Further contemplation reveals that a strategy I have frequently employed in recent history, both for self-protection -- heart protection -- and to achieve what I hope will pass for Courage, results in hardening my heart. This realization was triggered with stunning impact this morning when I open a holiday package from Indiana. Inside I found a variety of quirky goodies and at the bottom of the box lay a long, flat package wrapped tidily in red tissue paper. I peeled off the paper to find a sedate book entitled "The Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas."
With my heart so open, a parade of other lost loves rushed to mind. Loss! My knees buckled beneath the weight of the devastating flood of pain.
And the Protective Guardians appeared in the doorway of consciousness, armed and uniformed, their faces hidden behind visors that reflected my own face back to me. They stood in firm readiness to
spring into action, resuming their posts around my heart; blocking the memories and associated pain.
I thought, they must be here because they love me. They want to protect me. They don't want me to hurt.
In truth, they are me.
They are "me protecting myself."
And I remembered, again, the primary negative side effect of protecting my heart: a diminution of Joy. Encircled by the armed guardian angels, shielded from injury, I am also shielded from the rest of Life: nothing can harm me but neither can anything comfort or caress or amuse me.
I know there are other strategies for coping with the pain/fear/protection complex. Pema Chodron (and others) share teachings that advocate opening the heart to pain, embracing difficult times with compassion and vulnerability. I am familiar with the practice. I have experienced the sensation of massive expansion that occurs -- big heart, big mind, big joy, big energy boost.
But I have strayed from that practice.
And I am returning to it today.