The Exquisite Pain of an Open Heart

Opening our heart invites all of the feelings in

Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

One of the gifts of aging, for me, has been to have my heart open more and more to all that is around me. The beauty of sunsets. The delight of birds bathing. The sacredness of walking in a redwood forest. The connection that we share with all living beings on this earth. 

This feels like such a treasure and blessing.

 I also feel so much of the pain.

The pain of this earth and all that we have done to hurt her. Climate change and all of the related destruction that comes with this. Fires, floods, draughts. An earth overwhelmed and out of control. 

 The deep sadness of so many different species becoming extinct. Species that we no longer get to see with wonder. That we no longer get to share the earth with. Beautiful creatures that can teach us so much. Not only about them, but about ourselves. 

The violence that we humans can exhibit and inflict on each other. The horrendous consequences of that violence. Lives taken, lives shattered. Families forever wounded. 

The tragedy of war and all of its both immediate and ongoing consequences.

The horror of increasing crime and feeling less and less safe in this world. 

The suffering of others on this planet who may not have water to drink, food to eat, shelter to retreat to. 

Abuse of others, both human and animal. Unspeakable abuse and disregard for life in all of its forms.


Illness, disability, pain, increasing losses of those around us as we age.

Aging also brings its own complexity. Losses, deaths, changes in functioning. Breakdown of our bodies. Increasing awareness of our own mortality. Grief becoming an ever more constant companion.

I feel all of it. Sometimes so much that I feel immobilized. It triggers such a deep sadness within, one that is difficult to contain. Difficult to feel. I find it so very painful to remain still with the awareness of it all and to keep breathing into the feelings. Sometimes I simply want to shut down and run away from it all.

I know, however, the price that this would cost me, this shutting down. I can’t shut down part of the world and those painful feelings without shutting down all of the feelings. And I don’t want to do that. 

I still want to feel the sacred connection to all, the wonder of it all, the beauty of what is all around us there to be noticed. There to be seen. There to be felt, inside of our hearts.

And so it is with our own individual lives as well. There are beautiful moments to cherish. Births, weddings, connections, love. The world around us and all who share it with us, human and other.

Youth and its promise. New babies being born and a hope for the future.

Human kindness. Courage. 

Those who fight to save the planet, animals, and each other. 

Random acts of kindness.

Our ability to learn to deeply listen to one another. And to learn from that listening. To deeply connect.

Aging also comes with its own sacred gifts. 

It can bring an increasing awareness of the precious beauty of life, of its treasures. More time to truly see and appreciate each moment.

 A slowing down as we head toward the end. To be able to see more, hear more, feel more. To live more fully.

And to get to feel the exquisite pain, and beauty, of our open hearts. 

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