Mount Timpanogos rises formidably into the sky, its cliff faces so steep that only light dares to touch them. Like a fortress, the mountain range protects midway, a rural town of just over 3,000 people. It is a town surrounded by alpine wilderness. In the distance, like acrylic paint smudges I can see the colors of the trees on the mountains turning red and yellow amidst the green. The clouds are motionless in the sky. Their grey underbellies, swollen with rain.
Midway was established by Brigham Young (one of the most brutal and disgraceful figures in Utah history). To begin with there were two settlements here. One was called Smiths Grove and the other was called Mound City. Brigham young decreed that settlers needed to build forts for protection from hostile Indian tribes. He waged war against the natives of the area in a multitude of ways, including the famous Mountain Meadows Massacre. When the two settlements got word that they needed to build a fort, they built on midway between the two colonies and they called it “Midway”, which is how this town got its name. In the 1860s and 70s after the fort was established and began to turn into its own settlement, a large influx of Swiss immigrants arrived. Because of this Swiss heritage, every year, the town of midway holds a festival called “Swiss Days”. Swiss Days brings thousands of people to the town. I have never been to Swiss Days and so today, I decided to attend.
Most people have an idea in their head about what to expect before they arrive at their destination and this mental idea so rarely matches the actuality. I had imagined little booths with all kinds of Swiss themed trinkets. I imagined little wooden gnomes and booths selling perfectly smooth, rich chocolates. I imagined traditional Swiss foods like spiced nuts, novelty cheeses, burli, pastetli and Zurich Geschnetzelte. Alas, my vision was the opposite of what I found. We parked the car in a cow field; complete with piles of cow manure so numerous you had to carefully watch your step. I actually found that endearing. We walked along the main street and wove our way in and out of an array of booths. But instead of anything of cultural significance, the only thing being sold was local crafts. There were giant murals and pictures of the Mormon temple, scrap booking materials, CTR jewelry, hand made baby clothes and wooden plaques that read things like “family is forever” and “the fear of the lord is the beginning of knowledge”. There were stands selling coke products and scones topped with Mexican taco toppings.
Two minutes into the trip, we stopped dead in our tracks in the middle of a vast wave of conservative, rural, religious people, who were staring at us as if we were infidels. There I was, paralyzed in a vile ocean of judgmental, pious women and pastel colored, potpourri smelling Mormon Handicrafts… My own personal hell.
And what might I have selected for attire today? A bohemian style midriff top, exposing every one of my “blasphemous” black tattoos and “ostentatious” stiletto high heels. I had forgotten how bad the looks used to be. I swear, if there was an Olympic medal awarded for scowling with disgust, the women of rural Utah would win every single time. Let’s just say that as I stood there, 2014 disappeared. I was 4 years old again. This overwhelming wave of feeling condemned came through my whole body. It turned my cheeks red. We decided to leave. The walk back to the car seemed to take forever as we passed by cookie cutter family after cookie cutter family. The women (believing whole heartedly in modesty) wearing white T-shirts under spaghetti strap blouses, most of them either pregnant or with an infant in tow.
As they would pass me, their conversation would stop and they would get this look on their face like they were passing by a sewage tank. They would mutter to one another and even point. The men would adopt a blank expression as if to give the impression that they were going to ignore me, only to look out the corner of their eyes once we were parallel to one another. I tried, despite my body’s urge to collapse inward, to stand completely erect and look straight ahead. On an energetic level, it felt like I was walking chest first into cannon fire. My company could not believe the extreme reaction that people had to me. To hear about the way that I am received in a conservative, religious, rural town is much different than to truly experience it first hand. The thing that I regret the most about my past, is that my family moved to Utah. The second thing that I regret the most is that my parents decided to stay in Utah.
We drove to our hotel in near silence. I retreated to my hotel room and laid on the bed, consumed by that all too familiar feeling of being outcast and disparaged. I did my healing the emotional body process and recovered a tiny four-year-old self who was traumatized by this very same experience of mass societal disapproval. When I came out of the process, I felt like someone had been digging around in my chest with a grapefruit spoon. My heart felt macerated. And so, I did a process to connect with my heart.
To do this process, you close your eyes and place your hands (one on top of the other) over the top of your heart. Your heart is located right under your sternum in the center of your chest. You take some time to feel how your heart feels to you on both a sensation level and on an emotional level. If I were to mention the name of one of your friends, you would notice that there is an accompanying sensation that comes along with your idea of that person. This, more so than their name or details about them, is their signature. This is how your being recognizes them as different from the rest of the people you know. Your heart is like a friend. A friend you probably don’t know very well yet. But it has it’s own signature just like your friends do. This is why you can feel it as a being inside of you with a very specific life’s purpose to fulfill… namely to keep you alive.
Imagine your heart as a separate being that lives inside you. What does your heart feel like? If your heart were a living being, what personality would this being have? (Feel free to visualize your heart as an actual mini being or even as a mini person if you wish) What would this being want? What would this being dislike? Does this being feel appreciated and loved or does it feel ignored and undervalued?
Just take some time to be with your heart exactly as it is and exactly how it feels right here and now. There is no right or wrong way to have a conversation with your heart. You intuitively know what kind of conversation needs to take place. But I will give you a basic outline for developing a 2-way connection with your heart. Begin by asking your heart directly, “What makes you unhappy?” “What do you need me to do differently?” “If you could have one wish, what would it be?” And “What do you have to tell me?” You will receive the answers on an intuitive level. Either you will hear the answers or you will see them in your minds eye, or you will find that you just know the answers intuitively because they will pop up in your consciousness.
Next, it’s your turn to speak to your heart. Address the concerns that were put forth by your heart. Acknowledge that you value your heart’s needs and wants and perspective. After all, it represents the perspective of your true self. What do you think your heart needs to hear? Tell that to your heart. You can speak to your heart inside your mind’s eye if you do not wish to speak out loud. Next, take steps to fulfill the wish that your heart expressed. Keep in mind; this might not be something that can be accomplished in one sitting. It might for example be a lifestyle change that your heart wants you to make.
Once you feel as if you have reached an understanding with your heart, take some time to express gratitude for your heart. Acknowledge the work that it is faithfully and loyally doing to keep you alive and vital because it loves you. Express the love you have for your heart. Visualize that love flowing into your heart and nourishing your heart. See your heart sucking this love up and pumping it through your arteries and veins throughout the entire rest of your body. Feel your body as it too soaks up this love that the heart is pumping to it. Watch that love diffuse throughout your whole body and throughout each tiny little cell.
Just before you come back to the present moment, make a promise to your heart (if you feel ready) that you will always be available to talk to if it wants or needs to talk to you and that because you love it and have gratitude for it, you are going to fulfill it’s wishes because you agree with it’s wisdom and perspective. Then, take four deep breaths, allowing the oxygen to completely fill your lungs and completely exit your lungs and when you are finished, open your eyes.
When I did this practice today, I felt the vibration of intense loss in my heart. When I asked my heart what makes it unhappy it said, “ People hate me”. When I asked my heart what it wanted me to do differently it said, “Love me”. When I asked my heart what it’s one wish, what would be, it said “that you wouldn’t believe them about me”. And when I asked my heart what it had to tell me it said, “I’m cold and I don’t feel like you protect me because you try to be good so hard that you forget me”. I was in shock at what I heard. It became obvious to me suddenly that my years developing my identity in a Mormon town where I was hated had caused me to doubt my own goodness. In fact I have doubted it to such a degree that I feel desperate to prove my goodness. But in doing so, I’ve been trying to prove my goodness to the very people who hurt me and who condemn me. I have abandoned the responsibility of giving my own heart love and approval and acknowledgement. I have abandoned the responsibility of validating my own heart’s goodness in favor of getting that validation of being good from the very people who kick me. Instead of standing by myself when confronted with hatred, I have tried harder to be loved by those who hate me. Ah, how this is mirroring in my professional life!
My message to my heart comes in the form of a letter…
I know you are scared and I know that I have not been protecting you or understanding your needs lately. It was so painful to listen to you all those years ago when I felt powerless to change anything for the better for the two of us. I didn’t know what to do. Their words and actions were like whip lashes against my skin and they crushed me too. But I have learned something and because of that, all of this changes today. You are a precious treasure to me. You have stayed pure through all of it, like a lighthouse in the dark. Even when your light turned to a flicker, it did not go out. I know that you care so much about everything and everyone and that you feel paralyzed because you just can’t find a way to make everyone feel good simultaneously. I didn’t see that I silently wanted validation from the very people who hurt us and especially who hurt you. That is a very serious boundary issue. It’s as if I was asking you to kiss the hand of those who kicked you. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I will never ask you to do that again. You are my responsibility. I want to keep you safe, like a shooting star in a little box and take you out when your light can shine for those who will treasure it. I’m never going to do that to you again, thank you for showing me what I was doing. I will always listen to you. You’re safe now and I love you. I love you so, so much.
The Rest of You.
I sat with my hands crossed over my heart for a while imagining that my heart was cradled in regenerative, sheltered, warm energy. Again and again I find that the more connected you are with your heart, the more connected you are with your own personal truth and the more connected you are with your soul. You are in a relationship with your heart. Your heart is your best friend and it is your life partner. If you want yourself to thrive, you have to treat the relationship with your heart like you would treat the relationship with your significant other. I was taught this lesson again today.
What does your heart have to say to you today?
“What makes your heart unhappy?”
“What does your heart need you to do differently?”
“If your heart could have one wish, what would it be?”
“What has your heart been trying to tell you?”
And perhaps most importantly,
What do you think your heart needs to hear from you?