I’ve had the name “Brilliant Hearts” in mind for a while. It came to me a few years back when I started writing spiritual children’s books for the first time. At that time in my life I was beginning to process the inevitable pain we all go through as children and the consequences that that suffering can incur. The pain can come for many reasons – our parents are never perfect (how could they be when they’re human?), life can be challenging if we have particular sensitivities (and we are all sensitive in our own way), sometimes survival is a constant concern (how many children are impoverished in this country?), and inevitably the things we are taught about ourselves are never 100% true (making it very challenging to “know thyself”*). In the face of these varying degrees of pain we tend to collapse in on ourselves. We find ways to make ourselves small, or ways to disengage from those sensitivities (thereby loosing touch with empathy). We try to become what our parents want us to be (rather than what God wants us to be), and we can become bitter and aggressive in the struggle for survival.
But before all that happens there is a spark in a child’s eye. It is a spark of aliveness, of excitement, and of hope. It comes from their enthusiasm and curiosity for the world – their inborn love of creation and their drive to put their own unique stamp on it. This spark is their soul, their drive for living, and the love that exists in them without any effort or justification. This is what it means to be human. This is the spirit of humanity – the beauty of our inborn joy, love, curiosity, and expression.
So what happens when our spirits meet with the inevitable pain of this world? We diminish our spirit – we force it underground. We are often told by the world that our spirit is inappropriate here – we’re told that our compassion will get in the way of our survival, that we must renounce joy because it will only be followed by disappointment, that love has to be earned, and that if we try to express ourselves we could fail or be judged (so it’s better not to try). We subdue our joy, deflate our excitement, fall out of love, and extinguish our curiosity. (There is actually a word for this phenomenon: “Dispirit”. It means to loose enthusiasm of hope.) This of course happens differently, and to a different degree, for every individual. Often we manage to retain some parts of our spirit, but lose touch with other aspects. Regardless of the extent to which this occurs, this is inevitably the cause of our lack of well-being as teen-agers and adults. This diminishment of spirit is ultimately at the core of hopelessness, fear, greed, stress, prolonged sadness, and apathy. When we fall out of touch with our own soul, we fall out of touch with our vitality and our drive for living. Life can only have great meaning when we are in touch with the very thrill of our own existence.
So how can this be fair when pain and suffering are inevitable? While it’s true that pain is a part of life, some pain can lead to resilience and the development of strength of character, while another kind of pain leads to the extinguishing of the spirit. The first kind of pain is the result of chance, accident, and the daily bumps and bruises of living. The second kind of pain is the result of human frailty – cruel words, rough hands, dismissal, and neglect. Phrases like “you’re bad,” “you’re going to fail,” and “I hate you,” will always have a far more lasting and damaging effect than a broken leg.
So back when I was thinking about these things for the first time I realized that you could tell when someone’s spirit had been diminished. If you look with focused attention you can see the light in a child’s eye, and you can see it fade when unkind words steal their vitality away. So even if you don’t know what they heck you’re doing – you don’t have a psychology degree and you had a hard childhood and you want to be a loving person but you just don’t have your @#$% together yet – the one practice of paying close attention to the spark of life in someone’s eye will tell you whether or not you have lifted – or diminished – their spirit. This is the litmus test. This is the daily spiritual practice of doing more good than we do harm. This is the struggle to express our humanity, and not the lowest aspect of our reality (instinct, domination, control, greed and attack).
If we make this practice a priority we can nurture our own spirit and others’ at the same time. By practicing compassion for others we learn compassion for ourselves. By embracing humility and curiosity over the need to know what’s “right” we find greater freedom. By developing patience for others and a willingness to acknowledge our own ignorance and missteps, we lay the groundwork for being seen in our truth (and beauty), and discovering the beauty of others. With this practice our inborn brilliance can be cultivated and shine forth with utter radiance and joy. For me, this is what spiritual practice is about. This is why I am passionate about spiritual education. This is what I want to write about, talk about, and learn about – so that the people who come to this site can be empowered to be in touch with their own Brilliant Heart.