When I finished cancer treatment, I sank into grief, and became acutely aware of the fragility of life, and the human heart. It was clear that my body had suffered a great deal. But I also viscerally realized that my heart had been beaten up and terrified by cancer treatment. One night, I felt inspired to write a letter to my heart. Perhaps it will resonate with your own experience.

Dear Heart,

You and I have a lot of catch up to do.
Half a life of taking you for granted
Of thinking you will always be there,
Beating faithfully through thick and thin.
You’ve been a loyal friend all my life
And yet I’ve never thanked you.
I had to get a life-threatening illness
To pay attention to you at last,
To realize that you are not eternal.
All these years I assumed
That you could take it all,
The blows, the stress, the grief,
The overwork, the heartbreaks.
How blind I was
And how neglectful I was.
Can you ever forgive me
For my ignorance, for my neglect?
Life has been hard on you
And I didn’t make it easier.
I thought I was invincible,
Proud of my tolerance for pain.
Can you accept my apologies?
Can you let us start a new?
A new friendship, a new path.
I will care for you,
Make sure to give you rest.
I will listen to your sorrows
When you cry at night and I silence you,
Mainly because I’m too afraid
To ask what’s ailing you.
It was easier to soldier on.
That’s what we learn as children.
We get rewarded for being strong
And for letting our hearts down.
But now I know that real strength
Is to have the courage to pause,
And listen to our hearts
With kind receptive awareness.

This poem was published in Months to Years Magazine, Winter 2019.

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27 thoughts on “Letter to My Forgotten Heart

  1. Wow, Sylvie, how amazing a letter and post! Makes me think how often and how much I neglect my heart, override my feelings, my inner stirrings – connecting head and heart – how difficult. Thank you for your reminder, thank you for giving back to us amidst all your suffering you are enduring. Yet, you keep giving to us so freely – I deeply bow to you.

  2. Very moving Sylvie. Thanks for all your communications. This makes me think of my own work with manifesting compassion, self-compassion, and relative Bodhicitta for all sentient beings and ourselves.
    I think of you often when anyone says, “How are you?” Now we can take that to heart. And ask how are you heart? How are you really?
    A great meditation. Thank you.

  3. Thank you Sylvie, this is just beautiful! I’ve been appreciating all your posts, this one really expresses what it means to turn to self-compassion. I’m so glad you are finding this way to share your experience and bring benefit to all of us. I miss seeing you, if you feel like a visit some time let me know.

    1. Thank you Chris! I wrote this letter 2 months ago (in my diary). I showed it to a friend who encouraged me to post it on my blog “as is”. So here it is in its raw and imperfect version. I’d love to catch up!

  4. What a beautiful expression born out of your willingness to pause and to turn towards what is difficult and painful! Full of love, care, and gentle acceptance. Very humbling, Sylvie! It’s a gift to the world!

  5. Thank you for putting into words something that I’ve also experienced but couldn’t quite see as clearly. Beautifully written, just the way it is.

  6. I really appreciate this as a reminder to value and validate my internal experience. It’s so easy to get cut off from ourselves and it takes consistent effort to bring mindful compassion to ourselves, especially when it hurts.

    1. Thank you Regina. One of my goals in writing this blog was to connect my personal experience to the universal experience of pain, in order to release myself (and other cancer patients) from the isolation of living with cancer. It’s beautiful to hear that my letter prompted you to connect to your heart.

  7. How precious it is that you can connect in this way. May you forgive and be forgiven over and over again knowing that the act of forgiveness itself is an act of love and intimacy that fertilizes the heart with safety, truth and above all connection.

  8. Sylvie, your words, “listen to our hearts with kind receptive awareness” find an echo in my heart. Thank you so much.

  9. Thank you Sylvie. That is very nice. I heard someone defining compassion today as “I will not abandon myself.”

  10. Silvie, your beautiful letter to your forgotten heart has changed me in a tender way. Thank you for sharing this with the world. So beautiful!

  11. Much love Sylvie! Many of us have heartaches and hard times. Keep up the sharing and connection. Keep it beating! I’ll see you when I get back in September!

  12. Dear Sylvie,
    What a beautiful love letter to your heart. It warmed my heart. Thank you so much for sharing your intimate and tender self-compassion with us. I’m sure that it will inspire many others to turn within with deep gratitude.
    Much metta,

    1. Thank you Hilary for letting me know that my letter warmed your heart. I love the expression you used: “be inspired to turn within with gratitude”. Beautiful epilogue to my post. Thank you!

  13. Super sweet, super tender. A call for us each to come home to ourselves and appreciate the life that’s here – all the joy, sorrow, heartbreak and heartbeats. Thank you for sharing your reflections on what it means to return to your heart and make amends for having abandoned it <3 Sending much love and wishes for ease, balance, tenderness, and whatever qualities you are needing in this moment – may they be yours!

  14. What a deeply touching letter! Although I have not been through the difficult medical treatment you have endured, your letter deeply resonated with me. There is a beautiful universality to it. I hope you might consider having it published somewhere (in addition to your wonderful blog which I enjoy very much).

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