Mosaic by Margaret Almon and Wayne Stratz of Nutmeg Designs.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Everything is Connected: καρδία


I have started to pursue, slowly and deliberately, a couple of health related blogs that seem particularly relevant to me.  One of them is a yoga site, put together by a woman who suffers from lives with scoliosis.  I'm very much intrigued by the expansiveness of her approach to health, and by the yoga dimension.  After six months of near-complete immobility, I'm here to tell you that at fifty-eight one doesn't exactly bounce back!  The debilitated state in which I find myself is causing me to look carefully at whole body-mind-spirit wellness.

I went to the the very first posts on the site and began to read ~ yes, slowly and deliberately ~ about the heart chakra in the Hindu Yogic and Tantric traditions. (The chakras are believed by those who follow those traditions to be force or energy centers in the body. I know only the most minute amount of anything about this, having heard a presentation years ago by a Presbyterian pastor who had become intrigued by the chakras as an approach to health and well-being.   Which is to say, I know nothing.)

But I was dumbfounded by the synchronicity of my discovery.  The heart chakra has to do with being unhurt and unstuck.  It is the heart side of my upper body, in particular, that has been assaulted and whose muscles have been damaged.  It is the area that is most difficult to stretch physically and, often, emotionally.  It is the area that is difficult for me to envision because under the skin some parts have been removed and others re-arranged.


Everything is connected.  That's what I used to tell my high school world history students.  Everything is, although I couldn't begin to weld what's been bubbling up in myself into a polished whole, at least not yet.  Herewith, therefore, the beginning bits and pieces:

One of the first words we learned in Greek was καρδία.  Cardia.  Heart.  I think that we learned it on the first day because it's an easy example for learning a particular sort of paradigm, of verb structure, not because of any deeper, metaphorical dimension.  

Hmmm.  I suppose that if I were teaching Greek to seminary students (which is not something that I would ever do!), I might spend the entire first day on the word καρδία, and not for any reason having to do with paradigms.  I might do it because καρδία is at the core of what we are about as pastors people.

(Wouldn't that be something, if seminary education were as well integrated as that?  If Greek were not, as it is for so many of us, a hurdle to lurch across, but a spiritually formative study of language, text, and heart?)


Lent begins with the words, "Return to me with your whole heart," from the prophet Joel.    I wrote the following for lent 2009, six months after my son died:

Your whole heart, I thought? What can that mean, when your heart is not whole?

My heart is shattered.

It lies in tiny shards all over the ground.

Its jagged pieces spin into space, floating past Jupiter like lost little pilgrims.

Its dusty bits float on the oceans, bits of ash, sparkling grimly in the sunlight and filtering slowly downward, into the darkness where oddly luminescent sea creatures chart paths we can barely imagine.

One might want to turn to God again. The word metanoia slides off the tongue. It sounds graceful, and hopeful. But if God's desire is for a whole heart, if one can turn toward God only with an intact heart, then one is surely lost.


Return to me with your whole heart.  Words from the Jewish tradition.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.   Words from the Christian tradition.

The heart chakra.  A place for becoming unstuck and unhurt.  A concept from the Hindu tradition.


A lot to ponder. 


  1. Perhaps "whole" is intended, in this context, to mean "entire," and not "untouched in its virgin state" or "unbroken."
    I am starting to wonder if the function of the heart is to go ahead and get used, worn, broken, opened, over and over again in this life. It's incredible that hearts can hurt as much as they do and still keep beating.

  2. Love this post. On many many levels. It really struck a strong chord with me in ways that I will need to ponder.