The Territory of the Heart is Prickly

Raja Gopal Bhattar, Ph.D., (they/them/theirs) hails from a long lineage of Hindu spiritual leaders from the Srivaishnava tradition. They are a higher education leader, advocate, and consultant. Bhattar is a 2020 Interfaith America Racial Equity Fellow.

 

 

The territory of the heart is prickly.

Like a wild cactus,

forgotten,

dusty and

                                                          entangled upon itself.

 

What is the purpose of this existence?

Messy, dehydrated

and reaching towards

 

the Sun.

 

“The wound is where the light enters.” Rumi

 

What if the entire heart is wounded? Can the light hold my wound? My pain? My healing?

 

While my heart feels                                                                                                       lonely,

it is not alone.

 

I am in a desert full of other beautifully prickly beings,

learning, healing, growing, belonging.

 

The snake of my soul

sheds this thick skin,

 

unlearning

these

traumas, messages and voices that have gotten stuck on my soul over time.

 

It is the prickliness of my heart that allows my much-needed shedding to manifest.

 

Without the prickliness, where would I be? Is healing even possible?

 

In fact, the territory of the heart is prickly with purpose.

 

Protecting,

catalyzing

and weathering the many storms.

 

The prickliness is sweet. The prickliness is resilience. And even full of light.

 

This wound is not a source of shame but a symbol of my strength.

 

Each prickly piece a reminder of my journey towards peace.           

 

***

 

Artist Statement:

This poem was inspired recently, after attending my first all Desi/South Asian meditation retreat. While I have attended many retreats grounded in various traditions, being with other Desi practitioners, sharing our struggles, joys and cultural references made this session feel more special than I expected. What was even more powerful was that our grouping was a mix of various spiritual traditions, genders, sexualities, immigration and diasporic experiences and even time zones across the world.

More broadly, while COVID and the global standstill of the last year has been difficult and life-altering in so many ways, it has helped me cultivate the strongest spiritual communities I have ever experienced. Having weekly space with my People of Color sangha, or my monthly Asian and South Asian sanghas, all connected to understanding our spiritual traditions, decolonizing our practices, and deeply engaging with racism and anti-Blackness has been life nurturing. To be able to talk about my anxiety, healing, and inner conflict felt like group therapy at times while also pushing me to practice compassion for myself and others in my community when needed. The territory of the heart is not simply prickly, it’s juicy with potential. If anything, the global pandemics due to health, anti-Black and anti-Asian racism, politics, farmer disenfranchisement and more is teaching me that the wounds of our ancestors are coming to light and demanding attention. Our healing is entangled with our ability to pay attention to what’s happening around us. We are never alone. Our ancestors, known and unknown, are always there. We just have to learn to listen. Each prickly part of ourselves is a path to enhancing empathy for those that have come before and our fellow people in this world. 

 

The prickliness is sweet. The prickliness is resilience. And even full of light.

This wound is not a source of shame but a symbol of my strength.

Each prickly piece a reminder of my journey towards peace.           

 

 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

In order to keep this newfound sense of faith alive and to learn from the wisdom of others, I created a spiritual exercise out of interviewing people around the world about the role of faith changing their lives.
Imam Sultan was greatly revered for his compassionate outlook on life inspired by his faith. He was known for his interfaith leadership in the higher education field and as an active bridge builder.
The site was reported as having a significant number of Sikh employees, and the massacre has left the community shaken and in grief.
This is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.
Ms. Moore discusses what an Office of Equity and Racial Justice does, how she and her team adapted amid the pandemic, and how religious communities are crucial partners for social change, connection, and healing.  
"We know that people of all faiths and philosophical traditions hold shared values that can serve as a foundation for a common life together."
How do we fight the evil and darkness during this time? No matter how small or how far we might be from the situation, we could use our voices to speak up, come to stand together as one human kind.
Musa writes an insightful analysis of data at the intersection of race and religion. He writes: "non-Black Americans seem to be fleeing religion because it’s become too political. Blacks seem to be leaving because it’s not political enough."
And as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins, the currently closed museum is highlighting these artifacts tied to Islam on its website's blog.
In light of the urgent need for care within our families, communities, and movements, where can and should interfaith leaders fit in?
In the United States, our laws assure the separation of Church and State. So Sikh and Muslim kids growing up in public schools will never be taught that Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem.
Vaisakhi, which falls April 13 or 14 depending on which of two dueling calendars one follows, marks the day in 1699 when Sikhism took its current form.
The presentation focused on how chaplains and spiritual life professionals can discover and utilize meaningful data to demonstrate the value of their work in higher education.
Still, there were glimmers that Ramadan 2021 could feel less restricted than last year, when Islam’s holiest period coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar commemorating Muhammad’s reception of the Qur’an, begins on Monday.
"Ramadan can be an opportunity for Muslims in interfaith relationships to introduce their partners to the core beliefs and teachings of Islam, as well as to the ways different Muslim cultures share what is a deeply communal experience."
This year, Ramadan will begin on Monday or Tuesday (April 12 or 13), depending on when Muslims around the world sight the new moon that signals the beginning of the lunar month.
"In the Qur’an, God – Exalted Be He – proclaims that we should ask the people endowed with knowledge…All the experts are saying the same thing: please get vaccinated and do it now."
"Among the topics educators must address to reduce bullying and to ensure representation in the classroom are religion and religious identity."
Whether I am based in Los Angeles, Washington DC, or Kansas City, I remain committed to building bridges of mutual respect and understanding among people of different backgrounds.
Biden said the partnership between the seminary and a community health center is one of many that are happening between religious and medical organizations across the nation.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.