One of my yoga students asked to me offer a theme on wistfulness and heartbreak. Treading carefully, I offer you the following...
I would define wistfulness as a deep longing for something you had once but can no longer have. When wistfulness visits you, I caution you to not be sucked in by its pull. This type of longing has roots in your past. Should you choose to rehash what you had and rehash it again, not only are you creating suffering for yourself but you have removed yourself from the very "presentness" of life. Pining away for what can never be is such an exhaustive waste of your energy! When you find yourself in this state, try a simple mantra-like reminder like, "Stay in the present, I am in the present."
Heartbreak and loss are similar "high alert zones" with a twist. When you are wistful, you consciously or unconsciously decide to be in a state of longing. Heartbreak and loss are inevitable experiences we will all have on earth and they can feel devastating. The reason I started off by saying I was going to tread lightly on this subject is because no one can put an amount or definition to what another experiences from loss. There will be stages of grief to tread through but it is in how you ultimately choose to react to your situation that will set you apart in your return to your new "normalcy."
In Chapter 2 of the Bhagadva Gita, Arjuna says to Krishna, "My soul is oppressed by a sense of frustration. My mind is unable to determine what is right. I am requesting you to tell me definitely what is for my good. I am your pupil. Teach me. I have surrendered myself to you."
Sometimes our questions and appeals to our Higher Source do not seem to be answered right away. Krishna's response to Arjuna comes some 16 chapters later when he explains the theory of Bhakti Yoga which is a path of devotion, love and surrender.
Krishna states that non-believers cannot be devotees to Bhakti Yoga. However, decipher the word God as it meets your beliefs: Higher power, light, deity (by whatever name). Bhakti yoga is about pure love. If you devote yourself to sending out love, sending out love, sending out love, especially in your time of need, the love you send out is coming right back to you! Unfortunately, when most of us are in the throes of pain, that is when we neglect our faith and our yoga practice and we shut down. Right? Why bother sending out love when life is too sad? Except that this is when it is most important to do so.
Kirtan, which is call and response singing or chanting, originated in the Mogul era as a way to offer praise (bhakti) to Krishna (God).
Musician Jai Uttal says "singing—a mantra, a hymn, or the name of your spiritual guide—is another way to treat an aching heart. You can sing kirtan sweetly, or sing them fiercely with angst, or sing them with yearning or whatever emotions are arising in you. If you get bored, keep on singing. Sing until the singing itself becomes part of your molecules, and your heart flows into the ocean of divine love."
If you are interested in kirtan, check out C.C. White or Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band. I like both of them. But the best thing about kirtan is you don't have to be a good singer; it's about the love you express through your voice and love does not judge the pitch and tone of your art.
Since Bhakti yoga is about love and faith, find ways to express this that are relevant to you. Take a walk outside and express love and gratitude for everything you see; the tress, the birds, the weeds, the bugs, the dirt...
Maybe you like to write. Buy a special journal and write until you cannot write any more. Write until your ego finishes what it has to say and your inner voice is able to emerge.
Maybe you like to run. Add the word love each time your foot hits the ground.
Just do not withdraw into a shell. Shells are hard, impenetrable. You need to be open and receptive to receiving love and light. Great poses for dealing with heartache are heart opening poses like Camel and Bridge and poses of heartful surrender like Child's Pose.
The following two poems are by Hafiz and Kabir, respectively, two devotional Bhakti poets.
The Subject tonight is Love- Hafiz
The subject tonight is Love
And for tomorrow night as well,
As a matter of fact
I know of no better topic
For us to discuss
Until we all
The bhakti path winds in a delicate way.
On this path there is no asking and no not asking.
The ego simply disappears the moment you touch him.
The joy of looking for him is so immense that you
just dive in,
and coast around like a fish in the water.
If anyone needs a head, the lover leaps up to offer his. -Kabir