Charina Cabanayan

How surgery opened my heart to love

Charina Cabanayan
How surgery opened my heart to love

How do we soften our hearts?

About a month ago, I went through surgery to have my armor removed. 

I've had this armor with me since 2008.

This armor was residing on top of my left shoulder blade, right behind my heart.

It took form as a lipoma (a benign tumor of fat cells - I know sexy, right?) that had crystallized over the years which padded and protected my heart. 

In retrospect, I realize that my little lipoma began to form around the time I was going through major changes in my life.

It was the year of my Saturn return. I had closed the doors to my boutique business and was going through a divorce. I was incredibly unhealthy, in my body and my spirit. 

At first, the mass started out small, but as the years have passed, it grew. It continue to grow as it collected moments of heartbreak and suffering.  

You see, while my armor protected me, it also limited me from feeling more deeply into my heart.

Whenever something would bother or stress me out, this part of my body would begin to ache. 

But now that my armor is now gone - I feel even more vulnerable than before. 

For a long time, my heart felt numb.  But now, without this extra protection, I feel more deeply. 

I cry more easily when I used to be able to hold back my tears. But now, I also find that I laugh and find more joy and pleasure more easily too. 

I’m glad this armor is gone. 

Amidst all of the suffering we hear about daily - it seems unfathomable that we could soften our hearts.  

Often when we see or hear of someone’s suffering, their pain can bring up our own fear and anger. We feel resistance and confusion.

Worse, we feel separated and numb and at the very worst, paralyzed by our inability to make a difference in such trying times at these. 

There's no denying that there is an abundance of suffering in the world. 

Now while you may not be able to alleviate the pain of all who suffer - you CAN make a difference in at least one person’s life. 

One person at a time. One step at a time. 

What my yoga practice has taught me is that love is the antidote to hatred, fear, anger, greed, envy and our ego’s overwhelming need to be right all the time. 

There are many ways to cultivate love and compassion, but cultivating these principles requires regular practice. 

Practicing loving kindness aka metta meditation is one of the ways to soften and open your heart to love.  

When you practice loving kindness, treat it as you would when watering the seeds in your garden. 

You may not feel anything at first, or even for many days. Don’t give up.

Today, my love, I wish to share with you the top 3 resources to support you in cultivating compassion through loving kindness meditation. 

Select the one that resonates with you the most.

Practicing 10-20 minutes of loving kindness meditation daily will begin to plant seeds.

And just like those little seedlings you’ve planted in your garden this spring, give loving kindness time and space to bloom and grow.  

3 Resources for Cultivating Loving Kindness

  1. Dr. Kristen Neff is recognized as a one of the world’s experts on self compassion, being the first one to operationally define and measure the construct over a decade ago. If you are short on time, practice 5 minutes of self compassion break or cultivate a longer daily practice with this 20 minute loving kindness meditation.

  2. The UCLA MARC (Mindful Awareness Research Center) has an abundance of free meditations, including this 9 minute metta meditation. They have meditations available in Spanish as well

  3. Tara Brach is a master in blending Western psychology and Eastern spiritual practices. This 12 minute guided metta meditation is gentle, soothing and allows you to explore language that is most suitable to your own practice.

My hope is that these practices support you wherever you are.

With the abundance of resources available, find the one that resonates with you and stick with one practice for a while.

In this way, you not only water those seeds, but the roots of your practice will delve deeper, become fuller and richer with attention, intention and ritual.

With so much love, 


PS: I would love to hear from you. Today, dear one, what are you ready to let go of today? Write down this intention on a piece of paper and prepare to release it into the fire on the next full moon cycle.

Revisit this intention over the next 10 days as you practice your meditation.

Please remember, if you’re going through an especially challenging time, consider outside support before embarking on a meditation practice. 

PPS: One thing that breaks my heart every day is knowing that there are still children detained and separated from their families as a result of Trump’s zero tolerance policy at the border. 

If this also resonate with you, please consider visiting Together Rising to donate to the volunteer’s efforts, those fearless warriors on the ground searching for the families who have been deported to reunite them with their children. When you donate - type in Family Reunification Fund in the last field to assign your donation.

And if you're looking for a yoga practice to do together with your mother this Sunday, please join us for a Mother's day practice for a cause - Sunday, May 12 at 3:30 pm in Los Altos. 

* 20% of proceeds from this class will be donated to Together Rising. If you can't attend class please consider a donation.

And - if you know anyone who'd like to sponsor and match the donations, please share this post! Every dollar will help a family in need. 

Thank you so much for stepping up and stepping in to love.