Tears From The Heart

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.                                                                          Karen Blixen

A friend recently asked if it is okay not to cry as others do. I have encountered this question in the past from clients and at times from myself. Tears are curious things. They can come unexpectedly, unwanted, in torrents, or gently and softly, and not at all. And then we wonder, why? 

Tears might come as a simple moistening in the eyes, or gently fall while experiencing another’s pain. They might come quite suddenly in a joyful moment, and we feel our heart burst open. We can feel cleansed after a deep cry. Our body relaxes, softens, and as we breathe and quiet, we might become aware of a larger space within. There are tears after a profound loss that can feel as if we will drown. There are also the tears after humiliation, betrayal, standing up for yourself when all you want is to be angry and confront, and then out pour the tears. Then that feels humiliating. Sometimes tears come after prolonged laugher, the kissin’ cousin of tears, with at times moving into the weeping of deep pain that had been buried or ignored. It can feel as if we have no control, and we don’t. Not really. We can make ourselves cry but that takes some practice and may be a surface experience only. We can at times hold our tears back, bite them back, but then everything else gets all scrunched up and we tighten around the tears or the loss. We can feel like we have not cried at the appropriate time, like at a funeral. Then, a few weeks later, we are watching a Hallmark commercial or a movie or listening to a song and the tears flow, sometimes gently and at times into a sob. We may not find tears at all in a loss experience as our primary feeling might be gratitude or relief.

The tears after profound loss don’t necessarily flow freely. Not for me anyway. After I learned that my baby had birth defects and would not live, I was in shock and numb. I was brought to her in the NICU and on the way there had a panic attack. I could not breathe. Then I saw her in all the wires and machines, and she was beautiful. It was only later, back in my room, away from it all, during our priest’s prayer and blessing, as he placed his hand on my head, that the tears arrived. Even then they were painful but gentle. This loss contained a well of tears that took many tear sessions over a length of time to get to the depth of the well. 

After my dad’s death, I went into action. There was funeral planning, a eulogy to write, family arrangements, making sure mom was attended to. It took a few weeks, and seeing I was starting to snap at my husband, for me to realize and own that the pain was being held in too long and I needed to take the time to go to the well. It was the same after my mom’s death except the first tears came in torrents soon after her critical stroke when I knew to my core where this was headed with the difficult decisions needing to be made. 

Not having tears does not have to mean one is numb. It does not necessarily mean the heart is closed. The mantra from my childhood goes, “If you are going to cry, go to your room.” It has been hard for me to fully cry in another’s presence. I have had to learn to trust that experience as it does not come naturally. My daughter is my teacher. I marveled since she was young how tears could flow naturally and freely in pain or joy. I treasured her free open expression and realized how the witnessing of her tears opened my heart. Some cultures encourage and live out a very natural robust expression. For others it is stoic. We are a melting pot of an array of expressions, and we cannot judge one against the other. And certainly, we cannot judge ourselves in our experience. At best we bring compassion and curiosity. 

My response to my friend’s question? It is all okay. Tears are not required. Rather than, why am I not crying, I might ask; Is there something I am not expressing? What do I wish to express? In what way now do I want to express myself? Create? Build? Write? Sing? Laugh?  In what way do I best express myself? Then, after the question, return to the heart and listen.

Tears are healing because they flow from the heart and there is a myriad of ways to express from the heart. When we do allow expression, we feel not only a deeper connection to self but to the greening world around us, to the collective whole, to sacred Oneness. In our honest open expression, we come to an inner silence, the doorway to the Divine. 


The Moment of Uncertainty

One World: On the Journey
Janis Dehler
In the teen years, life calls her forward, 
Stepping out from home, family, childhood.

Not that she won’t someday return
but that she needs to scratch the itch of curiosity.

As many before, she walks out, alone among many, 
challenging habits, ways of thinking, learned perceptions.

She asks: who sees me? Who acknowledges me? 
What is here for me?
One day in the seeking future,
She sits in quiet, she listens to her heart,
In that moment of uncertainty, a voice is heard,
I see you. I know you. I believe in you.

Then the knowing arises,
I am seen as I see.
I am known as I know.
I am loved as I love.

I am home.

@Janis Dehler

On This Late Summer Morn

One World: Radical Interdependence

A new work of art and a poem. Blessings on your day.

On This Late Summer Morn

On this late summer morn,
She sits where mind rests, prayers flow.
Wonder at the world of blame
Brings her head to bow.

On this late summer morn,
The sky dark from falling ash,
Our lungs fill, the sun remains
Hidden. Even he fears the heat.

On this late summer morn,
Thousands fleeing a war-torn country, 
Our hearts fill, the moon remains 
Hidden. Even she cries with the knowledge.

On this late summer morn,
Delta dead are piled into trucks,
Our minds fill, the stars remain
Hidden. Even they wonder at the folly of it all.

On this late summer morn,
She recognizes all that is sacred, 
Sees the beauty in all creatures, all life,
Her heart opens with the embracing of it all.

@Janis Dehler

Wild in Kauai

Wild In Kauai # 1

In late July, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, a professional photographer friend, Rolf, showed me his prints of chickens he had been hired to photograph. They were enchanting in various poses, with attitude and humor. With names like Walnut, Hi Tops, Peppercorn, Darth, and Cruella de Vil, they made me smile, laugh, and feel inspired to do what I have wanted to do for some time, paint a chicken. 

I have been working on a series of paintings since early 2020 under the title “One World”. They bring me into the world with a broader lens of seeing what makes us one, interconnects us, and seeks that which is similar in our lives rather than opposing. It is inner work for me that seeks to find expression on canvas. Painting a chicken, however, is pure play and delight, loosing myself in a different way with a variety of connections.

The chicken I painted was one we met on the Island of Kauai. Many hens and roosters run wild there and on the Big Island of Hawaii. Then, I thought of the chicken I met in Waikoloa on the Big Island as I sat at a favorite outdoor café eating my breakfast and listening to an elderly native Hawaiian playing his guitar and singing Hawaiian songs. I was transported in those moments feeling the rhythm of the music and allowing the words to float through me, all with a smile as I watched a golden-brown chicken roaming nearby.

While painting, I thought of my grandma Regina who with her husband Adolph and 6 children bought and moved to a farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. After the sudden death of Adolph to heart attack, Regina and the six children needed to survive. Grandma had her chickens. It had been a barely break-even farm except for the chickens. The three oldest went off to War sending grandma money to help support her and the three youngest but it was the chickens that kept them going for many years until the youngest left and she moved into town. She loved her chickens, and they were an integral part of her life. 

I recently learned of and visited a fundraiser for the farm of a young family who have dedicated themselves to the rescue and healing of abandoned roosters. They along with many other of that generation are dedicated to all animals and their humane treatment. They represent our future of treating all in this world with respect and care. As foreign as the concept of a rescue for roosters, I could not help admiring their dedication and finding their way of bringing healing into the world.

A neighbor about a half mile down our road decided to raise chickens in his yard. I would chuckle on my morning walk as I passed his house with the rooster cock a doodle doo-ing and the owner coming out for work shushing and scolding them for making so much noise and admonishing them to stay in their fenced area and be good. 

Yesterday, as I sat in my stylist’s chair, she told me her mother decided to buy 50 chickens and a few turkeys. My stylist has been the main caretaker for this brood. She offered that she was very attached to the roosters. One of the roosters found where she lives on the larger property and comes every morning to her door with a wakeup call. She had heard that turkeys could be a bit mean so she raised them by sitting with them, talking to them, holding, and petting them. They are now attached to her. 

We get our eggs from an Amish family who live north of us and who deliver them to our local coop. We support them in our purchase and hope they can continue in their humane care of their chickens and the sharing of the brown eggs with a rich golden yoke

For some the chicken has meant survival, others health, and for another healing. For some the chicken represents our inhumane treatment of all animals as we eat them and their eggs. But within our differences, in these days of world turmoil, the chicken brings us back to this moment, the earth, the place where we connect and ground ourselves. For Regina, taking to her bed for three days after the loss of Adolph, the care of her kids and her chickens woke her up to this moment and the chickens kept her going, one moment after one moment. As I continue to explore “one world”, I find that the chicken is never outside of that circle. I think there are a few more chicken paintings in my future.

Remembering Hellmut

One hundred of us stand or sit.
Tables with water, breezes bringing
Coolness to our sweat drained bodies.

Our attention focuses as one man’s life 
captures our imagination. Memories
of kindness, cello, trees, choir, painting.

Our hearts hear the message, feel the 
pull to not leave this earth without living.
Create while we birth, work, love.

Long time friends, spouse, children, family
saying goodbye to one who has left 
his mark in all who stand at his earthen home.

My gaze moves to all that surrounds me,
cool, calm water, lilies, phlox
blooming in this late July heat. 

Soil dried from lack of rain; flowers laced
when placed at his side; ashes leaning toward earth. 
A haze of smoke from distant wildfires fills our nostrils. 

We laugh, we celebrate, we feel gratitude
in our current moment of living. We ponder
death and share from this truth. 

In loss we feel love. In dryness we experience moisture.
In memory we experience renewed spirit. 
In death we are pulled to the living. 

Going With the Flow

As I wrote in my last posting, I have been making some decisions regarding offering myself once again as a spiritual companion and grief counselor.

After my formal retirement as a Grief Counselor for Allina Hospice, I traveled with Leo for a year enjoying many new explorations, foods, people, and lands. Then in 2020, we entered covid land and I took on many projects in the home, ones that had been queuing up for years. These activities were refreshing and gave me a much needed break from the long accumulation of grief stories as well as time to look back to honor and celebrate the many years of my life through photos and the writing of my life stories.

During these past couple of years, I was asked to offer a grief education and retreat day for the students at Sacred Ground, a Spiritual Direction training center in St. Paul. This one was followed by another and then a private request came for some time with me as a Spiritual Companion. Through these offerings, I was reminded of my love of one to one work and group work that allows me to be of service to others as well as nourish my soul. When I began to wonder where I could give of myself in the community, the answer was to keep giving as I have over the past 30+ years.

I now feel I am ready to once again offer myself to others for support. I will be making myself available, one or two days per week, while honoring my needs for flexibility, travel, and creative endeavors. If you are curious you can click on my new page titled Spiritual Companion/Grief Counseling.

The words, “go with the flow” seem to best describe my desire to follow where I am being led. Change takes us where it will. We can fight it or we can flow with it. Like water in the river we will get buffeted at times, our very presence will change the landscape, we will have times when we feel as if we are floating on our backs in a summer afternoon, and at other times we fear we will never touch the bottom. The following quote by Bruce Lee brings us to this place of letting go. Of being one with. Of being the blessing.

Be Water, My Friend.

Empty your Mind.

Be Formless, shapeless, like water.

You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.

You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.

You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.

Now water can flow, or it can crash.

Be water, my friend.