How a Broken Toe Awakened me to More Joy by Tomas Heartfield

What moves you enough to respond to life?  Pain is what grabs my attention the most; my own pain, others pain and the pain of animals being treated harshly.  As creatures needing to survive, awareness of pain is hard wired into us.I don’t know anyone personally that wants to see other people or critters suffer. I know that when I feel another person in pain, I respond. When I hear the cry of an animal in pain, I cringe inside. It appears that I am not alone.

This became personally clear to me when I broke my toe diving through a waterfall in Waipio Valley.

dive waterfallAs a friend happened to capture the ‘oops’ moment with the ever-present camera, I shared it on Facebook. I received pages of loving responses and suggestions on how to heal faster. I felt my tribe flocking to help me from wherever they were in the world. I felt my friends caring about me. Feeling seen, wanted and cared for, is one of our deepest needs. Our deepest fear and pain is to feel alone, outcast and disconnected. When we are included and felt, we feel safe. When we feel safe, we can relax, and that is crucial for our physical, emotional and spiritual well being.


Have you ever felt rejected, put down or made fun of  by a parent, sibling, teacher, friend or lover? If so, you know the searing pain that comes from this feeling of being cast out. It harkens back to the fear of being cut off from family or tribe, which, in very real terms for a very long part of our history could mean death.  The truth is, we need each other on many levels to survive, and to thrive.

WHAT HELPS US THRIVE?                                                                                

As important as healthy food, water and air is to our body, connection to others is vital to our emotional health. We need to feel related to a family or tribe who care about us. Facebook is a kind of digital tribe. We use this technology as a way to connect. It lights up the pleasure centers of our brain with each “like” or comment we receive (if it is positive).   We choreograph who we want to share pieces of our life with, via words and images. This way of digitally connecting has become a  part of one billion peoples lives.  Even if it’s people you may or may not know beyond their words and images, connecting digitally answers a need we all have; to be seen, felt and acknowledged. But by itself it is not enough if there are no real live people in our life. We need faces we can touch to help dry their tears. We need bodies we can hug, in support and in celebration. We need to physically feel loved and cared for. We need real connection.

I feel connected when I am with others who are willing to share authentically. My heart particularly goes out to those in pain. I want those who are in emotional and spiritual pain or numbness to discover what can help them move energetically towards what is  true for them, and in a direction that feels better. That may be a good cry as they get in touch with their tenderness or vulnerability. It may be getting in touch with their power and saying “no” to something in their life that feels oppressive or wrong for them.  It could be getting in touch with their hearts desire, and saying “yes” to what is authentic for them, rather than following some idea of what they thought they “should do”.

I feel this amplified when I sit in circle with others who agree to be completely present, to hold in confidence what others say, and who agree to speak from what is real for them. This creates a feeling of safety and inclusion. As we get still, we ask the question: What’s moving in you right now?  As we explore that question, we help one other discover more clarity.  We discern what is real for us, and what we want; our true hearts desire. The energy created by the circle connects us, and we each feel internally guided toward a more embodied and heart directed place. There is a lot more nuance to this experience, but this is the basic focus.  The process is embodied and alive and in the moment, and it often feels magical. It helps us remember why we are alive, and shows us the power we have within us to create a joyful and meaningful life.


I’m not talking about joy as a state of happiness dependent on what happens to you.  I’m talking about a state that is available when you are totally connected to what you are  present and awake to, and what you are feeling in any given moment.

What I mean by awakening, is doing what it takes to be completely present to your authentic self.  For me, awakening is always coming and going.  There are moments when I am more or less present to myself and others in this way. I am (and think we are) here to awaken as much as possible.  When I am awake, even the hard stuff (like sadness, disconnection and even helplessness) can feel joyful (when I let myself have it before doing anything about it).  So for me, joy is the full deck of emotional content. It is me being real with where I am in my life, and being willing to experience life as it lives itself through me.  It is also feeling into what I need in the moment to feel better.

Even after spending twenty years becoming an expert on what brings people joy, I am still expanding into a deeper understanding of how important joy is to my ability to open my heart to my full self and the world. Joy comes when I can accept whatever I feel and relax into the love that holds it all together.  Joy is simply an invitation to pause without judgment and feel whatever is alive in me, in any moment.

From this perspective, i feel joy is my natural state.  It is where my life energy is most real and alive.  That’s why it feels so good.  Conceptually it sounds simple, but I have found that in practice, it takes a tribe.

It seems to me we’ve gotten disconnected from our joy mostly from our programming as little ones; seeing others live from judgment and shame projected on us, and or seeing it in action around us. It’s endemic in our language of definitions that construct our way of being as good or bad.

In a circle of loving hearts, the awareness of each person as a field of energy connected to others becomes palpable. As the connection and trust builds, a field of energy is created by everyone that is amplified and helps everyone to feel more……joy!  .

Historically shame, guilt and blame mask the goodness that we are in our core.  My personal work and purpose is to reveal and live from this core, and help others do the same. Once we let go of the wrong assumptions about who we are, and feel into the juicy sweetness of who we really are inside, it’s a done deal.

We loved getting comments like these last month.

Dear Joan & Tomas, I just want to say thank you again for yesterday. The circle helped me to see how much closer I am to the internal wholeness I have been seeking than I thought I was!  The incredible beings there and the way you both held the space all made for a powerful day.  Stefan Malecek PhD

What a magical day!  Thank you again Joan and Tomas for your powerful gifts to support us all and to all of you for your support and courage to heal and grow with an open heart! The space you hold is so clear and dare I say…divine?   Patricia

Many of the processes we do were evolved with the help of Christian Pankhurst, founder of the Heart IQ Network.

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