Hearts as Havens

“How are you?” I asked my friend after answering my phone. 

“I’m fine. Well … no I’m not. I think I need to cry. I think that is why I’m calling. I think you might be the only place I feel safe to cry.” She spoke hesitantly, through muffled tears.

“Oh, gosh. I’m sorry you’re hurting. What’s going on?” 

The conversation’s specifics from here on out neither matter to the reader nor are they for public consumption, since trust and intimacy were being asked and offered. Another person needed a haven where they could pull up, pause, and be with their authentic, unguarded feelings. 

This friend happens to be immersed in deep yogic practices and is very conscientious of the world around her and us. In this moment, she was acutely feeling the pressures of trying to make a living to meet her basic needs while honoring her values: environmental, spiritual, humanistic, and so on. She’d hit a wall of wondering whether her efforts were worth it, or if they could ever amount to any degree of change.

“I think I called you because you don’t try to fix me. You don’t patronize me and treat me as though I don’t have agency.” 

“Things are tenuous now,” I said. “Honestly, I am more concerned about all the folks running around waiting for things to ‘get back to normal.’” I stared out my window at the light dancing off the trees and redispersing itself into the ether. This phenomenon felt like the most honest statement of reality to me at this moment: time and matter dissolving, changing forms.

Her voice grew stronger. “Thank you for saying that. Thank you for not trying to make it better—I can hear what I need after talking out loud to you.” 

The crux of our longer dialogue is here. It is the invaluable of offering our hearts as havens to one another (and it need not only be to our friends!) during difficult times. Getting off our feeds and into our feelings, especially the feelings that are murky, unattractive, and sharp. The kind that often prompt our friends and our families to try to “fix” us. 

One of the greatest acts we can perform in uncertain times is listening, beginning with listening to ourselves. Doing this becomes easier when we make a discipline of carving out time to sit still, silently. Distractions are the death of listening for—and hearing—your feelings, your true north.

Once we start to regularly encounter our own emotional dross, it becomes much easier to listen to somebody else’s. Your heart opens and begins to naturally respond as a field in which anything can safely appear without triggering judgement. 

The world is now so full of judgmental screaming that people are responding by plugging their ears. This kills the capacity to listen. It destroys our ability to learn new things and reason clearly for ourselves in basic day-to-day decision-making. Instead, we’re caught on a merry-go-round of reactivity and righteousness. The tender art of listening is getting lost in the electrical storm of the unprocessed individual traumas of the many. 

My friend’s call was a success. It was a success for me because I sat in the undisturbed place of needing nothing from them and nothing for myself (that is, my ego making things better). It was a success for them because they properly identified a safe place to be honest, uncover what they were feeling and being called to do for self-care—and did it.

It means we practiced opening our hearts as havens for each other in trying times. We listened. We respected what was really “up” in a moment of time—the time that continues to dissolve and change all things.

Why not discover this place where we can be successful, regardless of our circumstances? Why not become the person that others feel safe opening their hearts to? If we can be havens for one another, we can also become havens for ourselves—in good times or bad.

Try it out.

Image credit: Jon Tyson