Friday, November 12, 2010

Opening the Reluctant Heart

Maya Angelou once said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." And she should know what it is like to not tell one's story. Angelou spent five years of her young life mute, not speaking a word between the ages of eight and thirteen, bearing a heart-wrenching untold story inside herself.

When Angelou was eight years old, she was sexually abused by her stepfather. After she told her brother about it, the man was arrested and briefly jailed, but later was found beaten to death, probably by her uncles. She stopped speaking, and later explained: "I thought I had killed him. I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again because my voice would kill anyone."

I know the type of pain she refers to, and it is not just mental or emotional pain. There are things about my life I have chosen not to talk about publicly, and holding these inside of myself has created pain and real, physical illness. People have often said I seem "reserved," but the truth is I fear that speaking my truth might have dangerous consequences. When I look at Angelou's life story, I see that my fears might not be so far-fetched.

So, although I have chosen not to speak, to protect others from my truth, the words have stayed inside my body, causing pain and suffering and illness. Yoga has been the only way I have found to release this pain, but I think Angelou is right. The untold story will continue to create agony, as long as it remains untold. 

This week, our yoga teacher training has begun to work with Chakra Four, the heart center. This chakra is primarily involved with relationships and love, both the love we give, but also the love we receive. This is the first chakra that I was physically aware of, and have been able to feel it actually opening and closing as I open and close my heart to people in my life. It is a wonderful thing when my heart is open, but I have lived much of my life with it closed, protecting both myself and others, sometimes from those truths I hold inside, the ones that have caused me pain and agony.

T.K.V. Desikachar in his wonderful book "The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice," says that we need only to look to our relationships with other people to see whether we are actually understanding ourselves better. His is a very wise point, very wise indeed...but so very hard to put into practice.



  1. Here's an adage that's part of the oral tradition of 12 Step Recovery: "You're only as sick as your secrets." It's meant to remind us about the toxicity of untold truths; to encourage healing of body, mind and spirit.

    And here's a truth: you are very much loved.

  2. Having never been in a 12 step program, I'd not heard that, but how true it is!

    Thank you, Meredith... <3

  3. What I love about you Raima is your ability to fearlessly explore various conditions of being human - spiritual, physical, emotional etc and share those experiences with others that they too might improve or learn.

    Know, deep down, you ARE loved as Meredith shared.

    Blessings, friend.

  4. much to ponder here.....thanks for being brave enough to begin to speak the truths that matter most. I've also suppressed truths to my detriment but now believe the only way to be authentic and at peace is to unflinchingly bear witness to my unique experiences and perspective. Still working on it, though....