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For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.
- Rainer Maria Rilke

The month of the heart, February, leads to the question - what is a heart-centered life? I do not necessarily mean an emotional life, or a romantically-centered life, but a deliberate life, focused on the center of being, symbolically the heart, long felt to be the repository of human compassion. Are we living a life of empathy and morality, integrity and tenderness? Rilke's words do not limit our understanding of relationship - we certainly are aware the bonds of connection are both significant and difficult - but the poet's observations nudge us to think beyond the merely emotional or physical; that loving another human being may be the ultimate index of spiritual development. The important idea that leaps out at me from Rilke's observation is this: love is entrusted to us. To love is Herculean in its magnificence and difficulty, epic in scope, mythic in reach and endurance, even so simple an affection as that of two best friends sharing lunch on a park bench. Our lives lead to challenges both in work and our personal worlds, but we most often sit with our coffee, deepest in thought regarding the welfare of our friends, our children's needs, our lover or spouse's struggles, the complexities of our parents, our broken hearts.

Rilke suggests we reach highest when we reach to love. That all manner of hurdles, achievements and journeys somehow lead to relationship. That says something interesting about the human experience, I think. Our solitary souls are on a mission born of interconnection; and we set our compass on The Other. We trust our hearts to set map points to follow. A heart-centric life is a life devoted to the soul's expressive potential.

The poet doesn't command but observe. We don't demand, we seek.
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