Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, wrote about tenderizing the heart.
“Trungpa taught the Buddhist practice of bodhicitta, or awakened heart. His own term for awakened heart was ‘the genuine heart of sadness,’ which he explained as a natural and beautiful condition, the result of staying open to the full experience of life” (The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure by Elizabeth Lesser, p.179).
The Pain of God
A tender heart feels the wounds of the world. In the Christian tradition through the teachings of the Desert Fathers (and Desert Mothers), this empathy would be expressed through the “gift of tears.” Tears would flow freely after experiencing “the pain of God.”
“This God is no hobby. God is felt in places too deep for words; in depths beyond ideas and concepts. . . . Penthos (compunction) is the word for that which pierces us to the heart, cuts us to the quick, raises us from the ‘dead’” (Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality by Alan Jones, p.84).
The Gift of Tears
“The gift of tears” is not crying because of depression or emotional trauma. It is the soul crying out to God.
“Weeping, then, has a triple function. It softens the hardened and dried-out soul, making it receptive and alive. It clears the mind. It opens the heart. Tears soften, clarify, and open. We weep all the more when we see what and who we are in the light of what we are called to be” (ibid. p.96).
What if I don’t think weeping is my cup of tea?
“Weeping is for everyone. We live in a democracy of tears.” (ibid.p.97).
Weeping from the soul results in a renewed and deeper love for God and others.
Jones takes the title of his book from a quote by John Keats: “Call the world if you please ‘the vale of Soul-making’” (ibid. p.1). Love and beauty are also tools of soul-making. For lovers of poetry and lovers of love (romance), I recommend an obscure yet interesting movie (Bright Star) about John Keats. A line by Keats in the movie that I particularly like is “If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all” (letter to John Taylor, 1818).
Draw Me Close
I think “the gift of tears” can come from the experience of beauty and a longing for a deeper relationship with God. Tears certainly came to my eyes a number of times for the previous reasons during my daughter’s wedding.
Christina and Tom were married on August 3, 2009, at Hazlewood Castle near Leeds, England. One of the songs they chose to be played during the blessing ceremony by an Anglican priest in the chapel was “Draw Me Close” sung by Michael W. Smith. The heartfelt singing along with the song by those present combined with the sun shining through the stained glass windows brought tears to many an eye. I highly recommend the albums, Worship – Michael W. Smith and Worship Again – Michael W. Smith. If these albums are listened to with a devotional and receptive heart, a “gift of tears” may flow into your life.
Top Photo Credit: Angel Tears by D Sharon Pruitt at Flickr Creative Commons.