Grief can be the garden of compassion.
If you keep your heart open through everything,
your pain can become your greatest ally
in your life’s search for love and wisdom.
~ Rumi

A couple of months ago I wrote about the miracle of lungs and breathing called The Miracle of Life. In it I estimated that I have taken somewhere around 675,500,000 breaths in my life so far.

Today, with all of the hearts that have stopped beating and all of the blood that has been spilled in Gaza and Israel over the last month and a half, my heart aches. I grieve. In addition to all of the blood shed being a travesty, I have a special place in my heart forever for The Middle East, given I lived there once upon a time. And, in my years there, I heard many sides of the story. I knew then that they all had a modicum of truth.

This ache in my heart has led me to thinking about the miracle of our circulatory system and the power of a beating heart. First, at the physical level. The circulatory system has evolved over 600 million years from simple diffusion through cells in the early evolution of animals to a complex network of blood vessels that reach all parts of the human body….At the core of the circulatory system is the heart. (Adapted from The Circulatory System.) So, I wondered, if I have taken 675,500,000 breaths based on about 15 breaths per minute, how many times has my heart pulsed over the same timeframe at about 82 heartbeats per minute. The result is 3,100,000,000. That’s 3 billion 100 million heartbeats so far! That is what has occurred – amazingly, miraculously – in the physical world.

Every one of my heartbeats sends a vibration out into the universe based on how I feel. This non-physical level of life is also a miracle. It is the emotional, spiritual, and mental levels of pulses of my heart. They are feelings that are on a spectrum ranging from love, gratitude, and compassion on one hand to fear, anger, and despair on the other. And I definitely have sent out my share of all of those emotions on both ends of the spectrum as well as many more in between.

What I notice on reflection is that, though I don’t have concrete data, my experience is that in my younger years I sent out more fear than I do today. Perhaps even more fear than love. And today, whether consciously or unconsciously, my heart pulses much more with love, gratitude, and compassion both for others and for myself. That’s not to say I don’t feel fear today. Rather, that I feel a lot less fear than I felt earlier in my life. For that in itself, I am grateful. Yet, it’s paradoxical. In my younger years, I took many more physical risks in favor of adventure than I do today. Today, physically, I am more cautious than I ever thought I would be.

My prayer is that over time the pulses of fear, anger, and despair may be forgiven and washed away by the pulses of love, gratitude, and compassion. May the love, gratitude, and compassion go far beyond the physical beating of my heart and remain as eternally present goodness, my legacy for all that I have loved and continue to love.


About the photo: I was sitting by my backyard fire one autumn evening. I like taking photos of fire. The next day I looked at the photos I had taken. Imagine my surprise when I saw this one. It is a gift of love from the universe reminding me that love is free! I never could have staged what I now call Heartfire.