Seeing and photographing ‘found’ hearts enlivens this author’s soul as she finds herself through art
My first heart rock was found on a walk along the lagoon at USCB, and given to me by someone special. Over time, I began seeing other heart shapes in nature, mostly while on vacation. In the last few years, I started seeing hearts all around me, wherever I am, in the course of my daily routine. It is only now, in hindsight, that I realize this is no accident, stroke of luck, or matter of keen observation. It is a byproduct of my personal journey of self-discovery.
Two years ago, I had an identity crisis. Five words in my mother-in-law’s annual holiday letter were all it took to confirm what I already suspected. Near the end of a full-page, single-spaced, letter detailing the accolades of every family member…
The only words referencing me stated, “Lisa keeps everyone on track.”
Despite wrapping up one of the most challenging years of planning my youngest son’s bar mitzvah, helping my oldest with grueling art portfolios and college applications, supporting my husband’s election campaign, and running my own small business, I was viewed as nothing more than a taskmaster of everyone else’s successful accomplishments. Even in social settings, I noticed people primarily inquired about my husband and the kids rather than me individually. I felt dismissed, overlooked, and taken for granted. I had become invisible.
After more than a few tears of anguish and six months of counseling, I realized my mother-in-law was absolutely correct. Master’s degree, former teacher, small-business owner, writer, artist, and all that went into being an at-home mom to my three teenage sons aside, I came to understand that I had become Dobby, the house elf. I was no longer cognizant of my own desires, aspirations, and dreams.
In the process of supporting everyone else around me, I had lost touch with myself.
So, unbeknownst to me at the time, I embarked on a pilgrimage of personal reacquaintance.
I have always been a creative person with a sensitive soul. I am an avid reader, walker, and nature admirer. So, during my daily walks, I cast aside the earbuds that were funneling up-tempo music and masking my ruminations. I also began reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness meditation, titled Wherever You Go, There You Are. Something interesting happened on those walks. I saw things I had never noticed before, despite have walked the same path in our urban neighborhood for 20 years. I even spotted a few heart shapes in nature along the way, and started bringing my cell phone with me to take pictures. I soon realized the more preoccupied I was with replaying past scenarios or stressing about upcoming events, the less observant I was during my walks.
My husband and sons began asking if I saw any hearts on my outings, and soon a pattern emerged that exemplified what I was reading. Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” I learned that the more present I was on my walks and the more clear-headed and aware I was of my surroundings, the more connected and harmonious I felt with myself and the world around me. Incidentally, those were also the days I was open to seeing hearts.
The Instagram moment
Around that time, my sons, the beneficiaries of my devotion, began encouraging me to post my found heart photos on Instagram. It was my first experience with social media and I felt exposed. However, my initial posts with simple captions evolved into something bigger and unexpected. I started including carefully curated quotes, meaningful insights, and personal stories. My posts became a means of artistic self-expression, creatively pairing my findings of hearts in nature with profound words of reflection. This modern-day digital journal guided my daily affirmations and intentions. Over time, my mind’s stream of consciousness has been transformed from incessant over-analysis to uplifting reflection. It is the daily introspection on matters of heart that has enhanced the power of mindfulness and coaxed my internal awakening and enlightenment.
An unanticipated outcome of sharing my journey is that my posts are inspiring people in powerful ways. For some, the words are exactly what they need to hear that day, while for others my sentiment resonates with them on a more personal level. The global connection, photo sharing, and exchange of ideas on Instagram established a community that nourishes my soul. The greatest gift to me is when my posts allow others to view the world differently.
The power of the heart image lies in its universal symbolism of love across continents and cultures. When found by chance, the heart is a serendipitous message of joy, hope, meaning, or spirituality for the finder. However, there are any number of triggers for a meaningful transformation in perspective.
Our challenge is to move beyond the superficial enticements of contemporary living and refocus our dedication to the investigation of our inner well-being.
While people whirl around me striving for the latest in external improvements of their homes, yards, clothing, and appearance, I seek solace in learning to quiet my mind and do the life-changing internal work necessary to finding real joy, happiness, contentment, and inner peace. This is not a destination to be reached but rather an infinitely ongoing and active process. My mind is hardly a calm sanctuary of everlasting tranquility, but at least I now have the tools and the framework for realignment by looking inward. After all, we create our own reality daily.
My circumstances in life have not changed dramatically in the two years since that holiday letter, and my focus is still on my family. I am also still together with the giver of that very first heart rock, almost 31 years later. However, I look back and recognize that I have changed. I no longer feel invisible, nor do I give weight to other people’s perceptions of my place in life. I have unveiled the essence of my inner spirit and found its heart center. This shift has nothing to do with likes and followers on Instagram. Instead, it has everything to do with seeing love and beauty around me and sharing my heart. In the process I am continually filling myself up with what is most important: mindfulness, gratitude, balance, hope, joy, inner peace, and love. My journey helped me quiet my thoughts, open my eyes, and fill my heart. I found my voice, my meaning, and my authentic self. I am nurturing self-acceptance. I have always known that I matter to my family, but now I matter to myself.
Click an image below to view the gallery:
Follow Lisa on Instagram: @heart_rox
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