What is it you want to change?
Your hair, your face, your body? Why?
For God is in love with all those things
and he might weep when they are gone.
St. Catherine of Siena
Carolyne had become a shadow of herself. The feisty, insightful artist that I had known was barely visible in the woman who sat across from me. It was almost as though she had taken her talent as an accomplished painter and transformed it into an image of whom she thought she should be – inside and out. She had created a slender, coiffed manikin able to talk about the weather, organizations she was supporting, and a other general topics.
I felt sad. It was as though Carolyne’s uniqueness had been paved over. No amount of my weeping would ever bring back her drive for artistic work. Instead, like the flooded streets of Houston, all the wild, unruly part of her that made her a great artist was now hidden beneath impervious layers, and she is unable to respond to any watery downfall. With her more intuitive and natural self sealed away, tears could no longer seep into her heart.
Being with Carolyne’s reminded me of the gift of crying. When tears flow, our thoughts and voice are stilled. We cannot talk when we weep. There is only the rush of the waters from our eyes and the release within the recesses of our heart. Gradually, our own sorrows and attachments dissipate. We become deeply aware of the enormity of loss in the world – not just Carolyne’s voice and the works of art she will never create – but the multitude of disasters, tragedies, calamities, and injustices. Then, with pure knowingness and awareness in the heart, there is exuberant joy for the gift of tears and the clarity they bring.
Tears are a response of the heart. They represent moments beyond what the mind can comprehend. Around the world there are legends about the first appearance of tears and traditions that ritualize tears. Weeping has symbolized the overflowing of the waters of divine love. Tears are signs of ecstasy, grief, gratitude, elation, longing, and the grace of transcendence. When tears are cool to the touch, they are considered an expression of one being in the state of superlative happiness.
The symbolism of tears and weeping appears in the writing of saints and mystics around the world. To weep with longing for God was to know God. Unlike Carolyne, who sought societal acceptance through crafting a safe and predictable persona, female mystic saints, like St. Catherine of Siena, often challenged societal norms and were fiercely independent. They sought to connect with God through prayer and devotion. Rather than become immune to worldly suffering, they embraced it and served the poor and destitute. Their similarity to Carolyne is that they took extreme measures to transform their minds and bodies – but for the purpose of being apt vessels of divine messages. Those messages continue to nourish those who weep for the divine.
For the next several weeks, I will notice dew and rain drops. They are there as reminders that tears are always present for strength. I hope you will join me.
This short practice rests the eyes, the container for tears. I recommend you read through the practice before you begin.
- Prepare –
- Sit at a table, or any other even surface. (You will be cradling your head in your hands with your elbows resting on the table.)
- Yawn and stretch out through the jaw. Then, stretch through the fingers and arms.
- Breathe in a relaxed and easy manner. Let go of any need to change the breath.
- Practice –
- Rub your hands quickly together until you feel some warmth in your palms.
- Place your elbows on the table. Bend the arms so the palms are facing you.
- Lower your head toward your palms.
- Rest your eye sockets (eyelids closed) in the heels of your hands.
- Curl the fingers lightly over the forehead and hairline.
- Let the thumbs curl lightly toward the temples.
- Easy gentle breathing. Relax through the jaw and shoulders.
- Appreciate a sense of deep release. Stay as long as feels comfortable for you.
- Transition –
- Eyes closed or with a soft gaze, move the head away from the hands into a normal position.
- Smooth, easy breath
- As you are ready, quietly return to your day.
This poem is from Mala of Love: 108 Sacred Poems, page 5, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt, and published by New World Library. It is translated by Daniel Ladinsky.