A heavy heart.
You know it. The texture of a deep sigh stuck in your chest space, unable to flow freely.
The heaviness I’m referring to is the sense of weight that comes from feeling powerless.
Not the panicky, heart-palpating stress of a fresh, new predicament, but a deep “stuck-ness” that takes up residence in the bone marrow, revealing itself in habitual patterns of coldness, aggression, defensiveness, and “fuck-the-world-ness”.
This state was very familiar to me, particularly after my second daughter was born. In even more recent times, even though the incredible depletion of that first year is behind me, I’ve found myself back there regularly. In that weighty, stuck space. Call it a spiritual awakening, call it navigating contemporary motherhood in a shifting global paradigm. I haven’t named it, but I think I get it.
I believe that for many of us, during these heavy-hearted times, we’re simultaneously trekking the rocky terrain of rage as it intersects with the deep waters of compassion.
It’s tiring, blurry, and slippery as fuck.
It’s not new to me that my empath nature carries what feels like all the afflictions of humanity on its shoulders. I am painfully aware of not only the shitty ways people treat each other “out there”, but also how my own privilege and that of those close to me manifests in shitty ways right in front of me, moment by moment.
I feel like I’m battling myself in a solo game of tug-o-war.
One day, able to deeply empathise and connect to the experience of individuals as they navigate their own personal pain; the next in a state of furious rage at the systems that maintain violence and oppression towards everyone other than white cis-gendered men, and how we’re all complicit in keeping them alive.
It’s a to-and-fro of epic proportions. Because on one hand, being a conscious woman is a revelation. On the other, continually confronting and stripping back layers of deep conditioning is one giant womb-ache. Reconciling this paradox is no small feat.
Years ago, even as a counselor, I didn’t have the tools to work with my heavy heart when it showed up. I could intellectualise until the cows came home about the wrongs and rights of the world, but this would just take me into an even more cavernous state of overwhelm, often manifesting in tension, a suppressed immune system, and general “numbness”.
I learned how to be hard. Critical. Defensive. Because at least then I felt like I was coming across as “strong woman”.
I learned to apologise if my sensitive nature leaked out. “Sorry,” I’d say hiding my tears. Even from those who knew me best.
For feeling? For letting my heavy heart take centre stage?
The thing that sucks about labeling feelings “good” or “bad”, is that we habitually steer clear of the bad ones. Or, if we succumb to them, we do it privately and swallow the shame.
Then we waltz out into the world with our armour on, proclaiming:
“Look at me! Look at how fine I am! Look at how wonderfully I cope with the weight of the world on my heart! It doesn’t hurt at all, I promise!”
And does it also sound familiar, when in the next breath, we beep and swear furiously at the person who takes our parking space, or scream at our kids for being too slow to get dressed, or stew with bitterness over something our partner says, giving them the stink eye and sleeping as far away as possible from them for a week?
The heavy heart all armoured up is a force, all right.
But not a force that lies behind true power.
Not the kind that creates change.
Not the kind that sparks magic.
Not the kind that connects people.
Not the kind that makes you proud to be human.
Instead, the force that lies behind real power is one we haven’t been taught. Because it’s the steady yet surrendering; honest yet compassionate kind.
The power of softness.
A dichotomy in our culture — power and softness. At first glance, they appear as enemies. We’ve been raised to perceive the notion of power as “authority over” others; the strivings of a few to rule the masses. We’ve been raised to believe that the powerful are loud. They’re bold. Forthright. Decisive.
But what of a leadership that is quieter? More tender? More attuned?
You may be deceived into believing it’s not possible. How can softness = power?
It’s my belief that true power cannot be achieved without softness, and softness cannot be achieved without first digging into your pain and letting it flood your bloodstream with abandon.
That may sound terrifying to you, but I promise it’s not as bad as you might think. We are often so scared of what our big emotions might feel like, that we create a big, beastly incarnation of them in our mind. We stuff that package of pain deep down into our soul, hiding it from view for fear of its wrath.
But it seeps. Sometimes a trickle, other times it bursts a pipe. And when we get a feel for what it might do to us, without the awareness or the tools of how we might go about processing it, we find a brick to stuff it down again. And then a concrete sleeper. And then before we know it, we’ve built a wall.
This wall can be so heavy it crushes our heart.
What if to save our heart, instead of shutting down these feelings, we let our body lead? What if we followed our sensitivity, giving it permission to guide us, not to weakness — but to greatness, and trust it to emotionally detox all by itself?
What if we faced our rage, channeled it in ways that didn’t bring repercussions to innocent others, until we made enough space from the triggers that we could invite in compassion?
What if we danced between the rage and compassion, allowing the process to be imperfect? Allowing it to be a work-in-progress? Allowing it to be a portal into conscious, evolving humanness?
What if finding the sweet spot between rage and compassion is where authentic personal power is born?
Wouldn’t that be freeing? Knowing that there was space for both fury and forgiveness?
This is where I’ve come to in my life. I’m deep in the dance of rage and compassion and it’s been the richest experience for me yet. Never easy, nor straightforward. But rich, in the ways life should be rich.
The process of softening into being, giving me opportunities to hold both these states, has been the most incredible gift. As a woman who feels so much it hurts, I now give myself permission to do so. Even when it aches so bad I’m not sure I can breathe.
I rage in my body and let her prove to me she has it handled. I trust her to move me and free me from the tension, just as she knows how.
And then the softness enters. The spaciousness. The openness. Allowing me to be with another’s pain, to hold them in their rage.
My children, my partner, my friends, and my clients. I can be powerful for them, as well as for myself.
To me, this is the art of feminine embodiment. The practice of softening to cultivate power and potency.
It is a practice because we’re not born into a world that understands it very well. Those of us who recognise ourselves in others immersed in these practices follow the breadcrumbs. Unsurprisingly, our felt senses take us there.
And then we know we’re home.
The secret to a rich and delicious womanhood is learning to inhabit ourselves fully, with compassion and reverence for all facets of who we are. Once we realise that WE are the ones we’ve been searching for, our sensual, magnetic power is unstoppable.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends 52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life: BS-Free Wisdom to Ignite Your Inner Badass and Live the Life You Deserve.
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