I don't know how or why or really when it began...
But for as long as I can remember talking with my children, I have consistently started our days by asking all three of them the same question,
"How are you feeling in your heart?"
Sometimes, I'm greeted with a "meh--" or "not too shabby" or "pretty good" or "uh-may-zing!" And from time-to-time, a tear stained, "really, really baaaad, mama."
As much as I've tried to modify the inquiry, no other question I've stumbled upon, seems to as accurately and quickly convey exactly what's at the core of their beings. And so even though it sounds strange to ask, I've stuck with it.
There is such a difference between asking someone how they're doing and asking them how their heart is feeling. It's really the comparison of the cerebral and the visceral. Or the contrast between what we think we should say and what we can't deny. In that moment, you're either okay or really, you're not.
Lately, I've felt overwhelmed with bursts of emotion. Blame it on my period, hectic family schedules, the introduction of two new jobs, the election cycle, friends I've been concerned about or a pesky head cold...but whatever the source, the wobbly feeling is the same.
And when my heart feels flummoxed, I find myself turning more consistently to prayer.
My friend made me prayer bracelets to help focus my fears, hopes and cries toward a saint and to help cultivate a more tangible connection to God when the insanity of the day takes over. When I'm feeling agitated or unsure, I roll them on my wrist and start to ground myself in what matters. And I am quickly reminded of what the great Gandhi taught
"Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart."
And so it is this concept that I try to communicate to my children when they have no words for why their hearts are heavy and their burdens seem unfair or all-consuming. When we don't know which way to go, which path to take or why we have landed in the spot we find ourselves, it is best to receive with an open heart than to try to think your way out of what may have no answers inside of your finite being.
Essentially, the journey is to crack the heart wide open so that through vulnerability, you are in the best place to receive whatever is available to make your heart whole again. And this is hard.
But the work of the heart is where the magic lies.
Not long ago, a friend came to me with the tragic news that her family member was really sick. I didn't have the words to comfort her or the ability to problem solve her situation or the guarantee that she would be okay today, tomorrow or many moons from now. Losing someone you desperately love changes you forever.
But I did have the ability to pray.
And that is what I have done every day, multiple times a day.
Not knowing. Trusting. Believing. Hoping.
The truth is that we are all broken. We are all in need.
Intellectually, most of the time, we don't have the answers.
But everyone has a beating heart and knows instinctively when it is filled with joy and promise or dread and disbelief.
The journey is to stay so deeply rooted in the heart, so viscerally aligned that you draw from that source instead of any other when it comes to what is important.
After all, the cry of the heart is the only true barometer of the soul.