Releasing Butterflies from My Chest: My Journey with Heart, Sangha & Dharma
Heidi Nehring is a published author, educator and facilitator of writing workshops. Heidi has been an instrumental member of The Heart Revival sangha for a year in of January 2020. We are delighted to share her insights and story on our sweet blog. Read on and enjoy!
A Nervous Heart
When people see Heidi, they might think the word, writer. There is truth in that, but really writing is just something I do. I mean, I could lie and say that it was always a form of meditation when I was younger. But, it wasn’t. It was really many things for me. It was a place for me to hide. To hold my secrets. A way to soothe a nervous heart. To lay my thoughts to bed because I’ve always had a very active mind. Many times, I felt suppressed in the culture I was surrounded with because being sensitive or emotional wasn’t seen as a strength by some. So, journaling became a safe place for me to land, bare my soul, and be as overly dramatic as I wanted to be. However, I would write in code because I was embarrassed sometimes by what I was struggling with or felt. Writing was also a way for me to express my love through letters and poems for other people who made an impact on my life. For many reasons, verbally trying to express my wants, cares, and longings, as well as love and affection got stuck somewhere between the nervous pedaling of my heart and the wall of fear in my throat. I had, and still have, a very difficult time asking for what I need. I tend to hold many things in until they end up exploding one way or another. As years have gone by and situations have presented themselves, I have recognized how writing gives me a time, place, and space, to ride through emotions, finding out where I am in the process of everything. It helps to bring the unconscious to consciousness. I don’t write in code anymore because I have found value in what writing does for me and what it can do for others. I look more with curiosity. I have started to give myself permission to just go wherever things go when the words fall out. I realize also that I am not the same person I was at the moment I wrote, thought, or felt something. As I see it, writing was something cultivated and nurtured over time using it as a tool to release butterflies from my chest. Words come together better when I choose to be open, honest, vulnerable, and raw. But, writing is only one way to come into being. There is value in finding other experiences to open up, feel, to acknowledge who we are. Something I realized later in life.
When people see Heidi, they might use the word, sensitive. They would be right. I am sensitive. I feel everything. I remember as a kid feeling beautiful things and I thought to myself, “I want to feel everything.” I found love in the simple. Number one, who thinks this way? Number two, I had no idea the magnitude of that statement until I started to evolve at certain points in my life. There are certain things I realized I did not want to feel. The death of a loved one. Being lost not knowing what to do with my life. And, heartbreak. That last one left a heavy mark on me for a long time because I thought I understood what true love was. And, I beat myself up for a very long time because I was a part of a relationship that crumbled. I felt so much shame. I harbored more than I even understood a person could harbor, until feelings were triggered by trivial things in other close relationships and panic attacks took hold. If you don’t choose the time, life will choose the time for you to start looking at yourself and who you are. This is when Sangha came into my life. A saving grace. A Christmas present. I consciously got to a point where I needed to be more open and vulnerable with myself. I needed to work at feeling things again, finding forgiveness, to have an honest look at myself. And, not put that responsibility on other friends and family. I was loving with conditions and roadblocks. I wasn’t loving myself or the people around me in the ways I knew I could. I needed to allow myself to shake, cry, sob, be angry, find those points that were holding me back from being the loving person I knew I could be. I learned that the Divine cares deeply for who we are, who I am, and does provide. January 6, 2019 is a date to be remembered. I walked into Sangha. A walking into myself, a place that allowed me to play and fidget with keys to slowly release one butterfly at a time that was caught in my chest. I needed a place where I didn’t feel judged, where I could verbally have permission not to be eloquent, where I was surrounded by people who were objective, and I could work with weekly in becoming more me. Through meditations, by being surrounded by caring people and choosing caring people to surround myself with I have been able to be freer. To embrace more of who I am, helping me embrace others more freely. But, it was breaking through many barriers and allowing my sensitivity to break open for that to happen. A lot of it was, and is, understanding that I had to consciously be open in order to grow. To be okay sweating in the moment, listening, speaking, and writing things out in full openness, even though I don’t like some of the things there, settling in, letting it be, letting things run the internal course, trusting that even if I can’t see it, there is a turning point where things feel freer. While some things in life need to be done alone, we need, I need, people who are riding their own journeys in their own vulnerable ways to be there with me. That we understand that we all want to be with ourselves and others in the most caring, loving ways possible. That we are not alone. And, it is possible. To let go. But, it. Takes. Time. Along with the conscious effort to open up in as many ways as possible. So, we can say, “We are because you are and I am.” Vulnerability is such a gift. I enter Sangha every time curious what I will find that I never knew existed within myself. Throughout Sangha and my life with friends and family, I have seen these people embrace who they are, and it made me begin to truly ask myself, “What do I have to give? What is it I can offer others?” Writing began to resurface, to show that it can be an effective tool for growth.
Which leads me lastly to the whole thing of Dharma. I honestly never gave much thought to the word until I started taking yoga classes with Meg. Somewhere Dharma was mentioned, and I was like, “What is this now?” As I have come into a relationship with this word, it’s kind of like a purpose for your life. I am used to calling it a Divine calling. Which is so different for each of us, so special to each of us. The word didn’t make sense to me until I was sweating profusely in the middle of a heated Ashtanga yoga class and Meg threw out the question, “What are you longing for?” In that moment, my mind listed about fifty things within one intake of breath and movement. Ending up in downward facing dog, a drop of sweat dangling from the end of my nose, she finished with, “There is your purpose.” I have never heard it posed in that manner before. I had to sit with myself in the following days, asking myself bottom line, “What am I truly longing for in this life? What is it that I have to offer others?” I went back to the poetry book I wrote, which was about self-discovery called, “Under Willows. Over Flowers.: a journey from the head to the heart,” and knew that that is what I was longing for—to make connections with others by being vulnerable in cultivating relationships together through writing. To talk about life and all of the things. To close gaps. Make peace. Love better. I asked myself, “Is this possible using writing?” I decided I would start by answering that question every day with, “Yes. It is,” remaining open to all of the possibilities. To show others that it is possible. To provide space for myself and others to grow without judgement, like I was longing for. I am just more ready for it now. But, it took many mindful walks, stillness, written reflections, discussion, meditation, prayer, to find the balance between striving to make it happen, and allowing things to fall into place. And here is the secret. I am terrified. So, I am working on trusting that who I am and what I have is enough. That I will be provided with all I need in the process to get me to where I need to go. To release everything up and out so I can be that vessel in whatever form it may come in—to be love, so I can say, “Here I am.” We are new every second of every day. That is beautiful. As Gary Allan, the country singer says, “Life ain’t always beautiful. But, it’s a beautiful ride.” I believe it can be, even though we can’t see it in all of the moments. I am looking forward to seeing more of who I am and seeing who you are as we journey together.
Enjoy my book: Under Willows. Over Flowers. (available on Amazon)
Follow me on Instagram: @hnehring.writer