The good news is that suffering can be transformed into something that brings life, not death. It happens every day.
I’m 76 years old, I now know many people who’ve suffered the loss of the dearest person in their lives. At first they go into deep grief, certain that their lives will never again be worth living. But then they slowly awaken to the fact that not in spite of their loss, but because of it, they’ve become bigger, more compassionate people, with more capacity of heart to take in other people’s sorrows and joys. These are broken-hearted people, but their hearts have been broken open, rather than broken apart. So every day exercise your heart, by taking in life’s little pains and joys. That kind of exercise will make your heart supple, the way a runner makes a muscle supple, so that when it breaks, (and it surely will,) it will break not into a fragment grenade, but into a greater capacity for love.
Naropa University 2015
Loss. Devastation. Grief.
Aching pain that seems almost more than you can bear.
Many of us have suffered a broken heart. Besides the pain of the loss, we get indignant that our lives have taken a turn we didn’t choose.
But Parker Palmer reminds us that life has both joy and suffering—and you can’t live one without the other.
On May 10, 2015, Parker Palmer gave the commencement address at Naropa University. He offered 6 suggestions to new graduates. The fifth suggestion started with a reminder that violence was what happens when we don’t know what to do with suffering, so the trick is to transform it into something good.
Instead of death, suffering can bring life. Instead of grief, it can become compassion. Instead of immobility, it can become action.
If you want to live a full life, you can’t avoid being broken-hearted. But what you can do is to be broken open instead of broken apart.
If you let suffering break you apart, you lose part of yourself. You may no longer function. You may not be able to feel for others.
You become fractured.
But when you are broken open, your insides come out. Your hard shell cracks and your most juicy, your most vital parts are exposed.
You become more than you were.
More compassionate. More wise. More able to love.
Living a full life means that you will get broken-hearted but you don’t have to get broken apart.