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Change the World: Make friends with your Heart

Friday, October 2, 2009 by Marianne Elliott

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Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.

Rumi

Last week I wrote a list of 10 things you probably shouldn't say to a friend who doesn't have children. It was quite an experience. People responded, to say the least.

One of the ways in which people responded was by talking to me about it. As a result of one of those conversations I realised that one of the items on the list is probably the most important of all. It's also the item that bothers me least, these days.

What used to bother me the most was the suggestion that the love between a parent and child was much deeper, wider and more profound than any other love. The inference was that if I was unable (or unwilling for any reason) to have children then I would never experience true, deep love.

This no longer bothers me. It can still be pretty hurtful to others, though, so I still suggest you might want to think twice before launching into your rant about how only having a baby has taught you what true love is.

It no longer bothers me because now, finally, I understand that the fullest, deepest love already resides within me. If I don't experience this love for all beings all the time it is simply (ha!) because of the barriers and obstacles that I've erected around my heart, because of the way I contract and withdraw my heart in fear or shame or blame or guilt.

I'd suggest that babies have a special gift for getting us to lower those barriers. It may be their inherent vulnerability or it may be because they haven't yet put up any barriers around their own hearts, which is the same thing. But one way or another babies invite us to let down our barriers. This is particularly but not, in my experience, exclusively true of our own babies, whether by birth or otherwise.

So we let down our barriers. We engage with these marvelous little beings in moments free of fear, blame, guilt or expectation. As our hearts open we experience our own true nature, which is love, joy, equanimity and compassion. We then attribute this experience to the other being. We assume it is this wonderful baby that causes this love to arise in us (I've done the same with lovers). When, in fact, it was all within us all along.

So now when people tell me that since they have had their baby they have come to know what love really is, instead of feeling cheated I feel joy. I feel joy that another being has opened their heart. I know now that there are other paths towards an open heart. I've come to understand that although a baby may be one of the best short-cuts around, ultimately we can all learn to open our hearts irrespective of the company we are keeping. It's not easy but it is simple.

It starts with sitting still and making friends with your own mind and heart.

It's another way to change the world.

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14 Responses to "Change the World: Make friends with your Heart"

  1. Jen Lee says:

    Yes, I think there are many paths to an open heart. For. Sure.

  2. Paris Parfait says:

    You make a good point about our barriers tumbling down with children. I think it’s the hopefulness and innocence of children that wins us over. And some adults I know have never cracked open those barriers to love and remain fearful to fully love others and especially themselves. One woman I know comes across as selfish and enormously ego-centric. She can be quite exasperating and challenging, but she’s just scared and lonely. She won’t allow herself to truly love or let anyone really love her, so she constantly tries to diminish others…behaviour stemming from fear, not love.
    As for babies or small children, I’ve often seen social situations where children act as mini mediators or peacemakers when adults don’t get along. Adults who disagree about almost everything will focus their attention on the children in the room, to get through the social awkwardness.
    Children are the peacemakers…but peace begins within us – as does love. It’s up to us how engaged we choose to become with others and the world; we don’t need a baby to truly experience love. xo

  3. Charles Cameron (hipbone) says:

    The quote at the top seems to be from A Course in Miracles, chapter on The Illusion and the Reality of Love:
    http://tinyurl.com/y85k90t
    Best as ever,
    Charles

  4. Swirly says:

    This is such a beautiful, important post and I so appreciate you sharing this. It is true, of all the comments only one really gets under my skin, and it is the one you mention. Thank you so much for speaking to something close to my heart so eloquently.

  5. Sophie says:

    Thank you for posting this. I also appreciate it and appreciate the thought that you have put into writing it.

  6. amy says:

    thank you for sharing such a thoughtful perspective. i have let myself feel hurt by the kind of comments you describe. i’m not sure i am quite as generous or as willing to find the joy in those moments as you are – yet – but your post has given me a new way to think about those conversations.

  7. sassy says:

    I love this post.
    I am so glad you have opened this dialogue. So many times (you know…) I have felt so misunderstood, so left behind, by those kind of comments. I don’t want to anymore, I’d like to feel stronger. I’m forgiving those people, moving on.
    I agree that a baby is a shortcut to knowing love, but loss and doing without may be a long steady road towards the same destination… depending on how we choose to walk.
    (I hope that makes sense.)

  8. Ash says:

    Hi.I found you through Susannah’s blog. I’ve been told so many times that I don’t know what real love is, because I don’t have a child. I’ve been told I’m selfish because I made the decision not to try and have a child. I have good reasons for making this decision: genetic factors, and being parented by people who were too fearful to open themselves to give or receive love, due to their own miserable childhoods. I didn’t want to risk passing any of that on to yet another generation, and I think my decision was responsible, rather than selfish. People told me to go ahead and have a baby, and I would love it when it arrived. I couldn’t be sure I would know how to do that, so I decided not to take the risk. You only have to read the newspapers to know that not all parents love their children, and not every person is emotionally equipped to be a parent.
    On the other hand, I know what total freedom feels like. I know what it feels like to be responsible for no one but myself, and that’s something parents don’t experience. So, there are trade-offs, and I don’t think anyone should judge another person, or hold their own decisions up as being “right”. Several women have told me that if they had their time over again they would not have their children. Although they love their kids, they say that sometimes it’s all just too hard. Not all kids are little cherubs, and some of them turn out to be little horrors, despite their parents’ best efforts. I think we each have to make our own choices and others need to respect that. I don’t go around telling people they are selfish for having children when there are already way too many people on the planet, or that they shouldn’t have more children because they are bad parents. Imagine how indignant people would get if I did. So, I don’t know why some people feel it’s okay to tell childless and childfree women that they don’t know what they’re missing. I think that most people who choose not to have children really do look into their hearts and souls and go with what they know to be true for them. Having a child in case I might miss out on something doesn’t seem a valid enough reason to me. I know what love is, and I agree with you that it resides within. It’s something you feel, if you are open and brave and true to yourself. You don’t need a child to feel complete, just as you don’t need a partner, or a big house, or lots of money. We are enough, just as we are, although sometimes we have to work hard to convince ourselves of the fact.

  9. pen* says:

    this post was beautifully written and lifts the veil off the “real love” that some parents feel is exclusive to their club.
    it’s true, our path to finding wholeness is all unique and individual; and hearing you articulate it so eloquently, enables me to see it even more clearly, and those words won’t sting the same way should i hear them again.
    thank you :)

  10. Emma says:

    Wonderful insight!

  11. linni says:

    Wow! Beautifully written..and yes, it is by opening our hearts.
    I’m just trying to remember the difference….for 9 years having to hear that comment…and then adopting a little boy…the love I felt was one that I have never before experience, but upon reading your words, it was not ‘because we have a son’, it was hearts opened and healed!
    Amazing!! and beautiful!!! and true xx

  12. A child gives one an effortless opportunity to experience selfless love, but alas, without practice it does not last. We always love our children (insert other love object here) but as soon as we attach to an outcome for our children (insert other love object here) we are no longer loving unconditionally.
    Loving things as they are, without trying to fashion them into something we think is better, is true love. Not only a capacity within us all, but the very substance of life, and yet rarely seen among human beings, except of course among young children. They don’t, for long, release it in us; they demonstrate it and for a time, contaminate us with pure love. All feelings are mutual.

  13. leonie says:

    yes, you’ve really touched on something for me here: sitting still and making friends with my own mind and heart.
    because {it feels to me}… if i am unable to do this, how can i meet others and fully & completely make friends with their mind and heart.

  14. We all have had barriers put in front of us in life, sometimes doors close on us and sometimes new doors open-easily said for some.
    Hearts are made to be broken, such as the mind is made to think, we must learn to go with our thoughts in our hearts and not the ones in our mind. If we do this then our hearts open up the mind within the hearts of others.
    Since i have come across this topic, my heart has opened up to the world.
    Likewise you are only one person in this world but you may be the the world to one person. Its such a gift for us all to open our hearts up towards the rest of the world, sometimes its hard for some because we can never think what that person has gone through in their childhood years, all we can do to overcome this is understand compassion for one another. We were all children once in our life and as we grow older we sometimes forget this.
    Generally spiritual people are always compassionate, sometimes we forget how someone may feel if we leave them out sometimes, so we must treat everyone as our own soul, such that we don’t hurt one another. I hope this helps? If i can help one person in life open up their heart to the world, then i know i’ve made a difference.

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