Embodied Transformation & Evolution

Living with Heartbreak ~ The awakening of our feeling body

Posted by on Jul 24, 2018 in Featured Writing, Lifeletters & Articles | 5 comments

Living with Heartbreak ~ The awakening of our feeling body

I had a conversation that impacted me deeply this weekend, with Keith Witt, an integral psychotherapist, teacher and author. We were talking about the #metoo movement, and his perspective on the root cause of the sexual violence, harassment and inequality that have been a part of so many women’s lives. “We haven’t taken care of our children,” he said. “A good parent raises a child who becomes a healthy adult. A healthy adult does not treat other people like this.”

His perspective on this was so deeply resonant with mine that it took my breath away. Like Keith, I have been waking up to the simple truth of how we can really change our world: we need to help parents show up and respond to the basic needs of their children. These needs are so simple, primal and non-negotiable. If we neglect them, there are profound consequences, both immediate and long term. Our culture is brimming over with those consequences right now–just take a look around. How many healthy, fully functioning adults are showing up in our world? How many of our leaders display the qualities of emotional maturity, stability, attunement?

Children need to feel that their parents are really there for them. In order for a child to feel safe, he or she needs to feel a stable caring presence, a deep sense of connection. Our children don’t need this once in while. They need someone that is attuned to them, holding them, in a tangible, ongoing way. A child who feels alone, uncared for and unseen will face serious challenges on the way to their own maturity. Children also need good food, not fast food, not food delivered by machines. Basic nutrition is essential for the development of their brain and nervous system.

What we are dealing with is a systemic problem. Our whole culture participates in the neglect of our children. Take a look at many our schools, and the day care centres where children are parked while their parents are at work. Not to mention the televisions and computers that are now substitutes for caring human beings. If we changed this dimension of our collective life, I believe we could make a significant impact on our whole culture in one generation.

man in suit weeping tom-pumford--unsplash

The really interesting thing, as Keith said, is that we now know what is necessary in order to raise a healthy child. The information that has emerged over the last two decades, in the fields of neuroscience, childhood development, addiction, trauma, attachment theory and nutrition, make it very clear what works and does not work. The news is out! We have the information, we have the knowledge, and on a systemic level, we have the capacity, in terms of money, to make these changes.

Other countries, like the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland are much further ahead than we are in North America. Is what they are doing perfect? Not at all–they are making mistakes and learning from them. But they have the will, the interest, the intention. We don’t have that same level of consciousness here in North America. We are asleep, when it comes to our children; we are driven by other agendas. In my view, we have lost touch with our real priorities. Without another level of consciousness, there is no political will to do anything different.

I wanted to know how Keith felt about all this, the current state of affairs in North America. “How do you deal with this emotionally?” I asked him.

“I’m heartbroken,” he responded. He told me that when he gave a recent presentation on the #metoo movement at an Integral conference, he cried. Not just a few tears, but a lot. “I’m a happy person,” he said, “but I am not going to deny or minimize my heartbreak.”

Keith’s response to me was a tangible transmission of what it is to be human, and live with an ever widening circle of care. This is what life asks of us, if we want to be a global citizen. It takes a lot. I felt my own deep heartbreak when Keith spoke to me, and it took me right back to a very similar moment with the Dalai Lama, years ago. The Dalai Lama was speaking to a huge crowd one day, when he was asked how he was able to deal with the suffering of humanity. He paused, put down the sacred text he was reading, took off his glasses, and said, “Like this.” And he cried. He sobbed deeply, in front of thousands of people, without the slightest inhibition, for over five minutes. Then he wiped away his tears, put on his glasses, and cheerfully resumed his talk.

I’m deeply engaged in facing these challenges in my life right now. I work with them day by day, hour by hour, as I learn to embody this way of being fully human and alive. I don’t feel I have an option anymore; this is the way forward, if we want to create a future that’s worth living into.

It’s astonishing to feel the actual living texture of this: how we live when our heart and our feeling body have not been numbed out, closed down. The Dalai Lama is one of the happiest people on the planet, and Keith Witt is full of passion and enthusiasm for life. Both of them demonstrate how the path to our maturity takes us into greater and greater complexity. Opening to this complexity is a radical path: it calls forth our capacity to walk through the world with a broken-open heart and a passion for life that is full of joy and delight.


There is some strange intimacy between grief and aliveness
Between what seems unbearable and what is most exquisitely alive.
 ~Francis Weller


with love,


Photo credit:   Tom Pumford on Unsplash


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Michelle Wilsdon

    Not my usual expression of feeling-but just back on computer, I have a concussion and head laceration which has been stitched, I was crossing the street at a crosswalk light.
    He can stop
    He isn’t stopping
    He doesn’t see me
    I almost made it.
    Alive, no broken bones
    When the rug is pulled out from under you
    you can still feel anger, but realize how beautiful
    the next breath can be

    • Shayla Wright

      Michelle, I am so glad you are alright, still breathing, still alive.
      This happened to my daughter in Nelson, right downtown on Ward Street.

      Be sure to take care of the trauma, make sure it has a chance to unwind and move through you.

      Blessings on your healing, and your precious life.

      with much love

  2. Colleen Carpenter

    This is difficult for me write and feel very vulnerable sharing this perspective but as usual I am stirred to share another perspective.

    This quote resonated with me as I spent many years working with parents and children in stressful situations “A good parent raises a child who becomes a healthy adult.”

    For generations we have been raised by adults who have also been often carry their own trauma and not due to their parents! I don’t believe many of us get through life unscathed if not from our parents from someone else we loved and trusted.

    Parents have been taking the blame and been shamed for their ability to raise their children for eons. If we’re good parents, our children will turn out okay. If we’re bad parents, well, they won’t. Though research has proven that childhood development owes itself to many influences, we can’t seem to help but assign blame to one party—that is, us—and it’s created a generation of parents who judge themselves, and each other, by how their children do.

    Children will adopt the mannerisms, cultural beliefs, and values of any community you choose to raise him or her in. The thing is, not everyone has the ideal situation for raising kids, not to mention the different personality traits just how a child reacts to stressful experiences seems to depend on a complex mix of factors that differ between individuals, including their genes, temperament and cognitive ability.

    Even under adversary, without the care they may have desired, often children still grow up to be amazing, successful, generous people. It sounds crazy, but it happens much more than we realize.

    Blaming has become a normal way to shirk personal responsibility. Often psychological processes such as blaming parents can be more dangerous for mental health than the past experiences themselves. Relying heavily on blaming others stunts growth.

    No one, from politicians to celebrities to our own kids, seems able to admit they were wrong or take responsibility these days. Everyone seems to be playing “The Blame Game.”Blaming others is modelled for our children on a daily basis: by adults, their peers, in the news, across the world.

    In society today, there’s been a growing trend of blaming parents for a child’s behaviour. Whenever there’s a tragedy or a child behaves in a way that’s dangerous, harmful, irresponsible or “wrong,” people always ask, “Why didn’t the parents do something to prevent this, they should have known.”
    Parents, particularly those with kids who are struggling with poor behaviour choices, have taken this to heart, internalizing and often blaming themselves. “If I hadn’t had to work as much, maybe my son wouldn’t be so angry. Maybe he wouldn’t get into fights like he does. He tells me all the time it’s my fault and maybe he’s right.” The child gets the message that he’s not responsible for his own behaviour and choices—his parents are. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lifetime pattern of blaming others and refusing to take responsibility. It will always be his spouse’s fault, the boss’s fault, the police officer’s fault, or the legal system’s fault.

    As a child I think I was difficult to raise, an over sensitive nervous system and a strong social conscience. This combination was difficult for my parents to handle as my siblings were different in so many ways. I often felt although completely loved by my mother she was not equipped for me.I can blame my parents for not understanding me, not giving me the attention I desired…my mother was doing her absolute best to love and care for me, or I can understand the world is different for everyone and unless there is something seriously wrong with our mental health, were are all doing our best.

    Fathers do not seem to be given the same responsibilities as mothers in the parenting game. As mothers we can be seen as the route of evil in someone else….this is a heavy burden…it takes a village!

    For mother and self-blaming to ever stop, are going to have to be seen — and see themselves — as individuals rather than symbols or caricatures.

    I understand this way of seeing parental responsibility but to say “ A good parent raises a child to become a healthy adult” is a myth worth breaking. Children also need to know society is there for them not just parents.The shaming is not helpful. If we as a society really cared about parenting there would be more help for people who are raising their children homeless, without proper nutrition, under stress and without privilege. Where is our money and energies going …..not there that is obvious.

    I relation to the children separated from parents, we need to take up the slack and not but all the responsibility on the parental reconnection alone. They will need the support of the tribe. We need to all step up with love and support.

    Thanks for listening

    • Margrit Bayer

      I love what Shayla wrote and can hear you Colleen, raising healthy kids is no small task and today’s standards are much improved from a generation or two ago, where beating kids at home and in school was common and well tolerated. Blaming parents truly is not the way to go but providing more support would surely help. Some European countries do this well, accepting high taxes in place of good support. North America seems to idealize each man for himself, small government and low taxes as the ideal. Finding balance, finding balance rather than flipping from one side to the other. This being human and raising humans is a complex undertaking!

    • Shayla Wright

      Dear Colleen
      I agree with everything you have said here 100%. There is a myth worth breaking here—a myth that has certainly laid very heavy on me, as a mother. I’ve been very aware of it for a while now—Byron Katie calls it ‘the mother load.”

      It’s a complex and very sensitive issue, and I understand your vulnerability. Gabor Matte, whom I respect and love, has been criticized for putting too heavy a load on the mother. I heard him respond to this recently by saying, “I’m sorry, and the mother is simply the whole world for the child.”

      I think you’ve opened up something worth investigating and inquiring into here Colleen. The deeper truth for me being that it takes a village to raise a child, and our culture is not functioning in any real way to support the mother, even the so=called ‘good mother.’

      I would love you to share some of what you have written here in response to my Lifeletter on FB…and if you feel too vulnerable to do so, I totally respect that too.

      with much love and gratitude,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *