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The Responsibilities of a Broken Heart


I would be remiss to move on with my monthly email on acupuncture. This month I was poised to write about how acupuncture needles are different from other needles. I decided to shelf that until next month.

I feel compelled to address the various heart aches in light of recent and not so recent events. Countless patients of mine have come in with varying degrees of anxiety, depression, forlorn, frustration, motivation, anger, etc...all stemming from heartache. Whether an environmental, political, social, economic threat, we feel it. The German term for it is krankes herz, or sick heart.

Our responsibility in times of krankes herz is to ensure that when our heart is broken, that it breaks well. I have contemplated for some time on what it means to break well. I've consulted my mentor, Thea, and asked for her perspective on what that looks like. It is our commitment to stay with heart in all its shattered pieces. Not to jump ship. Not to go into our head. Not to implode. Not to let scar tissue become an impenetrable wall. There are various rituals around grief and loss that are oriented specifically to maintain heart in the face of pain. It may be a reaction to disconnect from the pain, to pacify the pain with various stop-gaps, to rationalize away the pain. While these survival techniques may work in the short term, living in survival mode is not sustainable for the long term. We are in it for the long haul. Together. I've listed a lot of what not to do, but haven't said what to do. Be present with the ache and pain. It hurts. I get it. It can seem endless in the sting or that the darkness has no end. There is a counter to the darkness. I promise. You know the Yin Yang symbol that has been tattooed ad nauseam on people's shoulders and ankles? There is a point where one transforms into the other. At the abundance of the dark there is a glimmer of the light. As the light grows, the darkness dims. Yes, there is a point in the continuum where it seems the darkness is without end, but only through continuing in that space do we get to light. While this may be an individual process, it does not mean that it is done alone. There are various resources to support you, I am one. The Taoists and Five Element acupuncturists talk a lot about transformation of virtues. For example, from anger to benevolence or from grief to righteousness. Now if you ask me, these are pretty lousy translations. What is meant from transforming anger into benevolence is recognizing injustice, getting pissed about it, and DOING something. And what is done, doesn't just benefit the person who is angry, but benefits the community as a whole. It is like the Hulk. Getting green with anger and then becoming a superhero. Grief to righteousness isn't going from sadness to being holier than thou. It is recognizing pain and finding beauty. The co-existence of darkness and light. I ask of you, I beg of you, in times of heart break to stay the course within your heart. To find the beauty. To pledge further commitment to your healing and wellness. To radiate that commitment so it is transmitted to others in despair. Hold the light, no matter how large or small, and act from the place of heart. Mr. Rodgers advises that in times of strife to "look for the helpers." With love and commitment, Elaina


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