Keep Our Hearts Open… and our Wills Strong as Steel

Signing off from an email this week, a very wise friend wrote: “Let’s make sure we keep our hearts soft but our wills strong as steel.”

This is going to be my new mantra. My rally cry. My mission.

With one edit: “and” instead of “but” – Keep our hearts soft and our wills strong as steel

They are not mutually exclusive. One feeds the other.

Since the election, I’ve been focused on love. Choosing love over fear. Choosing to open my heart instead of allowing myself to get constricted. (I wrote about that in What Do We Tell Our Kids… and Ourselves?) Since I had written that little essay for myself – letting the words and feelings flow out of me simply as a way to process the helplessness and chaos – I shared it very selectively at first. Based on feedback from friends and their interest in sharing with others, I decided to share it here so that others who may benefit from it could seek it out.

The discussions that the essay opened up have been a gift – I so value those conversations and appreciate the healing that follows. Like this: one friend replied that she loved it; and that she had come to a somewhat different path – that she wants to show her daughter that “when you care deeply about something you speak up and you fight injustice.” And “…that she can’t take this sitting down.”

What an important perspective that was for me to hear. Were openness and love at odds with fighting injustice? Are they different paths?

No. They are not mutually exclusive. Choosing love and choosing to stand up for what we believe in are close companions.

I believe that in order to make change, I need to first have a foundation of compassion. Of love. Of softness. I need to be loving and caring towards myself. Then and only then can I stand up – on feet that are grounded, with a spine that is strong, a mind that is clear, and a heart that is open – to fight for what I believe in.

As Ram Dass writes in Polishing the Mirror:

“If you feel a sense of social responsibility, first of all keep working on yourself. Being peaceful yourself is the first step if you want to live in a peaceful universe.”

Whatever we cultivate within will radiate outwards exponentially. In the same way that by taking care of yourself, you create a stronger you in order to better support and serve others, when you nurture love and peace within yourself, you will be better prepared to release the same to your family, your community, the world.

I don’t know about you, but I’m craving nurturing content right now – simultaneously devouring and trying to savor writing and thinking that inspire and guide. Much of that I’m finding within podcasts: Jonathan Fields, Tara Brach and Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert to name a few.

In one of her “Magic Lessons” episodes on how to harness creativity, Liz was talking with an aspiring artist about how compassion can be “soft and velvety;” but that compassion can “lack traction.” She told the guest that in order to produce the art she wanted and make an impact, she needed to add another essential ingredient: ferocious, bracing courage

Yes. Right now we need love. And we need ferocious, bracing courage. Boy did that speak to me. That’s the recipe: Love + ferocious, bracing courage = action that will have an impact.

Post-election, I first chose soft and velvety: love, openness and compassion. (I needed to offer myself that love and security because the world certainly wasn’t providing that. Nor will it ever, right? Love and security are not things we can attain from external sources. They come from within.) And now I’m prepared to build on that, adding the “bracing jolt of electricity” (Liz’s words) and spinal fortitude in order to stand strong.

Stand strong.

Stand up.

Look up.

An open heart creates space – space that prepares us to act from a place of both peace and strength. In order to be the peaceful warriors we need to be right now, let’s keep our hearts soft and our wills strong as steel.

Every sentence that Tara Brach utters reaches inside my soul and fuels me with the certainty that this is the path for me right now. So I will leave you with an excerpt from her recent teachings:

“If we… courageously open to what’s inside of us, we will get to the caring that makes acting the most natural thing in the world. Our actions will be planting seeds for true transformation versus the seeds that continue the old patterning. Because we have to change consciousness.”



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