I remember always loving hearts. As a young girl, I would draw them, color them, and doodle them everywhere, even in the sandy dirt of Texas. Somewhere along the line, I started collecting anything that had the image of a heart; things such as jewelry, knick-knacks, clothes, and anything else I could find with a heart on it. I still love them, although, over the years the collections of things have slowed. I still see them everywhere, printed on pillows, clothing, housewares, delighted that they have become a part of modern pop culture.
The image of hearts had always represented love to me. I’m not sure how a Tomboy living on a farm in Texas, connected with this image at such an early age, but I’m glad I did. Most of my life I thought hearts were just something that I liked and brought me joy, but it seems to have a deeper purpose and meaning for me now.
It occurred to me that not only have I been collecting things with hearts on them my whole life, but also, I have been collecting pieces of hearts from people. From my family and friends to romantic partners, and strangers. Each of them has left some residue or part of their soul in me.
The Christmas of 2014 was 4 months after my husband Brian had committed Suicide. I sent my kids to their dad’s and drove to Florida to try to escape any remnants of the holiday season. One day I was on the beach soaking up the sun and happy to be away from all the familiar things back home that reminded me of him, and the Christmas season. Suddenly, the tears came and grief, shock, and despair enveloped me. I rolled over on my beach towel and sobbed. I have no idea how long I was there, nor was I aware of anyone around me. In the midst of grief, and in my case trauma also, I was consumed with uncontrollable despair. I was no longer in my body or aware of the present moment.
Out the blue, I heard a sweet lady’s voice, and soft touch on my shoulders. “Excuse me,” she said, “Is there anything we can do to help you? Are you hurt? Are you alright?” It was surreal to be pulled out of my despondency. The echos of waves crashing swirled in my head as the sound her voice was angelic. I sat up, and in front of me were two women carrying beach towels and adorable buckets filled with shells. In between sobs, I assured them that I was not physically hurt, but that my husband had just died, and I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to go on.
KINDNESS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL TO SPREAD LOVE AMONG HUMANITY.”
They knelt down in the sand and asked if they could pray for me. I said yes. They leaned in and wrapped their arms around me. I don’t remember the words they said, but I remember the love I felt. I will always carry it with me. This beautiful act of compassion and kindness is love. I’d like to think that I collected small pieces of their hearts that day.
One year later I was getting certified to teach yoga. Each morning we met for daily a mediation practice. It was then that I first learned about the practice of loving-kindness meditation or Metta. It cracked my heart wide open to the possibility of healing, growth, and purpose in my life.
Loving-kindness meditation is a practice of wishing well being on yourself, a loved one, a neutral person, a person whom you have difficulty with, and finally the whole world. From the minute I learned about this beautiful and traditional practice, I had images of hearts in my mind’s eye. Flashes of the literal hearts, and the metaphysical hearts I had touched, and who had touched me over the past 51 years washed over me.
The two strangers on the beach that day may not have been practicing a formal Metta meditation in the traditional sense, but with whole-heartedness, they certainly nailed the intent and meaning behind it.
This experience was a powerful and unforgettable part of my journey. I’ve always strived to keep this tucked away in my pocket, so if I ever need it, I can extend the same compassion to someone else.