Day of Rest

Sweet, lionhearted Henry, a beautiful beast of a dog, died yesterday. Only one day before, his mom learned he had an inoperable tumor on his liver and was already very sick, too sick, and she’d have to let him go. I never met Henry, or his mom, but the pictures and stories she’s shared made me love him, and her, anyway.

Every loss like this is folded into my own. I almost can’t separate the sadness of losing my Dexter (or Obi before him) from the loss of every other dog loved and missed by someone, just like me. And certain dogs, for whatever reason and especially if they have cancer, touch that tender raw spot that I carry with me everywhere, always.

That’s what they don’t tell you about a broken heart — it’s not that it gets broken and then fixed, restored to its former state, but rather it gets broken open. Sometimes it feels like I’m walking around in the world not just naked, no clothes on, but with all my skin peeled off, my chest cracked open, utterly vulnerable and wounded, nothing to hide behind, no armor or mask or shield, no protection.

Oddly enough, this is an experience I chose. This is my path. You can armor up and numb out, run away or reject this way of living. It’s entirely possible through all sorts of means to disconnect from reality, to opt out. And yet, two years ago I made a distinct, conscious choice otherwise.

Committing to benefit others is traditionally called the path of the bodhisattva…the path of the spiritual warrior whose weapons are gentleness, clarity of mind, and an open heart. The Tibetan word for warriormeans “the one who cultivates bravery.” As warriors in training, we cultivate the courage and flexibility to live with uncertainty–with the shaky, tender feeling of anxiety, of nothing to hold on to–and to dedicate our lives to making ourselves available to every person, in every situation. ~Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

This is my path, to ease suffering, in myself and the world. There are days like today when I am feeling sad and a little stuck that I wonder if I can really do this, and yet when I give any attention to contemplating the matter, I understand that for me there really is no other way.

6 thoughts on “Day of Rest

  1. Kira Elliott

    What an utterly perfect way to describe loss. It does indeed break your heart open and leaves open. I needed to remember today that I do indeed choose this path to live with an open heart.
    thank you

  2. tinakomi

    Yes, and when the heart breaks open the light pours in. Having lost my son, Tim, almost 23 years ago now, my heart has a great big hole in it. But it’s covered over with tender love that makes me able to understand the losses of others and share in their grief. I miss Tim, I miss my husband Larry, I miss my kitty Grace, I miss my dog Mollie, and I miss all the other cats and dogs that came before. Will I stop loving because the missing hurts so much? Never in a million years. With great pain comes a great ability to love. And I’m sending that to you today, dear Jill, as well as to Henry’s mom.

  3. Todd Mitchell

    Dear Jill,

    This morning I typed in to google “A Bodhisattva walks through the world with a broken heart.” A friend had said it to me, and it seemed the truest thing I knew today, and the thing I needed to follow. And out of all the websites in the big wide world, those words led me to your site. Funny how that works. Beautiful post. I like the idea of hearts breaking open. I need to hear that today. To walk away, only to discover the people I have known for years.

    Be well,


    1. jillsalahub Post author

      And what you don’t know, Todd, couldn’t have known, is just last night I sent a piece I wrote to my friend who is going to publish it on her blog (a guest post while she takes some time off), and it is called “The Way of the Bodhisattva.” So how magic for me to have just poured myself into writing that, to know that a big audience of people who know nothing about me will read it (*gulp*), and then to be pointed back to my own piece already published about the same thing. Two happy accidents.


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