Climate Change of the Heart

What’s the climate of our time?

Judging from what I hear from the news, the world is coming to an end. From what I hear from YouTube celebrities, it won’t if I do “these five things (and number four will surprise me!).” From what I hear from my heart, I don’t even know where to begin. So maybe from the beginning?

“Staying grounded in the storm: contemplative living.” That was the invitation of the first Heart Longings seminar, knocking on my door just three days after I learned that my mother had cancer and that she wouldn’t have it, or anything else, for much longer. The seminar’s title sounded both like a bad joke and providence. I chose to believe it was the latter. The next session, “For everything there is a season,” I missed, as it was the day to say goodbye to my mother. And so began the season of numbness, sadness, and love; my heartbroken Heart Longings.

In that mental space, even ordinary events, like passing other people on the street, can send your heart on a completely different trajectory. The urgent becomes meaningless, the search for meaning becomes more urgent than ever, and the loneliness of it all is clearly visible and deeply felt. I’ve never worshipped at our cultural altars of big numbers, immediate results, and soul murder; but that’s the climate that surrounds me. It’s hard to pretend that this pressure doesn’t affect me; it’s hard to escape it – even in the realm of the spiritual. “Prayers that work” and “God’s workers” who attempt to fix me but don’t.

I remember Gerald May saying that when you break a bone, your doctor doesn’t heal it. S/he just positions it in a way that allows it to heal. God does the work.

When your heart is broken, the same is true. It needs to be positioned in a way that allows it to heal. It requires a climate that will let it grow again. A community to hold it. People create the climate, God does the healing.

The climate of my Heart Longings community varied through our seasons. In spring, we were all together on Zoom with new teachers, themes, and talks in breakout rooms. In summer our small group gathered: a time of warmth, prayer and encouragement. In autumn, with my spiritual director, we attempted to discern which leaves were dead and ready to fall off. The fourth week of the month, without any scheduled meetings, seemed like winter, though much was being processed, waiting for another spring.

“What is love? It is a walk in a drizzle. You walk and walk and only after a while do you realize that you have become soaked to the core (attributed to Pope John Paul II).” Looking back at my walk with Heart Longings, I can see how contemplative stillness quietly uncovered itself as an element of my core. I can feel how these people will always be part of my community. I’m grateful for the climate. I keep walking.

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Jane Kniffin
Jane Kniffin
10 months ago

Beautifully written🙏

Kate Coffey
Kate Coffey
10 months ago

I am so grateful for your voice and presence in the world, Aleksandra! Thank you for sharing your experience and reminding me how important the surrounding climate is for our healing.

Aleksandra Braginski
Aleksandra Braginski
9 months ago

Dzieki, thank you for sharing your journey with the Shalem Heart Longings program ! Knowing that people from all over the world participate encourages me to join the upcoming session. Knowing that hearts with longings similar to mine can be found in Poland energizes me as I contemplate moving to Poland for part of each year. Sincerely, Aleksandra from Washington DC

Ann F Stanford
Ann F Stanford
7 months ago

This is beautiful, Aleksandra. You write of grief, healing and love strikingly. I will keep the “drizzle” analogy with me for a long time.


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