By Saki Santorelli
When I was a young child I remember being stirred by an image of Jesus holding his heart, wrapped in thorns, in his hands. In 1959, when I was ten, I sat in the hands of the great bronze Buddha in Kamakura, Japan. It was a cool day, a dusting of snow resting with me in the great open palms and long fingers. It altered me forever. When I was in my early twenties, I used to slip into the pews of a church where there was a plain stone statue of Jesus standing with his right arm extended, heart in hand, with an open place in the chest barely intimated behind the folds of his robes.
I most remember the face, which was neither frowning nor smiling. There was no sign of martyrdom, no sign of otherworldliness. Simply a quiet presence. Warm, sad eyed, yet full of a quiet joy. Sitting near the statue, I sometimes felt enfolded in the resonant presence of the universal Heart-Mind capable of opening to the world in such a manner. For me, the statue was not a depiction of some unreachable “God,” but rather an inspiring representation of love: intrinsic, radical, available, hidden yet capable of being embodied by all human beings. In this way, the standing figure was a reminder. A plain and simple seeing of the human heart that has unconditionally given itself to the world.
The ten-thousandfold impulse to draw back behind the folds of our stiff clothes, our own tender hearts, is always close at hand. In our direct entry into the life of this impulse, there is much pain and much possibility. Our willingness to work compassionately with such a deeply engrained habit is an open invitation for the discovery of our simple, effusive brilliance. The converging activities of meditative practice and the calling to take good care of ourselves and be of help in the world ask each of us to take full responsibility for the welfare and evolutionary journey of human beings, and to put that responsibility at the forefront of our lives, no matter what our role or profession. Holding such an intention and attempting to live in this manner is fraught with trouble and is a cause for quiet celebration. Such a seemingly impossible task is an attractor for hubris and depression, failure and recommitment, contentment and great joy. What makes the acceptance of such responsibility possible is the force of our universal longing for freedom and joy, and our wish to accompany one another on this journey.
Living in such a manner is the foundation for a radical shift in our views of self, healing and the healing relationship. Taking up such a quest holds the possibility of transforming each of us from cold metal or solid stone to vibrant life. The vibrancy of such life is healing itself, the unfolding dance of an incalculable, ever-abundant universe.
This is the epilogue from Saki's book, "Heal Thyself: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine." Reprinted with permission by Saki Santorelli.