It’s been a difficult month. On May 18th my beloved sister Maria Cristina passed away, less than two years after being diagnosed with cancer. She died peacefully at home in the arms of her oldest son Gabriel at the age of 49.
Right now, I’m feeling heart-broken and overwhelmed by the feelings of guilt, grief and sadness that have surfaced as a result of my sister’s death…
Guilt for all the things I left unsaid, and for all I wanted to do but didn’t get around to. Grief for a future that will never be. And sadness, for the three young children she left behind who will not have their mother with them.
I’m also feeling love and appreciation for the life we did share, for all the joyful moments, and for all the support we gave each other throughout the years. I am who I am today, in many ways, because she was one of the few people in my life who believed in me. That’s how much she loved me.
At times like these, what has comforted me the most is the love and support of close friends, family and the community I have around me. A community that, since I came to South Africa, has magically weaved itself around this work I began about what it means to live authentically, lovingly, from the heart.
I’ve also found great comfort within my own heart and through the practices I’ve learned and share with others. They have paved the way for me to become more loving, compassionate and accepting, specially during emotionally challenging times. We do all these practices in preparations for moments just like these!
When I taught my new seminar The Path of the Heart earlier this month here in Cape Town, I shared with participants that The Path of the Heart is the path of vulnerability, surrender and courage…
Vulnerability so that you can feel more alive, and experience a deeper level of connection with yourself, others and life.
Surrender so that you can let go of all that no longer serves you and keeps you from experiencing a greater love and sense of emotional well-being. And…
Courage, so that you can face your biggest fears and wholeheartedly go after what your heart truly desires and longs for.
My sister’s passing has been an invitation for me to grow in these three areas by allowing myself to be vulnerable to the pain, grief and sadness of her loss, and surrendering them by giving myself permission to feel them. That’s the mechanism of surrender.
The biggest difference between the Gabriel I used to be, and the Gabriel I’m becoming as a result of taking a deep dive into this work, is that I’m no longer escaping my emotional pain by intellectualizing it, spiritualizing it, blaming others, or using fantasies, food, drugs, work, relationships, pornography or sex as coping mechanisms.
Having the courage to come face-to-face with the ultimate reality of my sister’s physical death, and the very complex mixture of feelings and emotions that are now arising, inevitably puts in me in touch with my own humanity, my own mortality and fear of being alive and going after what I truly want.
To me, this is what The Path of the Heart, living from your heart, or wholehearted living is all about:
Facing each moment of life with vulnerability, surrender, and courage.
It’s not something you do once, or when you feel like it. It’s not something you do when it’s convenient, or someone asks you to. It’s a way of being in the world, and showing up for yourself and others.
Because it is during times like these, when my heart is cracked wide open, that more love is revealed. That’s the paradox of the heart: it must break wide open in order for us to become more loving; like the lobster that sheds its old shell to allow for a bigger one to grow.
As liquid gold is purified in the fire, so are our hearts purified by the unavoidable pain that is part of being human and being alive. The pain our hearts willingly and lovingly accept, when we’re ready to surrender it. Only then, can the peace that surpasses all understanding can be truly experienced.
When I look back at my life, I so wish someone had taught me that self-love, or self-care meant to love all these aspects of myself, and to fully embrace the imperfect human being I am. More importantly, that the key to self-love resides in the unconditionally loving presence always accessible through my heart.
As we move into a new month of June, my prayer for both you and me is that we continue to walk this path of the heart with the vulnerability and surrender necessary to embrace what life is currently presenting us with, and that we find the courage to take those actions we’re being asked to take.
And that we remember that, even though the path can feel lonely and hard at times, there’s great love and support here for us… in each other, our families, friends, and within the Eternal Loving Presence that resides in our very own hearts.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end, and for letting me share my path with you.
Feel free to leave your comments below.
In the Photo: Cristina (middle), my late brother Juan (right) and a 7-year-old me (left). Gotta love them pants! 🙂