately? Over the past few weeks and days I’ve been highly aware of the marches taking place across the world, particularly those happening in the USA and Canada since they are ‘close to home’ for me. I’ve felt far and separated from the collective and diverse energy that came from all of those individuals who took to the streets in countless cities to fight yet again for the rights of all people. I feel a huge distance from all of that and yet, I sit in the heart of a country where these same rights need to be fought for just as vehemently and with a desperate need for some form of solidarity.
I think my heart has been aching for the painful way in which so many people are suffering and for my lack of ability to do much about it. If I’m honest, the thousands of images and sounds that have been bombarding the news and all forms of social media platforms has also left me with an achy longing to join in the thick of it all. For the past while, maybe my whole life, I’ve wondered how I can make a difference and if what I’m doing is enough. So these kinds of events certainly awaken the voice within me to get out there and make that difference. I do not consider myself an activist but I do consider myself to be someone who is present, compassionate and trustworthy. I also believe that I am doing my part to be awake and conscious, my part in hopefully growing our collective capacities to deal with suffering. What I’ve come to accept is true for me is that my making a difference starts in me, with my own actions and my own commitments, starting at home and extending out. And what I’ve come to appreciate are the ripple effects, most of which I will not see but which I trust in.
As I absorb the events of our world and watch and listen as so many people march, protest, speak, sing and write for human rights, justice, and equality…for our diverse and complicated humanity…I know that we are in a time of massive change but also within change that is continual. With all that is wrong there is an energy emerging that has long been coming, one that contains men’s sensitivities and women’s powerful voices. It will require us to reach deeply into our hearts and find our way towards our more authentic selves. This is real leadership, no matter who we are and no matter where or what we lead. Our most powerful and effective leadership comes from our most healthy and authentic selves and to access this we need to open our hearts. As so many wise people keep saying, we need to open ourselves to others who are different and with an open heart, recognise our commonalities.
As I sit with my sadness and achy-ness I feel resonance and comfort in what Margaret J. Wheatley shares, that to be a Warrior for the Human Spirit means learning how to be “fully engaged with the world with an open, breaking heart.” As so many of us have experienced, painfully but also sometimes magnificently, terrible times crack open our hearts and bring us together.
Cracking open our hearts
raises us up from our apathy
ignites a fire beneath us when we feel unmovable
awakens us from our sleep when we feel too tired to move
invites those of us who think we can’t make a difference to make a difference
encourages us to be a part of a growing collective
invites us to be a part of change when we assume we can’t help or contribute
shows us that our voice matters when we’ve stayed silent for so long
proves that power sits in all of us even when we think we are powerless
confirms that we each matter even we assume or feel that we don’t matter
opens the door to friendships and alignment when we think we are alone
bridges gaps when we assumed they could never be bridged
lets in some light where we thought it would always be dark
can reveal how important and necessary our discomfort is
shows us life when we felt unworthy of it
reveals that change is possible even when we feel hopeless
allows us to feel a strangers hand when we felt unreachable
uncovers love when we thought we were unlovable
brings us in to a community of others when we thought we’d never belong
joins us to share a common purpose when we thought that what mattered to us was insignificant
insists that we fight for something we didn’t know existed or needed fighting for
summons us to fight for something we assumed would never or could never change
asks us to discover words for what feels unspeakable
illuminates our eyes to what was invisible
invites us to walk with others we never thought we’d meet
urges us to be in conversation with people we’d never before acknowledged
encourages us to experience solidarity despite feeling like it might all fall apart
asks us to feel love from strangers when we spent our lives hiding from it
lets you feel the power of individuals joining together who always stood apart
shows us that within each of us lays a huge spirit to fight tirelessly for what matters.
Cracking open our hearts means crossing our edges and diving in. It is sitting with ourselves long enough to know who we are and what we stand for. It is waking up to what matters. It is committing to acting and leading, in whichever capacity that we lead, with sensitivity, compassion and accountability. It is being honest about what it is to be human.