There seems to be a duality between a hardened heart and a broken heart. The hardened heart is egoism, thinking and feeling as if we are separate from everything else, alone, and creating a need to compete, fight, and save ourselves. The open heart is when we can see that we are connected to everything and everyone else, creating a need to fulfill a bigger picture. A hard heart likens us to a single celled organism, while a broken heart makes us a functional cell in an entire body.
What Does it Mean to have a Broken or Pierced Heart?
When I first started pondering the concept of a broken heart, I thought it had something to do with pain and grief. That we needed to feel so much loss, that we would be humble enough to come to God. When life pulls the rug out from under us, we tend to look for deeper, spiritual meaning. While that is a pathway, it isn’t the end goal. At least for me, it’s something I need to keep encountering. It was in being angry with my husband that I was able to see the simplicity of the ‘point in the heart.’ When I have strong feelings that I’m not enjoying, I like to consider a few things which help me consider the situation more objectively and spiritually. I like to ask myself questions like, “Why did I create this for myself? How does this serve Me? What should I learn from this?”
I use the terms “I” and “Me” not to be egotistical, but because it reminds me, in feeling, that I am a part of God and not separate. When I think about “me” as an aspect of God, completely connected like a cell in a body, it separates me from the limited conditions of my narrow perspective. It opens my mind to the eternal state of the learning which we are here to experience. It reminds me that I am not separate from the person who I am hurt by, frustrated with, or angry at. It reminds me that we are one, creating this experience in its entirety. The Dalai Lama XIV said, “An open heart is an open mind.”1 These questions help me open my heart and mind in trying situations, so that I can see a bigger, more divine picture.
Caroline Myss, in her book Anatomy of The Spirit, defines the act of the Christian sacrament of Baptism as “to receive or bestow an expression of grace representing gratitude for one’s life in the physical world.” She connects baptism to the root chakra, the Muladhara, which means “root support.” She also connects these to the same spiritual lesson as the sefirot Shekhinah (also known as Keneset Yisra’el and Malkhut or Malkhuth). This sefirot represents the feminine, the mystical community of Israel. All of Israel is her limbs (Zohar 3:23 lb). She says that this sefirot balances the masculine energy of the Yesod, it “is female and has many female names: Earth, Moon, Rose, Garden of Eden.” It is the grounding life force that feeds all that is alive.
When we merge these three perspectives of the same spiritual lesson (the energy of the tribal root chakra, the sacrament of Baptism, and the sefirah of Shekhinah), we get the merging of the feeling and thought that “All is One.”2 It is the beginning of our spiritual lesson path.
What does it mean to have a Contrite Spirit?
While the broken heart is the compassion we feel when we feel connected to all living things, the contrite spirit is the wisdom that flows from that feeling state. If our hearts are stuck in ego, scared and competitive, we obviously have different thoughts and stories in our minds than if our hearts are open in compassionate oneness. With this change in heart, we switch from a single celled organism to a cell in a body, a part of a tribe. Our thoughts toward action change from a singular, narrowly blinded perspective, to a bigger, more tribal perspective. We no longer tell ourselves the stories in our minds about how we are alone in this world. We see ourselves as part of All, changing our mind stories to fit the bigger truth. Our fears and disconnection start to fall away. Compassion and a sense of oneness take over.
When we change the stories we tell ourselves, in feeling and thought, we open up to a different kind of motivation for action. We are no longer alone and fighting blind in this world. Selfish, nihilistic, and aimed for death and destruction. We are now part of a group, a body, with a greater function. We are better able to see our place in the world and in our groups. We can take action from this greater knowing. Action that is more aligned with our true purpose. We no longer wish to hurt, or compete with our counterpart cells. We no longer yearn to hide or hurt ourselves. We no longer prove to be a cancerous cell in the organ we belong to, in the whole body of life. We start to cooperate in our groups, fulfilling our true functions. We can more clearly see the needs around us and fill them with compassion. We stop resenting. We start allowing ourselves to be moved by a higher purpose, with a clear vision and true inner narratives.
To me, the contrite spirit is the open mind that matches our opened heart, which leads us to act in accordance.
What does it mean to have a Contrite Spirit?
A broken heart is an open heart, connected to all. A contrite spirit is the wisdom that comes from this open connection. When they come together, we have great potential for divine action.
One of my most favorite articles to pull out in hard times is called, “Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea,” by Julie JC Peters. This article discusses a Hindu Goddess named “Akhilandeshvari,” which translates to “Never not broken.” She derives her power from being always broken. When we are broken into pieces, in a pile on the floor, our old stories and expectations are meaningless. All we are in that moment is change and flow. This always broken Goddess rides her crocodile, which represents our fear of change and death. The crocodile thrashes and spins, trying to drown us in fear. She does not reject her fear, she rides it. She rides her crocodile like a magic carpet, with a smile, using it to navigate the river of life. She moves and spins with the changes, like a whirlwind of light. This always broken Goddess knows she needs no egotistical identity. If she ever starts to see one coming together, she smashes it to bits. She knows that the more pieces she is, the more light she reflects. She becomes a prism of light. Just like a diamond, we only reflect light when we are cut. The potential for action from this state of complete brokenness is unlimited. It is the state of our greatest potential3.
In my experience, this is a process that never ends. Our egos and fears are always going to try to drive and drown us. We have the power to smash our egos open, ride our fears of change and death, and reflect divine light to the whole world.
- Dalai Lama XIV, An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life, 2001, Little, Brown and Company.
- Caroline Myss, Anatomy of The Spirit, 1996, Crown Publishers Inc.
- Julie JC Peters, Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea.