When we ponder our spiritual journeys as individuals, developing true compassion would seem to be one of our highest, and perhaps hardest, goals. The very idea of it brings to mind outstanding individuals, such as Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama, who have demonstrated a depth of understanding and compassion for humanity that appears beyond the grasp of those of us who consider ourselves less remarkable.
Nancy Joy, a writer, emotional life coach and spiritual teacher who lives in Mount Vernon, Iowa, has followed her own road to compassion for more than 20 years.
Through all its twists and turns, she discovered the formula for moving through pain and into compassion; from suffering to serenity; from ignorance to understanding. Her book, The Wounded Heart, explores this awakening, and opens the door for readers to find their way back to their own hearts.
How did the idea for The Wounded Heart come to you?
Nancy Joy: Well, for about five years I’d known that I wanted to write a book sharing what I’ve learned about emotions. I was trained in journalism and knew that Spirit had a reason for me to be a writer, and over the years, I’ve narrowed my spiritual work down to emotions, so I knew it had to be about that. I set out to write a self-help book, and even I didn’t want to read it!
Then a friend of mine in Kansas City – Jelaila Starr – wanted to mainstream her very galactic work with compassion. She was over at my house and said, "If you’re not doing anything, would you like to take my work on compassion and write it for a mainstream audience?" So I said "sure" and I went over her notes and started to write, and this book just started pouring out of me. It went really quickly. So then I had to call her and say, "I’m not writing about your work after all. I’m writing a book on conscious compassion instead!"
It ended up being a novel. I never thought I could write a novel, but then again, "What’s truth and what’s fiction?" There’s a very thin line there. If you believe that as spiritual people, we’re creating our own reality and our true self is our spirit self, then this book is me, but it isn’t me – all at the same time. And non-fiction becomes fiction. That’s how it came out.
Can you talk about the journey that the main character, Rose, takes?
NJ: As I conceptualized the idea, I knew the steps that needed to be taken to move through pain and into compassion for all life experiences. I truly know how to do that and how to teach others to walk through their pain into compassion. I know how to help people feel – that’s my work. So I had to create a vehicle through which people could feel the journey and identify with Rose as she’s trying to understand all of this.
By identifying with the character, readers could come to this understanding as well. Rose is me to some extent – her journey is partially the journey I took. Interestingly, there’s a chapter where Rose has a big blowout fight with her daughter and they become estranged for a long time and don’t talk. That actually happened with my son at one point.
Life is a puzzle and we’re all putting together the pieces. I put together the puzzle of conscious compassion – putting the emotional pieces together so that life can make sense. How else can we explain the train wrecks of life – like losing a child, or having someone you love die of a disease in front of you? Or a sudden accident that takes your whole family, or the schoolgirls who got shot in the Amana colonies in Pennsylvania? How can you take any of those things and make sense of them without moving into understanding conscious compassion. Conscious compassion is the only way, and the pieces of the puzzle are all there, and we have to all follow them on our individual journeys. We all have to uncover them one way or another, and we spend our lives working on it, whether we do it consciously or not.
How do we get to conscious compassion? Where do we start?
NJ: Start with the pain. When something terrible happens to you, you want the pain to go away. And we have a million ways to try to make that happen. What ends up happening is that maybe we feel better but the pain, of course, hasn’t gone away. And it’s sabotaging and controlling our lives and we don’t even really know it.
The book begins with a dream, which is a metaphor that says the only way out is through. Spiritual people have all kinds of sayings to avoid pain – "choose love not fear." Well, when you’re sitting there and you’re scared for your future and you say "I choose love, I choose love" – it’s baloney. You have to go into the emotion of where you are and love it, because it’s taking you to love. So if you love the fear, it takes you to a place of wisdom.
One of the characters in the book loses her daughter and she finally gets to the point where she says that the pain became "a sweet grief" and she loves it now because she realizes all that is has brought into her life. So that’s conscious compassion – it’s taking whatever happened to you through the stages of feeling. Instead of trying to shut them down, you open yourself to the emotions and let them take you to the point where you finally, on the other side, can say, "That’s why this happened. It was a necessary part of my life."
Do you believe in destiny?
NJ: What I believe is that we make soul agreements with the people we incarnate with, and we all play out our roles. Someone who may be the worst person in your life – maybe an ex-spouse or whoever – is really a soul who loved you more than any other soul, because he or she was willing to come and play that role for you, so you could both have the opportunity to learn compassion. And when you become truly aware of this, that’s conscious compassion.
When you are consciously aware of your emotions and what happens to you in your life and where it takes you, it’s very healing. And in the end it does make you feel so much better – because you’re not a victim anymore.
Sometimes we’re so overwhelmed by a situation that we can’t get beyond it or through it and we can never heal. And we do things like separate – parts of our soul – we’re fragmented all over the place. I worked with a client whose 21-year-old daughter was raped and murdered on Christmas Eve about seven years ago. Through a lot of work with conscious compassion, she’s now able to connect to the soul of her daughter and she fully believes that as a soul her daughter actually chose this death. The daughter and mother had a soul contract to experience this to push them both into deep soul level healing and consciousness. This has helped the mother so much make sense out of the senselessness and move forward in her life. So to me the journey of conscious compassion is the journey back to wholeness.
The book has an unexpected ending-a sort of "non-ending."
NJ: I wrote five different endings for this book, and none of them "rang" true for me. Finally one day, walking in the woods, it just came to me – of course! There is no ending! We are continuous. We are beings that go on and on and on. Can we as humans really embrace the fact that there’s no ending? We’re always looking for the happy ending – we think if we get the great job, if we find the right partner, if our children are happy – then everything will be OK after that. But it’s really a never-ending story. If we can learn to embrace that, we may get some peace.
So the ending of the book is not an ending. It leaves things open so readers can follow the parts of Rose that they relate to, and her story can become whatever they need it to become. Of course, it’s also an opening for the next novel, which continues the story. But even if there weren’t another novel, it would be ok. What happens to Rose? Well, what happens to you tomorrow? You write your own story.
Author Nancy Joy offers emotional healing retreats, sacred journeys, and private sessions through her company, Heartlights. Visit www.heartlights.net to find out more about Nancy Joy and her work. The Wounded Heart is available to read free online or order at www.fepint.org/wounded-heart/. It also can be ordered through Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com or www.heartlights.net.