the way of the brokenhearted

Posted on November 19, 2008


themoonresized-1The Way of the Brokenhearted… Leads to the Way of the Open Heart. 

“God breaks the heart

again and again and again

until it stays OPEN.”

Hazrat Inayat Kahn (Sufi Master)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18)

Life is full of surprises. Some are positive but many others do not seem so positive. These surprises, whether positive or negative, are the “stuff” of life.

What we do with the good “stuff” is easy: rejoice, laugh, dance, celebrate, or whatever. What we do with the not-so-good “stuff” defines who we are. What we do with them gives our life meaning or despair. BUT WHAT DO WE DO WITH THESE SURPRISES? Our tragedies, broken dreams, failures, losses, etc. can devour us . . . or strengthen us.

“As long as we are mortal creatures who love other mortals, heartbreak will be a staple of our lives. And all heartbreak, personal and political, will confront us with the same choice. Will we hold our hearts open and keep trying to love, even as love makes us more vulnerable to the losses that break our hearts? Or will we shut down or lash out, refusing to risk love again and seeking refuge in withdrawal or hostility.  (Parker Palmer, Politics of the Brokenhearted)

The way of the open heart requires that we FACE ALL of life’s surprises . . . and learn deeply from them . . . and move on.


There are three spiritual disciplines that come from facing the brokenness of our lives. Much of life is about falling down, getting back up, and trying again. These three spiritual disciplines teach us about what it takes to get back up and maybe even about falling down less often; but mostly about living life more deeply, more richly, with more understanding and wisdom.

1. I must “penetrate the illusions about myself and the world that have taken me into this pain.”

“When my heart breaks and I am filled with self-pity and hopeless longing that things might somehow be different, I must look at myself in the clearest possible mirror, trying to penetrate the illusions about myself and the world that have taken me into this pain. Those illusions, however comforting they once were, have now become death-dealing. As long as I cling to them or try to revive them, my heartbreak will not give me, or anyone else, life.”

2. “I must allow myself to go to the center of my pain and stay there until I have felt it as fully as I can.”

“When I touch the painful truth behind my illusions, I must abandon all my clever ways of trying to ignore, flee from, or numb myself against my suffering. Instead, I must allow myself to go to the center of my pain and stay there until I have felt it as fully as I can. In personal life, this might mean letting myself cry and cry again—a “practiced power” well known to people who have lost a spouse or a lover or a friend whose presence defined their lives.”

3. We must set aside time to learn, through the silence of meditation and contemplation, “making space within and around ourselves so that conflict and confusion can settle and a deeper wisdom emerge.”

“Our can-do culture and our eager-to-impress egos want to show the world that we are in charge. We cannot abide the thought that when challenged, we might respond in a way that makes us look like witless, weightless wimps. So we do not wait; we act, even if our action simply triggers the next step in an endless and predictable chain reaction that ultimately brings more calamity down on us as well as others.

“But deep down, we know that when we step back, breathe, allow our agitation to settle, and simply start paying attention, we often see new possibilities in situations that once seemed intractable. The wisdom traditions, religious and secular, have always claimed that only in this contemplative state are we able to touch the truth, whether truth be understood as the fruit of mental acuity or of mystical experience.”

These deep truths or spiritual disciplines apply not only to our individual lives but to our collective lives as a nation.

These concepts and quotes are from Politics of the Brokenhearted by Parker J. Palmer. I highly encourage you to read this essay: