Breaking Open

Broken hearts. Broken contracts. Broken health. Broken vows. Broken dreams. Broken families. Broken friendships. Broken homes. Broken promises. Life cracks us open. No one escapes the chance to find value in brokenness. In each of these situations something that’s invisible splinters—our self-image.We are not the friend, employee, or wife we thought we were.We’re not as healthy, rich, protected, effective, or loved as we once believed.

We’re shaken to the core.

Writing the above words in my book, Unfolding I thought about how clients face disruptive times.  I thought about our family and my own times of being broken open. Life breaks everyone open. Will we stay present to the pain when we want to run? That is the question.

In my childhood I’d  fantasize about running away.   No homework. No chores. Fun all the time.  My adult version is renting a flat in artsy North Beach, a trendy area in San Francisco.  Or maybe hightailing it to a remote cabin in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Traveling plans appear for many of us when our emotions overwhelm and relief is not in sight. 

Geographical cures don’t fix anything.   Problems travel along.

Avoidance is based on an underlying misperception. We believe that we cannot face what’s at hand.  Feelings of fear emerge first felt as children. Then we did not have well developed coping skills.   Now we do.  Or we can learn ways of dealing.  We often fail to recognize this and opt for ignoring or postponing what is bothering us.

It is such a small offering to say that breaking open makes us stronger. Yet, it is true.  Just like the seedling pictured here, growth doesn’t happen until its hull cracks.  Ask anyone who has experienced one of these breaks and they will tell you how they grew through it. But, please don’t tell them about their potential for growth in a cheery voice as they writhe in pain.

Most people are willing to live in a narrow range of experience.  To be fully alive means great joy and great sadness. Confidence comes from touching and exploring what seems impossible to face. By doing this, we learn to rest into our core strengths.

Wholeness is easily forgotten at times when everything seems in pieces. Yet, ironically to be whole again we must find a place where we can fall apart. Resistance to breaking open keeps us fragmented.  This is where good friends can help.  We need people around us to offer love and support and to see beyond our brokenness.

Here are some things I’ve found helpful.

Soak in silence
Eat healthy food.
Be in good company
Appreciate nature
Write words that reflect your truth
Speak from your heart
Move your body 

 Breaking open forces us to dig deeper.

At our core we discover courage. 

And this simple truth…

We are stronger than we think.


                                                                                    Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

2 thoughts on “Breaking Open”

  1. Nancy,
    Thanks for the reminder that we are stronger than we think. That’s what I tell myself during the times of feeling broken. I also, like to ask the universe to help or tell the universe to take care of me. I know that I must be the one to sit in the discomfort, to have the courage to move forward. Your words have been a helpful reminder in many ways. I appreciate the “how to” guide!!!
    Thank YOU!!

  2. Lisa,
    Yes, I love remembering that I am stronger that I think. In every situation I lived through and those I witness, strength is what we discover at our core. I also become deeply engaged in my connection with the Great Mystery in times of concern and struggle. And that is a good thing along with a renewed reliance on my practices.

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