Last week I took a much-needed vacation. The intent of this vacation was to finish up my last classes for yoga teaching certification, to enjoy time running outside, and most of all, spend time training and snuggling with our puppy Juno.
Of course, life can change in an instant, and with the sudden passing of our dog, I went from counting down the days to vacation, to almost dreading being alone in our empty house.
A few days before my vacation, I received a call from my mother. “Annie, your brother and father will be delivering your piano on Saturday. We knew you would need it.” In that moment I went from utter sadness to love and appreciation for a family that understands how important music is to me.
I have been living three years without a piano, and playing my childhood piano in my home felt like comfort food for my soul. Saturday night I spent time playing and singing. I began digging through my music books and found some incredible things.
In the pile of books and sheet music, I found a notebook from camp when I was ten. As I began to read my journal entries I found poems, pictures of animals, and love notes for my family. I found a different notebook with poems and songs I wrote in middle school and high school. Granted, I would never show another living soul this discovery, but it helped me remember what a sensitive and loving individual I was as a child.
This wasn’t always a good thing. I had to grow into my heart, crying when I would witness others feeling pain, and being WAY too intense with how much I cared about things or people.
Because my heart was open so wide, I also experienced a lot of hurt, and I slowly began to build an emotional wall around myself, feeling less, and hurting less. I thought this was ‘growing up’ and that I was simply becoming ‘more mature’.
It wasn’t until I discovered yoga that I realized how disconnected I was from my true essence. Yoga helped me slowly take down the wall, brick by brick. I could feel again and love again. This time, knowing myself more, I wasn’t as reliant on the love of others but instead, more grounded in my own self-love.
It wasn’t until Juno passed that I really felt the pain of living with an open heart. This was my first major loss since working on connecting more to life’s experiences, and my heart was her’s from the moment we met.
On my vacation, I needed to teach myself how to grieve the right way, not stuffing it in or numbing out as I have in the past.
My first day of vacation was a rainy and gloomy day. In the afternoon there was a break in the clouds, so I decided to take a run. After a mile into my run I began to feel incredible sadness, missing my running partner. As my thoughts wandered the storms began again. I ran in silence, feeling my feet strike the ground as rain hit the pavement.
Crying in the rain is incredibly cliché, but it felt as though I was more connected to the world. Rain is essential for the earth; just as expression is essential for healthy living.
Through running and spending some time on my mat in restorative postures I found the courage to say – I am not OK. I am mad. I am hurt.
After I took the time to really feel my emotions I was able to then say – I regret nothing. I feel so sad, because I felt such love. I was so blessed to have Juno in my life.
It is true that living with an open heart will guarantee feelings of loss and sadness at an intense and almost unbearable level. It will also provide you with the sweetest love, and the most genuine relationships.
How to Explore Living with an Open Heart:
As children, we knew the importance of connection and love. If you have the opportunity, see if you can find old letters or poems you wrote as a child, or read something a child wrote you. As you read, connect and remember how to live with an open heart again.
Take a moment to be still, breath, and connect to your inner child. Remembering what it felt like to love something without fear, or thoughts of judgment. Think of a childhood blanket, or stuffed animal and how much you enjoyed having that love and comfort always with you.
While on your mat and after a few sun salutations, find a challenging pose. While holding this posture, internally think of a mantra for self-love. Through the struggle, find some lightness, and self-appreciation.
My feelings of anger, sadness, hurt, appreciation, and love continue to cycle. The important thing – allowing, feeling, and remaining open, knowing this will make me a better partner, and grateful parent for our next four legged child when we are ready to open our hearts again.