HeartSpace 2014 was the one programme I was certain I wanted to participate in. In the previous year I’d assisted on the programme for its entire duration. I’d felt its movement as I sliced the turnips, fried the kale and washed the dishes. On occasion glorious music would flood the building. As the programme ebbed and flowed its magic even seemed to influence the vegetables when one morning I sliced open a turnip to reveal a worm-hole in the perfect shape of a heart. I felt quite strongly, that this was a programme I needed to do.

So there I found myself, in late November, sat in a chair and ready to dive into the essence of human relationships. Prepared to be unprepared for whatever was ready to be unearthed from the depths of my being.

The programme began to unfold and, as it did, I became conscious of the force with which I was containing my past in my heart centre. The muckiest of emotion, that had been buried long ago, was now beginning to rumble in my chest. I became aware of the effort I was investing in holding on to ancient shame and grief. A self-imposed holding that had successfully allowed me to maintain the status quo and preserve a nice, lovely, “likeable” persona I’d invented. The old stories began to awaken and asked to be shared and I found myself mentally battling them in an attempt to shut them up and make them disappear. Of course the more I refused them, the louder the stories shouted, and that which I’d kept securely imprisoned for many years came tearing forth into the room as I uttered words I’d never spoken, told stories I’d never told.

The three days were agonising at times. I felt as though my chest was being forcibly ripped apart as more and more poured out of me. Yet as gruelling as it was, it felt like a necessary pain, a releasing pain, a liberating pain, so I kept on going. Digging deeper and giving voice to my old stories. My heart was like a pressure cooker, just waiting for the lid to be lifted so the steam could get out. The lid was lifted, the steam filled the room and a peculiar sensation took over. I’d become so used to unwittingly holding the weight of my stories, that the lightness and expansion and vulnerability I experienced afterwards was utterly unfamiliar. There was a momentary panic at this new territory, and I searched for the lid so that I could restore familiarity. But not only had the lid been lifted, it had been thrown away entirely. There was no going back. There, in its place, was exactly what’s written on the tin… a heart space; a new place for me, a place where I can access the love that is just there.

Having got to know this place, I’ve become aware of the effect it has had on my experience. I seem to have let go of gripping onto ideas about what my relationships should be. They have room to breathe and simply to be, in whatever form that takes. I seem to have let go of an agenda that I didn’t even know was there, an agenda that manifested in the form of effort and strategy. It’s easier to be with those I love. A lot of the old baggage that was blocking my way to true connection with my friends and family has fallen away, and the words ‘I love you’, which were once so painful to utter, now flow with more ease and spontaneity, when they need to be spoken.

Alice Fernbank