Thursday, August 13, 2009

Holding Hope, Feeling Empathy

Holding Hope When the Sky is Falling, 16" x 20" encaustic painting

This art piece above used to look a little different than it does now. It was more plain in the older version -- just the crow and the tree. Quite barren looking. I created this piece when my father was sick with kidney cancer in 2008. I was feeling the cool, dark remnants of winter, even though spring had just begun. I was feeling the fear and sadness of impending loss. And it did feel like the sky was falling.

But I do remember quite distinctly how much hope I held in my being, not only for my dad, but for the peace of my entire family. I felt like I was the gatekeeper of hope, and I allowed my heart to embrace both the upturns and low, low downturns. I felt everything--every nuance of my dad's process, every stifled (or expressed) thought or feeling family members exuded. And then there was my own heart beating for everyone -- or trying to.

I imagine that there has been a time (or several times) in your life when you felt as though the sky was falling--when there seemed to be just too much all at once for one person to handle. During these times it is easy to want to shut off the healing energy of the heart because we want to protect ourselves or "be strong" for others.

I wrote this piece below (it's from a work in progress called Body Cards) especially for those of us who live with a strong heart of empathy and hope.


Location: In the center of the chest and articulates with the clavicle bones and first seven pairs of ribs.

Function: The sternum, or breastbone, serves to protect the heart, lungs, and main blood vessels from physical damage.

Unique Fact: During cardiac surgery, the sternum is sometimes cut open to gain access to the heart.

Associated Chakra: Heart (4th Chakra)

The strong sternum bone provides a layer of protection for those all-important ingredients of your body: your lungs and heart and major blood vessels. On an emotional level, the breastbone is often a place where we place our hand when we are moved or in some way affected emotionally. It is here on our chest where we can feel our own (or another’s) heartbeat and the rhythm of our breathing. The sternum bone can feel like a powerful center for connecting with our own feelings or the feelings of others, for it is here where we often feel love and affection for another. And during our grief process, our heart chakra often emits a tremendous amount of energy as we feel our losses deeply.

The Sternum Card appears to remind you that your heart is always protected. It reminds you that you can feel deeply and you will not crumble into a million pieces. If you have been resisting your body’s call to feel love, grief, joy, or sadness, this may be time to take the risk and let the emotions come. When we hold our emotions tightly in our chest, we trap them there to live constricted, unexpressed lives. When we hold in our feelings, we may feel tightness in our chests and lack of full breath. It can feel like a risk to feel deeply, but the message of the sternum is that of safety and protection. And showing your emotions to another can feel exposing and intense. But it can also be intensely satisfying and freeing. What feelings are pulsing in your chest at your sternum, waiting to be released? Place your hand on your breastbone, feel the powerful pulse of your heart, and ask yourself what emotions are ready to become known.

Try this:

Tap your sternum lightly to a one-two-three waltz beat to activate and help open the heart chakra. Tap away to your heart's content until you feel a little shift in your awareness.

Find a safe, comfortable place to relax and close your eyes. Imagine there is a beautiful pink rose in the center of your chest. It is radiant and glowing and warm. As you inhale you see the rose petals open to reveal the inner petal colors, and as you exhale you watch the petals softly close. Continue to watch this rose open and close, open and close until you notice your breathing feels easy and your chest is full and open.


  1. Courtney, once again reading a post of yours touches me so deeply.

    The pink rose at the center of your chest is certainly glowing . . . I feel it, and send the radiance and warmth of mine back to you. I, too, have an indistinguishable hope and I recognize your exquisite gift of encouraging hope in others.

    The art image is beautiful -- a crow is attracted to bright and shining things: why not hope?

    And please let us know when the Body Cards are finished and available for purchase. I would love to hold some of your wisdom in my hand, especially when the sky seems to be falling.

  2. i second that plea about letting us know when the body cards are out in this world. i'll certainly rush to snatch up a deck!! your words are magic! and i revel in their wisdom, grace & glory!

    with gratitude, polly

  3. I too would love to know when you Body Cards available.

    Barb Kobe