A teacher of mine once told me that when she was very sick and not finding relief from some very difficult and serious health issues, a friend recommended a specific doctor to her. This friend told her that when she saw the doctor, he might seem aloof, disinterested, and brief. What was important then, said the friend to my teacher, was that my teacher mentally or internally say to him, “Please help me, please help me.” The friend assured my teacher that no matter what actually happened in the appointment, the doctor would receive and act on this internal message. And so she did it. As it was, the doctor was brief and aloof. He did prescribe some herbs and breathing exercises, and she began to miraculously heal and now experiences very little effect from the original health issue. I always found this interesting.
Until I found myself desperately suffocating inside pain and grief. No longer was this story interesting, it was fascinating. And I did also find myself, on this same day, walking in the snow, sobbing out my eyeballs, looking to the trees, and asking for help.
Who was I talking to? I don’t know. When no one else is around, who are any of us talking to? I guess it was the trees who usually, to me, seem so loving, warm, joyful, and welcoming. That day they just looked tall, cold, impersonal, and disinterested. My personal pain seemed so insignificant compared to their own long history of trials, work, and suffering, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. And I remembered the doctor. So I asked them for help.
I don’t know what happened, but my tears did stop and everything seemed suddenly so very quiet. Then I felt embarrassed - what could those trees do anyway? What if someone heard me talking out loud in the forest? I walked away.
Leaving the forest, I did notice the sky was crisp and blue with no white clouds to be seen. I saw also, a lone dead tree, very tall and with many black branches up high against the blue sky. Then I saw movement. It was a bald eagle. I watched it closely. The eagle lifted his wings just slightly away from his body and shrugged them three times. Then he turned around and hopped down a branch, hidden from my view by the tree trunk. For some reason, my heart swelled. I walked away feeling quite awed.
Yes I have seen a lot of bald eagles in my life. Some of them have been simply beautiful, and some of them have made my heart stop. Some of them seem to have appeared randomly, and some of them have appeared just like this one, right after I have broken down inside and just asked for help.
Many of us have had our hearts broken badly at least once; most of us have had our hearts broken a number of times. I know my heart will break again no matter how hard I try to guard and protect it. I am learning to skillfully and compassionately nurture a broken heart. Amidst the pain and confusion and wishing it would all just go away, asking for help is sometimes all I can muster.
Most everyone I know does not like to ask for help. We all like to give help and offer ourselves to others, but receiving help and even love sometimes is not so easy. Directly asking for love or help can feel close to impossible. And that is why I love what my teacher’s friend suggested to her when she went to the doctor - just say it inside yourself. No one has to actually hear it to know it. You don’t even have to say it to a human being! Just keep it simple, ask bird or sidewalk or rosebush or cup of tea, “Please help me.”
And then, after you ask for help, whether out loud or as a secret plea on the inside, watch for your answers, watch for your clues. Notice what the universe, or God, or your guardian angels or whoever you believe offers you divine help, unveils. And then trust and believe that those moments that soften your heart, give you a shiver, or make you pause in wonder - like seeing an eagle shrug its wings at you - really are signs that you are supported, you are protected, you are loved. Your broken heart is actually whole.