Kintsugi & The Art Of Heartbreak

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Kintsugi: The Japanese art of presenting breakage and imperfection as that which elevates an object's beauty. Using golden lacquer to illuminate the historical event, it is translated as an immutable aspect of impermanence and the inevitability of change. And it is, I think you'll agree, a lovely expression of the human experience.

My earliest memory of tragedy took place on a sunny day in the garden with my mother as she hung freshly laundered bed sheets out to dry. As the white linens billowed in the breeze that afternoon, she gently broke the news to me that a young friend had finally lost his battle with Leukemia. I was at the time too young to imagine or contemplate his family's pain, but I was acutely aware that from that day on nothing would ever be the same. We were all forever changed by our connection to him, and now by our loss of him. And this I believe is the perfection of that which breaks us. Because in these moments we have the opportunity to take a variety of paths in our interpretation of unspeakably painful events. Bitterness, injustice and futility. A dark and victimised view of the human experience and of life. Or we can, perhaps not at first, but eventually take the opportunity to dig deeply for meaning and compassion.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to hide from tragedy these days. Never have we had such widespread access to that which allows us, and even forces us, to witness the global suffering that is taking place on our planet today. To me this is evidence of our evolution as human beings. It seems to me that we have reached a point of being able to tolerate more reality with respect to the darkness that divides us, and as a result have developed the means for increased awareness. Of course this has also given birth to myriad ways to dissociate from and deny reality. But for many, it has provoked a deeper, more insistent search for the strength to witness and act from new levels of compassion and selflessness.

In order to do this however, I believe that we must first allow our hearts to break. Because when a heart really truly breaks, it has no choice but to illicit within us a deep and authentic compassion which then propels us into action and service. As a wise teacher recently told me, the ONE meets itself equally in every moment. In other words, we will always be met where we are. So because our hearts truest nature is compassion, when it breaks deeply in the presence of its own or another's pain, compassion must always arise in equal measure. It is the golden lacquer that makes the heart stronger, more forgiving, greater in size and more beautiful. It's also importantly the gold that makes inaction and apathy impossible.

So how do we look at the world today and not drown and fracture irreparably from the atrocious realities we're faced with? Our small frightened selves may invite us to anger, indignation, a desire to fight, reproach, intellectualise or turn away. And these responses are natural and perfect and in some cases have their place. But also, there is I feel a deeper, and I believe more effective place from which we can act. But we can only do this if we've first become free to meet our own inner experience with a deep state of acceptance.

In meditation we become observers. That doesn't mean we don't feel, in fact in my experience it means we become capable of feeling more deeply. And it certainly doesn't mean we don't act. We just become less prone to react. The clarity and strength derived from meditation makes us deliberate, intentional actors from a place of truth, acceptance and of course love. We become a far more powerful force for change than when we were passively dissociated or angrily indignant. Not because we grow a thick skin and learn to toughen up, but because we become capable of feeling profound levels of difficult feelings without having to change them. We slowly lose our desire to take action from a self centred need for personal comfort. The irony being of course that we become, without the urgency of fear, ego and the need for immediate well being, able to effect meaningful and long lasting change.

I believe we're living in a time where our greatest challenge is to learn to be deeply uncomfortable and broken hearted. To be able to look into the dark without indignation, judgement, moral superiority or any other type of dissociative or noninclusive response. To look and to feel, not from an ineffective place of white knuckling endurance or overwhelming despair, but from a place of strength and an inner connection to that which holds us like spiritual scaffolding until, with perfect and organic timing, the feelings pass and it's time to rise and take action with clarity and purpose.

Because genuine evolutionary change can only occur from a place of compassion and a desire for unified wellbeing. And I believe for this reason that meditation, which is the only thing I know of which allows us to deeply break in a way that gives us greater sanity and strength, has never been a more vital practice. So that we can face the world with broken hearts filled with compassion, and act from a place of powerful, intentional strength in the direction of an ever more unified and evolved state of being.

And this from Omid Safi on the wonderful On Being site.

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