Yesterday, one of my clients was expressing his regret at the opportunities he missed 20 years ago when he was 17 years old. He said that he wished that he could go back to that time and speak to his teenage self from his perch as the wise 37-year-old. I asked him what he would say.

He said, “Don’t be afraid! Sing! Dance! Kiss the girl!”

I imagine we all have such regrets. As my Dad used to say, “Too soon old, too late shmart.” The adolescent has no way of having any kind of perspective. But with age we begin to experience the epic sweep of life, and we can apply our learning from our past to our present.

So I asked my client, “When you are 57, 20 years from now, and you look back at the 37-year-old, what will you regret then? If that 57-year-old could speak to you now, what wisdom would he offer?”

If you could receive advice from the person you will be in 20 years, what advice would he or she offer you right now?

moses-in-the-bulrushesThere is an eternal process described in endless tales that reveal the necessary steps to find the lost heart. By following this path the child in our story is transformed into the hero; the fool becomes king; the ash-covered girl becomes queen. We bring our heart up from the bottom of the well to manifest our identity, purpose, passion, power and love. Through living out this intrinsic blueprint we discover our unique and individual nature.

The Confucian view is that unity in the heart is dependent upon every aspect of us being in accordance with universal law. No single method or technique will bring us to a state of harmony and happiness. We need, instead, to take an holistic approach to finding our authentic being. We need to work on ourselves in every possible way and commit ourselves to doing this every day for the rest of our lives.

The holiday of Passover brings us to one essential task of self-cultivation that is necessary for finding our hearts: expression. Expression, the drawing out of ourselves, is central to our identity. This is the meaning of Moses’ name, a symbol of this link between who we are and becoming what we are meant to be. In order to protect the newborn Moses, his mother put him into the water in a papyrus vessel. He was found there by the Pharaoh’s daughter. She named him Moses, which meant, “I drew him out of the water.”

The theme of expression, of going into our depths, discovering treasure and returning to the world to share our discoveries is a common motif in endless myths and fairy tales. In one very telling example, The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body, Boots had to fish the duck’s egg out of the well to find the giant’s heart. Expression is one way of fishing out our own heart, which is encased in a hard shell and kept in the bottom of the well.

One central means of self-expression is giving voice to our emotions. Our emotions give our lives value, meaning, quality, color and depth. They are the source of our passion and power.Our emotions reveal the desires of the heart. If we allow our feelings to speak we unearth important, hidden aspects of who we are and what we need.When our true natures are kept enchanted and locked in a box at the bottom of the sea, our natural enthusiasm, love and energy putrefies and we become embittered. When we open that carbuncle encrusted box for the first time, the first thing that comes out are the rank odors of the rot that has built up over the years. We might need, at first, to spend time feeling and expressing our rage at having been trapped for so long. We need to cry tears to bind the wounds we have suffered.To reclaim our authentic voices, we need to find constructive ways to express this anger and pain. When kept inside we imagine our emotions to be beastly, but with expression what we feel transforms.

Expression requires that we liberate our aggression which is our power to move into the world and take what we want. We need to learn that our aggression and intensity are beautiful and not something to be feared.

When we express ourselves we not only need to communicate from the heart, but we also need to be heard and seen authentically. Authentic contact with another requires vulnerability, emotional openness, an awareness of our own needs and the capacity to empathize and enter the experience of another. It is built on care, respect, responsibility and understanding. This genuine dialogue is the pinnacle of self-expression.

The inner voice of the heart speaks through creative expression. When others hear the song in us, both creator and listener are transformed. We imbue the world with beauty and meaning.

Experiencing and expressing our emotions, contacting and using our aggression, learning how to effectively communicate with others, and developing our capacity for creative expression provide us with the magical tools we need to find the place where our original natures flower and thrive. It is how we come to unleash the power for leading our lives in the direction we choose.

Like in the myth of Moses who was hidden as an infant, when we are endangered as children, we hide the essential aspects of ourselves, or our hearts. The Passover story of Exodus, of the liberation of a people from bondage, inspires our own self-liberation. In order to find the heart, we must all be Moses, drawing ourselves out of the water, out of the place where we are indistinct and undeveloped and upwards to become unique selves with individual voices.

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