There I was, in sheer enjoyment, running down the mountain I had just spent an hour hiking up when I observed myself quickly hold back, tighten up and move into a place of fear. I noticed how all of a sudden, instead of being overtaken by the fun and speed of running weightlessly downhill, I became overtaken by the anxiety that I might “get hurt.”
I broke my ankle running about 6 years ago and it never properly healed. The doctors told me I probably wouldn’t be able to run again - which I am able to do now, along with yoga, totally free from pain…most of the time. The only real lingering residue of the break is the “weakness” I feel in that ankle from time to time.
After a good solid vertical hike, you can imagine the freedom and ease that comes with the downhill return trip. Compared to the effort and energy expelled in climbing, the downhill leg is always easier. Right? Or so I typically experience it to be.
This time though, as I was galloping down, a wave of anxiety took over and I went into borderline “panic” mode that my ankle would give out. I immediately flashed to reliving the initial “break” - the sound of it snapping, the intense nausea, the gut-wrenching pain…and how the following 8 weeks of healing prevented me from doing so many of the things that I love.
I watched myself hold back, slow down and move with the hesitancy that “pain” might happen at any moment if my ankle were to give out again. The whole way I was behaving, holding back out of “fear of pain,” reminded me of the hesitancy we experience in giving ourselves freely to love.
We all have had our hearts broken. Some of us experienced deep woundings to our heart during our childhood while others lost their first love, a best friend, or a family member later in life. Regardless of what age we are, we all share a similar story – which is the brokenheartedness we’ve experienced while experiencing our lives.
Just like me on that mountain, holding myself back and running with hesitancy instead of reckless abandon, because of our brokenheartedness, we hold ourselves back in relationships. We hold ourselves back from love. Our bodies, our minds and our hearts remember the pain of the initial break and like a child learning not to touch the hot stove again, we avoid love to ultimately avoid pain.
Unfortunately, similar to my ankle never truly healing, our heartbreaks, most often than not, never heal properly either. We jump too quickly into a new relationship or avoid the pain and healing process completely by distracting ourselves with work, play, exercise, or through settling into a deep depression while blaming others for our pain.
We do this because the process of healing actually requires us to “feel” the emotional pain generated inside, yet we are taught to avoid any and all things that don’t make us “feel good.” I personally, agree with Michael Brown (author of the Presence Process) – that integrating the wounds of our hearts isn’t about “feeling good, but getting better at feeling.”
But the minute we feel “pain,” “heartbreak” or “loss” we typically believe that something is wrong and we look for any outlet to shift ourselves out of the pain and into something that feels good. What if the answer to unconditional love with yourself and shared with another is to not avoid this pain but to sit in it as long as need be until it authentically shifts? What if the answer to finally being free from your emotional pain was to actually FEEL IT?
I believe this is the healing balm for our broken hearts. Feeling our hearts without judgment or needing to shift its experience at all is the answer to freeing ourselves from emotional pain. It’s okay to feel pain, loss and heartbreak – it really is! Through the process of “feeling” it, we have the opportunity to truly heal the heart rather than spend a lifetime shoving down our pain and avoiding people and situations that trigger it.
So back to the mountain. As all of this swirled through my heart, mind and body, I came to the conclusion – “If my ankle were to give out, would it really be that bad?” No, because in the breaking of my ankle again, it would give me the opportunity to heal it properly this time.
Like our hearts, instead of avoiding heartbreak by moving into love and relationships with hesitancy, I encourage you to embrace the possibility of heartbreak. The experience of it is actually a beautiful gift, given to us to heal the places inside of it that have never healed properly.
The complete shattering of our hearts, gives us the perspective to see where healing is needed as we put each little piece back together. And the Truth is, when we do this – when are hearts come fully back together – they are always expanded with a greater capacity to love and be loved. That is the power of healing the heart.
The lesson I carried off the mountain that day was as you stand in front of love, imagine yourself, like me, descending a mountain. Run wild and free. Heart open, free of hesitancy. Run into love and embrace whatever unfolds (even if it’s heartbreak), and feel it deeply – all of it. Anchor back into the Truth that whatever happens is essential for your expansion and your return to living wholeheartedly.