Kintsugi: The Beauty of Broken Mended

Over the last few weeks the phrase “Broken Mended” keeps following me around like a puppy. And just like a puppy, it won’t be ignored for very long. At some point, you just have to stop and pay attention to figure out what it is trying to tell you. Recent posts have focused on tending to our hearts needs: grief, betrayal, facing our shadow selves, and courage. Today is about being broken; as to be human is to have experienced the breaking of our hearts. 

 So, how do we mend our hearts and what do they look like once we piece them back together? 

 The Whidbey Island sculptress, Sue Taves, held an exhibition several years ago titled “Broken Mended Hearts.” She spent many hours carving beautiful hearts out of various pieces of stone: granite and quartz. Each heart was perfect in the skill level required to craft it. There were no cracks or chips, a hard feat to accomplish in any stonework. Sue could have easily sold each heart as a perfect object or displayed them in a fine art gallery. Instead, she chose to blow them apart. And then restore them. The results were dynamic.

 Kintsugiis the Japanese art of taking broken pottery and mending it with silver, gold, or platinum. Often, the new piece is far more breathtaking than the original, assumed-perfect item. Kintsugistems from the 15thcentury and is closely associated with the Japanese philosophy wabi-sabi, which, in short, underscores the innate beauty of that which is imperfect. Instead of striving for perfection, an understanding and acceptance of the flaws in nature, and ourselves are acknowledged. Sue’s exhibition was a take on this ancient practice but instead of using pottery, she used the symbol of the heart.  

 Perfection, I believe, is a dis-ease within American culture. Having grown up in Australia and having lived in both England and the Netherlands, the push for perfection seems to be predominantly forced upon American children, where it continues to grow along with them into adulthood. Here, children are pressured to fill every waking hour with a variety of extracurricular activities, leaving them both stressed and exhausted at a young age. 

 The culture as a whole is also out of balance with an unrealistic need for perfection, resulting in the fragility of soul. Challenges will always present themselves and we often need to dig deep inside of ourselves to overcome them. But working with unachievably high expectations and crammed calendars, where perfection without failure is the path does not make for a healthy child or for a healthy nation. The dis-ease, is the inability to be at ease, with imperfection yours or mine.

 When we are told by society that the broken or wounded parts of ourselves are unacceptable, we remain fragmented. Society teaches us to toss those parts off onto the scrapheap, like broken plates. But we cannot just abandon certain aspects of ourselves; so instead, we shove them down into the cavern of the unconscious where they lurk like deep-sea monsters. 

There were years when barbed wire and silk threads held my brokenness together. Each twisted strand whether it be bitterness, anger, sadness, or frozenness poked out from my facade. And just like agricultural fencing, that which contained me it also made sure no one could get really close. To heal, I had to gently take that barbed wire, pull it apart, remove the silk threads interwoven with the metal, and determine what aspects they contained. This rewiring or restoration process takes time. First, is the acknowledgment that what has happened to us- has impacted us in ways that we may have difficulty articulating or talking about. Then the grieving process can take over and begin the healing process. As a result of this process, we will never again be the way we were before the situation. We will never again be whole, unchipped or uncracked vessels. And that’s the point. 

 Transformation happens when we find beauty in the broken pieces of our hearts and souls; when we learn to gather them up, lay them out bit by bit and examine them to see where they fit. But as importantly, it happens when we determine what material we are going to use to reconfigured our wholeness. Japanese artisans use gold, silver, or platinum. We can choose love, compassion, and joy. Or we can choose a mixture of many things, for example, by using our well-placed anger as the heat of the pottery kiln to fuel the transformation process. Hopefully, included as part of the mix of materials we choose, is also an acceptance of others and ourselves as we are¾as this is a precious healing agent in itself. 

 We are imperfect, perfect human beings, in an imperfect, yet perfect world. 

 Meditation

 Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Place your hand on your heart and just take a three (3) slow deep breathes in and three (3) longer breaths out. Ask your heart what holds it together. Remember metaphor and imagery are the languages of the heart. Listen closely, if you are not used to conversing with your heart it may be a little shy to speak up, so you may hear it just like a whisper. Alternatively, an answer may come as a fleeting image in your mind's eye, catch it if you can and hold it as if it were a butterfly.

Once you have an image, a word, or a sound, you have found some valuable information towards your continued process of healing and imperfectly perfect wholeness. 

Compassion and patience with yourself and the process are key. Our hearts hold an incredible amount of wisdom for healing ourselves and the planet. 

 Citations and Links where available: 

 

Sue Taves. https://www.suetavessculpture.com

  

Betrayal: Small and Large

Last week’s topic was on entrusting our hearts’ longings to another. Embedded in that blog post was the subject of betrayal. To be betrayed or betray another means that we have / or had an explicit or perceived agreement violated on some level. Archetypal in nature; betrayal is experienced by human beings globally. Regardless of ethnicity, geography, age, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation, betrayal is a bitter factor of living a full life. Looking outside ourselves to a broader perspective, betrayal can also be against “one’s country, [or] a group” (1). Betrayal then is both personal and collective in nature. Individual and communal stories of treachery, deception, and double-dealings fill our religions, mythologies, movie screens, nightly news, novels, and biographies. 

We are all likely to remember a time when we felt betrayed: by parents, teachers, preachers, friends, or lovers. The pain burns so intensely, it leaves scars embedded in the crevices of our hearts. At worst, any time we even think of the betrayal, our hearts are once again set ablaze, reigniting that tender scar tissue as if it were tinder. At best, the old scar is thick but itches as a reminder to be aware of what and to whom we share our vulnerable parts. 

 A lesser-discussed form of betrayal is the one we inflict upon ourselves. We must dig deep into our well of courage in order to act on our internal knowing and honor our longings. Too often dreams, desires, and goals end up in a muddy wasteland, buried in the bog of our unconscious. How often do we sacrifice our words or our dreams in order to “keep the peace”? If we keep giving ourselves away or refuse to honor what we truly think or feel, we are ultimately sending the message that we are not as important as the other person. In effect betraying our self- respect, our time, our knowledge, or other aspects of our lives. 

Back in 2002 when my partner and I were planning our wedding we came across a poem titled The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. The poem is threatening because it point blank calls forth the places in ourselves we hold in fear and challenges us to be raw, courageous and absolutely honest with each other and ourselves; in other words, our authentic selves. The poem could be accused of being Oriah's idealistic notion of a relationship but in reality it is so brutally confrontational most folks betray their own internal fear and walk away. Sounds absolutely perfect for a wedding reading, right! We had more comments about this poem after our wedding than the venue, meal, or clothes we wore. Friends who were completely sworn off marriage said later, “if I could have that, that kind of relationship, I would get married tomorrow.” 

 The stanza from Oriah’s poem, written below addresses the double edge sword of being true to oneself, and who do you ultimately betray¾yourself or the other person? This stanza is tucked in the middle of the poem, which for me indicates that it is at the heart of the questions she asks.

 “I want to know if you can

disappoint another

to be true to yourself.

if you can bear 

the accusation of betrayal

and not betray your own soul.”  (stanza 6).  

She is asking if we know who we are, what we need, what kind of life we are willing to live while walking this great big planet. To answer ‘yes’ requires a kind of honesty towards oneself and ultimately all others that is both conscious and rare. Depending on our gender, cultural norms, and the time period in which we were raised, most of us are taught to avoid conflict at all cost, that keeping the peace is more worthy than being consciously honest with ourselves and our loved ones. In other words, we are taught that betraying our own needs to make another feel comfortable is the higher honor. Is this really true¾perhaps sometimes, but certainly not all the time? 

To live in alignment with our authentic self requires three things: discernment, courage, and a long-term view. Discernment is key. The way I have learned to discern what is really important is to ask myself if the thing presenting itself is a want or a need. Wants are things: experiences or items that I can ultimately live without whereas a need is a calling from the soul. A need in these situations keeps poking at me until I hold it tenderly in my hands and look it squarely in the eyes, acknowledge it, and decide whether or not to take action. Needs are situations or experiences I process very consciously, talk about with those close to me, or those it will directly impact. Then using discernment, I determine if I wish to proceed or not. Ultimately, I am deciding if the risk of being accused of betrayal, the possible turmoil and loneliness are worth pressing forward. 

When an opportunity or deep knowing about taking an action returns time and again we are being asked by our soul to shift direction, expand our hearts, or lives, or minds. At this juncture, we then need to take the long-view. To be able to weigh up the possible consequences and take or avoid action is the sign of a regulated pre-frontal cortex but also a sign of maturity, wisdom, and consciousness. 

Either way, whether we betray ourselves or are accused of betraying another there is a cost. Can you identify the ways in which you betray yourself? As you read the following, I urge you to practice self-compassion. Approach the questions with a sense of curiosity rather than shame or guilt; after all, we are all just doing our best. 

Exercise: Think about the times in your life you have betrayed yourself, either by not speaking a truth, by ignoring an intuitive warning, or by going against an inner knowing. Can you think of times that you gave yourself away, in order to be liked, to keep the peace, or fit in? Are there times in your life when you wanted to leave but stayed because it was easier or you didn’t know what the future would bring? Conversely, did you leave somewhere, someone, or some job when you should have stayed?   

 Direct link for sharing as requested: www.nicolatannion.com

 Citations, including links where possible. 

 Oriah House (Oriah Mountain Dreamer) The Invitation.  http://www.oriahmountaindreamer.com