The universe always seems to show us things that we need to pay attention to. There is a constant theme that keeps tapping me on the shoulder and that is, let it all in and let it all out. The poet Rumi and the late, great artist Leonard Cohen reminds us of this. Both of these writers can speak so purely and help heal the weary spirit.

Rumi advises, “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That is where the light enters you.” And Cohen from his song “Anthem” counsels; “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” These are such graceful and beautiful reminders to let it all in and to let it all out.

Being raised listening to Leonard Cohen I’ve heard this quote sung in his scratchy, spoken form forever without it sticking and almost becoming calloused to it. Then one day I really heard it as if for the first time. It moved me and stuck deeply. This was closely timed to the beginning of my path in exploring my constant companion shame. As if by synchronicity, I read the very excerpt from Brene’ Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection where she speaks of this powerful quote and it rang even more true.

There is a line from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” that serves as a reminder to me when I get into that place where I am trying to control everything and make it perfect. The line is, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” So many of us run around spackling all of the cracks, trying to make everything look just right. The line helps me remember the beauty of the cracks. It reminds me that our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together (p. 61).

As a recovering perfectionist, that was one way to look at it for me and to help remind me that my cracks and bandaged places are beautiful and part of my experience in being human. I took it even further though and it brought up even more. When I began doing my own shame work (and let me tell you, I’m in no way, shape or form a shame guru, but I am in the trenches practicing shame resiliency daily with a lot of diligent focus), I felt broken, unworthy and the realization that I had totally betrayed myself for decades crept in. This offered me the awareness that my heart was armored in such a heavy metaled casing that there was no chance of light coming in or going out. The very thought of light penetrating or exiting my raw heart felt way too scary and vulnerable and almost annihilating.

Defending my pink skinned, raw heart wasn’t working. I wasn’t able to receive the love I wanted or even worse, offer the love I so deeply had and desperately wanted to share but selfishly protected. That was when I made the conscious decision despite the fear to allow the tiniest of cracks to be noticed and nurtured. I slowly allowed love in and I slowly allowed love out. All because I am worthy of being loved and those I care about are worthy of feeling my fierce love.

This subtlety began to widen the crack as if the light were being beckoned, similar to the undying need of the flower to grow from a crack in the cement. I continue to water and fertilize it daily and some days it’s really hard, exhausting and I’m not so good at it. The cool news is that the crack has gotten so large that I’m not sure I can even call it a crack any longer. My raw heart is exposed and open and it is still thumping stronger than ever because of its exposure to the light.

There is a crack in everything and that is how the light gets in and out…because of nurturing this crack and keeping my gaze on the bandaged place, I feel more. I feel more joy. I feel more pain. I feel more compassion. I feel more alive. I feel more empathy. I feel more sorrow. I feel more aware. I feel more grief. I feel more love. I feel more passion and fire. I feel more worthy. I feel more myself.

It allows me to not just feel as an other or a distant observer but as someone comfortable with my own darkness as well as my light; who truly feels and understands the pain of others including myself.  It allows me to feel as equals on this shared journey of being human. Our wounds are where our healing resides. Keeping the gaze on the bandaged places and the cracks allow us to be truly awake and fully alive.

The first step and rich outcome of honoring the bandaged places and cracks has been allowing the feelings and being able to hold them with gentle kindness. That means allowing them all; the good, bad, scary and beautiful. The next step is working on having the courage to show the vulnerable, soft feelings. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still super scary and at times really hard and painful but so very worth it.