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Hearts don’t just break — they break open

December 31, 2016

Hearts don’t just break — they grow too big to hold what’s inside, and they open.  Robyn Norman

Having experienced a broken open heart more than once, I know from whence I speak.

I’ve learned that the only way to get at the good stuff is to let our hearts break open.  And hearts break open with joy as well as sadness.  A broken open heart is how love shows itself.

Loving is risky.  It requires vulnerability and courage.  And it always begins and ends with a broken open heart.

Over the years I’ve gotten better at expressing both vulnerability and courage .  In Emotional Agility Susan David says: “Abandon the idea of being fearless, and instead walk directly into your fears, with your values as your guide, toward what matters to you.  Courage is not an absence of fear; courage is fear walking.”  She nailed it — I read it and felt understood.

In fact, I suspect that I am the epitome of fear walking.  I recently told someone I’m afraid of everything.  The truth is that I’m afraid of everything until I walk into it and notice it doesn’t kill or permanently maim me.

By leaning into what I am most afraid of, I’ve discovered that the fear seems to let go of me, rather than the other way around.  I don’t have to work so hard.  I just need to keep walking.

It isn’t just love that breaks our hearts open.  It’s achievements and failures and generosities, both in giving and getting.  It’s anything that stretches our hearts beyond what we thought they were capable of.

We decide to push send on our first blog.  We go for an interview that is way beyond or outside our current level of expertise.  We see the little boy in the wheelchair and instead of looking away, we smile and say hi.  It doesn’t matter if we get the job or rave reviews or a hi back.

What breaks our hearts open is the movement beyond what we currently know; and the experience of seeing that it didn’t kill us, and in fact, actually showed us we are stronger and braver and more than we imagined.

My heart breaks open every time I risk telling the truth with kindness, or receive an uncomfortable truth with openness and receptivity.

It seems to me that we humans are so afraid of feeling afraid, or sad, or lonely or lost … we keep our lives small.  We throw our opinions around like grass seed, hoping that no one will notice we’re not quite as sure of ourselves as we’d like to appear.

I want a big life.  A courageous life.  I want to continue to be fear walking, until I’m not.

These days a broken open heart no longer sounds like a death knell.  It feels more like a peace offering to myself.

A caveat — the vulnerability that comes with courageous actions can feel like weakness.  And there’s nothing we fear more than weakness.  But isn’t weakness simply the flip side of strength?  If I never feel weak how will I develop strength??

In a previous Seedlings I suggested that “we are never more powerful than when we are completely vulnerable and have nothing to defend”.  You’ll also see it repeated on my website because it’s been such an important learning for me.

The idea that we can free up the energy we have been pouring into protecting ourselves, and use it to make our lives big, is exciting!

Think of one area where you tell yourself: “I can’t do it because … I’m too old; I’ve always been this way; they’ll be unhappy with me; I won’t be good at it; blah blah blah … ”

Now ask yourself what you have to lose by challenging that noise in your head?  Take one concrete step in the direction of that thing you just never let yourself reach for.  What have you got to lose by giving it a shot, in spite of your fear?  Seriously, I’m not kidding!  See if it doesn’t break your heart open.  And then notice how alive you feel … even if you didn’t get the hoped for outcome, you were alive and moving in the direction of being who you know you are.

I’d love to hear what you come up with.  I’m sick of saying I don’t cook.  I don’t cook because I’m not confident about it, so I don’t enjoy it.  I’m thinking that in 2017 I’m going to get a couple killer dishes under my belt and then invite friends to sample my bigger life?!  (Feel free to send me your favorite recipes!!)

What will you do?  Please let us know in a comment or email me directly.

p.s.  We recently went live with our new website – you can check it out here:  https://partnersinmindfulliving.com .  If you run into any glitches please give us a heads up!

Thanks so much for continuing to let me know that you enjoy Seedlings.  Breaks my heart open every time.

Much love,


  1. Julie says:


    Thanks for sharing these lovely thoughts, which strike several very familiar chords. Sending you a big hug as the new year rolls in.
    P.S. LOVE your new site. Beautiful!

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