When the Heart Aches

In my last blog, Revolution, I explored the ways in which taking action aligned with our deepest knowing can often lead to a sense of ease and satisfaction.  Yet there are also times when knowing what is mine to do leads to a sense of heartache or unrest. It’s no less the next right thing, it simply requires me to hold two realities, and in so doing, feel the heartache.

In October of 2001, I adopted a 7 week-old golden retriever puppy named Zoe. She came into my life just as it began to fall apart; as I entered therapy and 12-step programs to address family of origin issues, codependent relationships, and love & sex addiction. For the next seven years she was my constant companion; for the first 2 years, literally and figuratively the reason I got up in the morning.

Every day we went for a long, off-leash walk in the Sonoran desert where she chased rabbits and tennis balls, rough-housed with her doggie friends, and enthusiastically greeted humans, especially babies, with a crooked smile and mad wriggling of her body.  As she expressed her full-on dog nature she offered me a window into complete love and acceptance (especially self-acceptance) as I hit bottom in my addictions and began the long, slow process of feeling my feelings, changing my behaviors and co-creating a new life with Source.

She was both my teacher (she was the art of being present in the moment) and my child (needing constant care and attention). Both were her true nature.  She was clear about her needs, heart-centered, and always happy to see me. Yet like a toddler, needing me to feed, walk and care for her – and always would.

In 2005 we moved to Albuquerque where there were fewer places to walk her off leash. Because of commitments and health issues, I was less available to play and walk and I watched her begin to show the signs of a kept dog – digging a lot, moping, chewing – even as she also continued expressing her true nature.  Truth be told, I became weary, even resentful, of all the care she needed. I was wracked with guilt and self-judgment.  When I adopted her, I made a commitment to her lifetime care, why was I unwilling to fulfill that?  My heart ached during this time, knowing this arrangement wasn’t deeply serving either of us, but not sensing a resolution.

I began praying for a way for her to live more fully that also met my needs for ease. For a year nothing arose.  Then, in 2008, we moved to Hummingbird Community with Robert (my partner at the time).  Finally, she had a place to romp, chase and be her fullest expression. She lived in a state of joy, chasing squirrels, running through the water, raiding the compost bin for snacks, and generally being a mountain dog.

A few months later, it became clear that I was leaving Hummingbird and going back to the city. I wondered what to do with Zoe. She loved it there.  Her true nature is an expression of everything Hummingbird Community stands for.  When I left, we agreed she would stay until I was settled in my own place in the city.  But deep down I knew; she was never coming back to the city. True to that knowing, when I found a lovely little apartment that I knew was my next residence – and dogs were not allowed – Robert and I agreed she would stay.

She’s been there 2 years now.  She’s a full-fledged member of the community; a living expression of Hummingbird Community. Happy, joyful and free to be a full expression of her doggie self, she thrives.  Still, my heart aches every time I visit her, see a picture of her, or allow myself to remember our life together.  At those same moments, my heart is also filled with joy, seeing and experiencing her fullness. I know all is well and that this arrangement serves us.  The power of paradox, holding both as true, feeling both as true, allows peace and clarity in the moment. Even if another wave of heartache rises in another moment.

This week, as my husband travels to be with his family because his mother faces a life-changing (and maybe life-ending) health issue, the story of me and Zoe opens me.  Pictures of her remind be that it is possible to do the next right thing, even when it makes my heart ache.

I know what is mine to do – stay in Albuquerque for the time being.  Simultaneously, I ache for physical connection – with Jake, his mother, his family.  I ache to contribute to her well-being in person even as I know that today, contributing means sending Source energy her way, meeting with clients, doing my laundry, writing this blog. Yet I trust, just like with Zoe, that I will know when it is time to take action – to visit, to show my caring in person.

BTW, I also know Zoe would be fine living in the city – her true nature of being present to what is all the time would allow her to adjust brilliantly and our deep connection would sustain her (us).  Yet I would not be fine.  I have seen her fullest expression and nothing less will do. I am committed to a world where all beings are able to express their (our, my) fullest self, to thrive. I know that place for Zoe, today, is Hummingbird Community and for me, today, is Albuquerque.  But tomorrow?  Who knows…


Some questions for you to consider:

  • In what areas of your life are you attempting to choose either/or when holding both and feeling the heartache or unrest is the next right thing?
  • What is available to you when you take the time to be in the heartache, feeling it fully and allowing it to move on for the moment?
  • What issue in your life do you know the next right thing to do, but have you been avoiding taking action on because you dislike (or are averse to) the feelings that action invokes in you?
  • What are you going to do about it?


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  1. hi emilah, thank you so much for sending me a reminder about your blog and inviting me in. of course, it is perfect timing for me to read this as i too am holding a paradox which creates both heartache and a space of freedom for both people concerned.

    thank you for having the courage to feel what you’ve been feeling and for blazing a trail of Light for others to follow…to know that first, it’s possible to go to place that feels “all of it” and second, that when we do, we too may experience a sense of peace and freedom from being able to hold both of those precious sides.

    you are an amazing teacher, coach, and friend and i’m very glad to know you and to continue to learn from you! have a fantastic day!

  2. Emilah,

    Wow. It was hard for me to read this because of the tears that almost immediately started welling up for me. I have some judgments I hold around people adopting pets and giving them up again, and your post really reminds me that I hold those judgments because I haven’t connected with the needs of the human OR the animal in most of those situations!
    And at the same time, I’m coming up with judgments about myself and having dogs in the city- when every time I take them to the mountains (not enough, in my judgment), the pure joy in their souls just comes rushing out.
    Thank you so much for sharing. And for reminding us to open ourselves up to the ache that can come right along with getting our needs met or seeing someone else meet theirs in a way that you didn’t imagine- something that isn’t discussed very often.
    Thanks for softening my heart again today =0)

  3. Ryan Mlynarczyk says

    Hi Emilah,

    Wow, this is so beautiful. and what wonderful pics of our dear friend Zoe especially the one of her as a puppy! thank you!.

    As you may know I am one of her main caretakers now here at Hummingbird and Mandy and I have been very blessed by this dog we think is an angleic being. really. truly. she has the most postive energy i’ve ever known in a dog. thank you for allowing her to fully blossom, though I know her heart still thinks of you daily.

    I laid my head on her head this morning, and thought of you Emilah. So strange that you wrote this today. The reason I thought of you is I have heard from Robert that you could read Zoe’s energy and feel how she is doing. I hear that Zoe actually energetically talks to you and tells you how she is doing.

    I tried that with Zoe this morning. And I felt she really was just doing great. She said to me (from what I could pick up), “I’m just cruising and loving life. I miss Robert but I feel he’s coming back soon (she’s right he’s coming back on thursday), but I love you folks that have been playing with me. Life is grand.”

    We are sure she sends you energy all the time…you two have a connection.

    Thank you for doing what you feel is right for her.

    And in the mean time, wanna teach us how to read what she is saying to us better?

    Love and Light,

  4. Mandy Creighton says

    Oh wow, so I’m writing this comment as Zoe sleeps lazily and comfortably on the bed next to me. I absolutely love reading this blog, and seeing her puppy picture. When I was born 32 years ago, my family had a golden retriever and I was born with chronic asthma. The doctors said that the dog and I should not live together, but my family chose at that time to honor the dog’s place in the family and just do their best to keep the dog hair picked up, removed carpet from the nursery, etc. Over time, I outgrew and healed my asthma and into adulthood, have always been blessed with dogs. A few years ago, however, I went through a divorce and he kept our dog, Julius, a bright orange big loving dog, much like Zoe.

    Then, I went on a 6,500 mile bicycle tour to visit 100 sustainable communities, and finally, my new partner Ryan and I chose Hummingbird to land and live long-term. The first day we arrived, Zoe loved on us so much and I felt an instant draw to love her back. What a blessing! A dog back in my life to help me remember to always greet people with love and acceptance (as she always does), to help me remember to spend as much time as possible outdoors (as is her preference), to help me remember what unconditional love feels like (as she gives so freely). So, Emilah, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing to care for Zoe so well all those years, and follow your guidance to feel into what her choice was to stay in the mountains. She has become my best friend here in many ways, and it feels so wonderful to have learned about letting go (of Julius) and opening my life to receive the blessing that Zoe has been.

    The paradox of letting go and letting God/Source guide is so prevalent!

    Love to you from Zoe and me 🙂

  5. It is my gift to be able to share Hummingbird with Zoe and your love through her. No matter what is going on in my day when I see Zoe and receive her “Darshan” my whole day shifts. She smiles and my heart is filled. I’ve never had the experience until Zoe of seeing a four legged smile so big.

    You continue to fill her with your light, love and support and we are the recipients. Your words touch me deeply and open me up to all the four legged lovers in my life. Robert, Marie, Rich, Mandy, etc….we all love her and are blessed by presence.

    Today as I feel an ache in my heart, I’m remembering to fill it with love. Thank you for your beautiful share and inviting questions.

  6. Emilah~

    I so appreciate the offering of this blog, the invitation, and the shared stories and wisdom.
    Now so profound the duality and heartache I experience as I navigate my own essentials, practice, breathing, and maintaining equilibrium with creative engagement, work, and relations, as well as the all permeating shifts and literal polarity changes, catastrophic/heartaching events and conditions created as this larger shift occurs.
    Possibly, as the only true touchstone for me in this month, I am constantly coming to my own dog’s faces, simplicity in the moment, the spot of sun, the good place to roll in the grass, to lean in to the heavy pollin and air, and breathe it in, breathe it in, smile full, grateful~ chaos continues, as does the space between breaths.~
    What will come, I do willingly receive, make choices within, let go and breathe.

    Wellness for you as Jake does move in distance, i imagine this too~ever deepening your hearts.