Sunday, April 4, 2010

Your Personal Growth: Requires a Tender Heart



A Splendid Rose

A splendid rose stood all alone
Surrounded by a wall of stone
Around the wall were flowers too
But neither the wiser each one grew
And as the flowers did dwell
So does man within his shell
Not learning all the things he could
Nor making all the friends he should
Like the autumn leaves fall and die
So will the spirit live a lie
Until the spring of a new rose bud
And the wall destroyed
By the light of love.
My father passed away during my senior year of high school which caused a tremendous emotional upheaval inside me. I wrote the poem above (inspired by "The Rose" by Lucky Van Horn) not long after the loss. I felt compelled to go to the depths of my feelings and express them. Of course losing a loved one is our greatest fear and in fear, I closed myself off from the world. What I didn't realize was that my poem would be a blueprint for my personal growth. The next step in my spiritual journey was about understanding the heart.

The process of my personal growth was similar to a captivating passage in the book, The Sacred Path of the Warrior, by Chogyam Trungpa

"Fear has to be acknowledged. We have to realize our fear and reconcile ourselves with fear. We must face the fact that fear is lurking in our lives, always, in everything we do. On the other hand, acknowledging fear is not a cause for depression or discouragement. Because we possess such fear, we also are potentially entitled to experience fearlessness. Real fearlessness is not a reduction of fear, but going beyond fear.

Going beyond fear begins when we examine our fear: our anxiety, nervousness, concern, and restlessness. If we look into our fear, if we look beneath its veneer, the first thing we find is sadness, beneath the nervousness. Nervousness is cranking up, vibrating, all the time. When we slow down, when we relax with our fear, we find sadness, which is calm and gentle. Sadness hits you in your heart, and your body produces a tear. Before you cry, there is a feeling in your chest, and then, after that, you produce tears in your eyes. That is the first tip of fearlessness. You might think that, when you experience fearlessness, you will hear the opening to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony or see a great explosion in the sky, but it doesn't happen that way. Discovering fearlessness comes from working with the softness of the human heart.

The birth of a warrior is like the first growth of a reindeer's horns. At first, the horns are very soft and almost rubbery, and they have little hairs growing on them. Then, as the reindeer ages, the horns become stronger, developing four points or ten points. Fearlessness, in the beginning, is like those rubbery horns. They look like horns, but you can't quite fight with them. When a reindeer first grows its horns, it doesn't know how to use them. But then the reindeer begins to realize that it should have horns: that horns are a natural part of being a reindeer. In the same way, when a human being first gives birth to the tender heart, he or she may feel incredibly awkward or uncertain about how to relate to this kind of fearlessness. But then, as you experience this sadness more and more, you realize that human beings should be tender and open. So you no longer need to feel shy or embarrassed about being gentle. In fact, your softness begins to become passionate. You would like to extend yourself to others and communicate with them.

When tenderness evolves in that direction, then you can truly appreciate the world around you. Sense perceptions become fascinating things. You are so tender and open already that you cannot help opening yourself to what takes place all around you. When you see red or green or yellow or black, you respond to them from the bottom of your heart. When you see someone crying or laughing or being afraid, you respond to them as well.

When you begin to feel comfortable being a gentle and decent person, your reindeer horns no longer have little hairs on them - they are becoming real horns. Situations become very real, quite real, and on the other hand, quite ordinary. Fear evolves into fearlessness naturally, very simply, and quite straightforwardly."

What I've learned over the years...

When our hearts are not open and connected to the world around us (has a wall of stone around it) we begin to contract and stay in that contracted state. Our natural rhythm is to contract and expand. In other words, experience life's pain and sorrow as well as the joy and excitement of living. By allowing the heart to BEAT in its natural rhythm, fear does not add more bricks to the wall... but helps us develop understanding and compassion.

During the early 1990's my life was far from being extraordinary. It was very ordinary, studying for college classes and spending time with loved ones when fearlessness occurred for me.  It was very calm and gentle time, and I felt connected with the world around me. Then one morning a mysterious thing happened a splendid yellow rose underneath my apartment window which wasn't there the day before! I confirmed with the landlord; landscapers did not plant the rose underneath my window.

"Until the spring of a new rose bud and the wall destroyed by the light of love." I thought of my poem and reflected on the past several years. I had developed little soft rubbery horns!  Finally, I understood love and why personal growth requires a tender heart. I had faced fear and handled each unexpected up or down in my life with wisdom.

-3rd Dog  aka Betsy Malone

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