Bring Your Heart to Simple Things

Posted on in Healthy Living by Hilary Hart

Remembering the Hidden
Power of the Feminine


When I was a child, I spend quite a bit of time on Martha’s Vineyard. Always, in my closet there, two pairs of shoes waited for me. A pair of orangey leather work boots and a pair of white moccasins with colored beads.

The softness of the moccasins and the beauty of their blue and black beads evoked the myths of the native people of the area and took me through tall grasses and sandy dunes. The boots helped me up old, gnarled trees and through swamps, protected from brambles and ticks.

The image of those two pairs of shoes has always stayed with me, reassuring and archetypal. Now, of course, I recognize that they reflected two essential aspects of myself—what we call in the contemporary spiritual community “the masculine” and “the feminine.” I had been given an early reference point for something truly essential. I had two basic modes of moving through life—one sensitive and receptive, gentle and persevering, trailing the beauty of ancient winds delivering prayers. The other strong and productive, tough and willing, undaunted by hard work and eager for adventure.

Despite the potency of that early awareness, I lost touch with the meaning of those shoes and the balance they reflected. The moccasins were lost in the recess of my being, eclipsed by the complexities of my growing up and particularly growing up in a patriarchal world that had done its best to annihilate those moccasins, the native people who wore them, and an entire way of life sensitive to the earth and Her ways.

Much later, as so many of us have done, I worked hard to rediscover the wisdom and experiences they represented through introspection and spiritual practice, which included a deeply personal sorting—as in the story of Eros and Psyche—of what truly matters from what doesn’t. The mythical cycle of being given to, forgetting, searching and finding again plays out individually for many of us, as it does collectively as well.

a pair of shoes

As a global community and particularly in the West, we have allowed the feminine aspect to be lost under a destructive and debilitating fog. We have very little collective reflection or expression of how to honor creation, relate to life’s sacredness, or create real community with human beings and between human beings and the whole of life. And on a personal level, most of us suffer from an inability to receive, be tender, watch and allow, and to truly connect and relate—to each other, the Divine, or the earth. We have taken up the work boots and let them trample the moccasins out of our awareness.

But just as on the personal journey back to what’s forgotten, we need to take responsibility for our part in this greater dereliction. We need to admit to ourselves that trampling through life is easier than moving slowly, listening, feeling, and being receptive. It’s easier to talk than to really listen. It’s easier to watch TV than to contemplate or meditate. It’s easier to spend the evening inside with a computer than to walk through our community greeting our human, plant, and animal neighbors. We all feed the engine of the patriarchy; we all suffer for it. For the more energy we give to the habits, patterns, and drivers of the patriarchy, the more we cut ourselves off from the depths of life and its nourishment. Lost, lonely, disconnected, and with few signs for where to turn for what we truly need, we reinvest in the same system that harms us. Our desperation for connection and the security of belonging are channeled into the back-eddies of consumerism, and the cycle continues.

But wholeness and healing wait for us. We can turn back, remember, honor what’s become just a shadow. We can find a way back to life’s nourishing center—not just for our sake but for the sake of life as a whole. One of the great gifts of the feminine, so reflected in those moccasins of my childhood, is the genuine awareness of life’s sacredness and the capacity to move through life knowing, feeling, sensing, and being with it. The masculine wants to draw our attention to the next big adventure, the journey to outer space, the higher mountain, the next accomplishment. All the while something very different waits for us to join, love, nourish, and connect. What waits is simplicity—things as they are, not as they could be or want them to be.

The simple things of life hold tremendous potential, because they have been abandoned. They have been left alone by our projections and our demands; they are free of power dynamics. This means they are allowed to be themselves. The patriarchy does not care too much about baking bread, picking lice from our child’s hair, or walking our dog. It can’t corrupt the enjoyment of sun on one’s shoulders on a cold day, the sound of water in a creek, the way a dove’s call echoes our own longing. It has successfully distracted us from these things, but the return is as simple as listening, watching, being with.

When we give our hearts to simple things, we bring light to life, we bring love to life. This is not a spiritual dream, but an esoteric happening. The human heart is tremendously powerful, but the power is amplified when it reaches the core of life, where it can serve the whole. A dandelion is the doorway to the center of the universe if we truly recognize it. If we are in awe of its golden color, if we respect its power to cleanse the body. The cry of a coyote compels us into a direct relationship with it, and this relationship nourishes the whole circle of creation.

The simplicity of the natural world and of human nature—those utter inevitabilities, such as death, hunger, need—command our respect, provide ground for a perception free of fantasy. Simple things are a doorway between our heart and the heart of life. When we step through that doorway, we are where we belong, and the seemingly endless need and despair can finally be carried away on the wind. We are connected, and our love and attention feeds life from the inside out.

Today, the talk about “the feminine” has a tendency to become complex. But the feminine loves simple things. She is ecstatic at a good rainfall on a hot day, she celebrates a lover who calls to her and opens to her, she prepares garden soil with the power of a mother, and she knows when enough is enough.

It does not matter that there are no books or movies about the power of a bluebird standing silent on a fencepost. Or a small hand in your own. Or a tree bearing fruit. Somewhere, we know these things and trust them. The moccasins wait for us to walk that knowing out into the world, our soles in skin, skin on earth, bringing our hearts to simple things.

Hilary Hart is author of four books on mysticism and the role of women’s spiritual power in collective evolution. She has been on the Sufi path for 18 years.

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