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On Valentine’s Day and always: your heart can hold the universe

On Valentine’s Day and always: your heart can hold the universe

Some personal reflections on the vastness of the human heart recently published online in “The Daily Brunch.”

In many nations we’ll soon be celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14. One popular belief states that Valentine’s Day began as a commemoration of St. Valentine’s death or burial around 270 A.D.  By the Middle Ages Valentine’s Day had become an occasion to honor love and romance.

Today the hearts-and-flowers holiday is a gigantic sales event, second only to Christmas in global marketing efforts. There’s so much exaggerated emphasis on showering your sweetheart with gifts that if you’re not in a romantic relationship, Valentine’s Day can be heartbreaking. There’s a monumental cultural pressure to feel and act a certain way on this holiday.

So here we are, not far from Valentine’s Day, and I’m feeling extraordinarily emotional. At times I have a lump so large in my throat, I feel I might choke. However, it’s not because I’m without a lover to give chocolate truffles and sexy underwear. Some of what I feel is grief for the fear and loneliness in our world, especially at this time when we’re expected to celebrate love and connection. Yesterday I saw a homeless man panhandling on the snowy street corner, a tiny Chihuahua shivering in his backpack. I cried after I gave him a dollar. The angry youth at the station where I stopped for gas was yelling obscenities at the police officers who were questioning him. I shed more tears as I watched him lash out in his confusion.

Some of my emotions spilled over because of gratitude for the internal changes I’ve experienced in the last 7-8 years. I’m on a journey of deep soul transformation based on unconditional love for myself and others. All of these elements made me feel like my heart was being stretched way beyond its blood-and-muscle limits.

Then I read this timely reminder late last night, a quote from “Coming Back to Life” by Joanna Macy – “Should you feel an ache in the chest, a pressure in the rib cage, as if the heart would break, that is all right. Your heart is not an object that can break . . . But if it were, they say the heart that breaks open can hold the whole universe. Your heart is that large. Trust it. Keep breathing . . . “

I know the truth of this, that there’s no limit to what the human heart can feel and embrace. There’s no end to the love and compassion it can hold and share. It just keeps expanding as you welcome in your real feelings, as you let your tears flow, whether they’re inspired by joy or sadness.

It takes a lot of courage to show up in this world with such a vulnerable, tender spirit. Often, tears are seen by many people as a sign of weakness. On the contrary, tears that are shed because of authentic gratitude or empathy for others bear the power to transform you as an individual.

And as you are transformed to manifest more love and kindness, as your heart and soul are stretched wide enough to “hold the whole universe,” so is our world transformed.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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