“Work of the eyes is done, now
go and do heart work.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
This Old Heart of Mine
By: Frederic Brussat
My heart is a marvelous fist-size pumping organ whose chief physical duty is to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the cells and organs of my body. It labors tirelessly beating approximately 80,000-140,000 times a day, depending on the resting heart rate. This astonishing feat adds up to 42 million heartbeats a year! My gratitude is abundant.
One of the major challenges of my life as an elder is to take the time and energy to do all I can to keep my heart healthy and flourishing.
This, of course, means doing some daily “outer work” – eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, doing aerobic exercise, body stretching, and mind-training.
It is equally important that I do “inner work” to nurture that other heart within me – the seat of wisdom and understanding, the locus of meaning, compassion, kindness, wonder, reverence, and peace. You get my gist: my wisdom heart supports the 37 spiritual practices we identify in the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy.
Confucius called these life skills “human-heartedness.” What a capacious term for embracing everything in life’s pageant from greetings to table manners, respect for strangers, worship services, and leave taking. These skills of the heart can be manifested in service of the Holy One, family, community, art, or our spiritual teacher. They all reveal the same appreciation, loyalty, sensitivity, and commitment.
Heart work brings out the best in us and enables us to dance for joy in gratitude for the Ten Thousand things which enhance, deepen, and enrich our lives.
Doing outer and inner work enables us to celebrate the heart as a double duty dynamo that serves as a catalyst to our spiritual transformation.