Vitality A Letter to My Open Heart Love is real in all directions, not something to be sought, forced, or held. By Elizabeth Crisci Dear Fragile Heart, For most of my life I imagined a hole in the middle of my chest. My heart space. Even as I grew into womanhood and devoted myself to my practice I saw potential in this space, and I wanted desperately to fill the void with love. Love, love, love, and more love. And I found plenty of beings to send my love to: animals, children, friends, partners, and students—I poured my love into everyone who would take it and eagerly awaited my feeling of fullness. I read Buddhist philosophy, Taoist philosophy, and yogic philosophy. I practiced maitri (loving kindness) meditation and imagined my enemies as children and found love for them, too. But all the while, I didn’t love you, heart. I kept picturing you as a big dark void, an emptiness, and I was angry. I thought perhaps my heart was born broken. That no matter how much love I could find to send out to others, that this love would always be buried beneath the sadness that lived in this black space. I am sorry, but I was angry with you. I wanted you to be full the way my belly is after a good meal. I wanted to be sated with love. I think I missed the point. My dear heart, you are not an empty space. You are a muscle. I asked you to contract, to pump love out in all directions. I never allowed you to relax, to inhale, and receive. I sent all of my nourishing love away and never saved any for you. You are a muscle. You are strong and you are open. And I will keep seeking within your sacred space for love to send out in all directions, even to my enemies. But I will also remember to send a bit back your way. I am so grateful for my beautiful, sad heart. It was the emptiness of my heart space that inspired me to seek beauty, love, and art in all things. And through this long journey, I learned to love the fragile, vulnerable beauty of an open heart. And finally, love is real in all directions, not something to be sought, forced, or held. Love is a beautiful secret space that often lives on the other side of sadness. Sadness that fosters compassion, compassion that fosters connection. You are not an empty space. You are a muscle. And as with all muscles, your ability to soften only makes you stronger. I am so proud of my open heart. You remained open even when I asked you not to. It is because of you that I have become myself, a woman full of love, who would not change one thing. Photo by Ali Kaukas — Elizabeth Crisci is a yoga teacher and artist in Fairfield County, Connecticut. She is the creator of Love by E, handmade gemstone mala and jewelry. She teaches in workshops, special events, and trainings in the Northeast in addition to a range of regular, weekly classes. She teaches smart and accessible yoga designed to make you feel good. She loves every minute of her work. You can find her writing and her teaching schedule on her website.