Oftentimes, my schmaltzy movies took me places well beyond my imaginings. Like a depth charge, they chiselled away at the walls of my emotional holdings, shaking my heart-strings loose. The more I chiselled, the more profound my experience of the moment.
As I wept, little doors flung open, inviting me deeper into unity consciousness. As the schmaltz opened the gateway to my heart, the Godself stepped on through, revealing himself a little bit more with every deepening. Sentimentality wasn't just a release, it was a gateway to divinity.
By emptying the vessel, I had unknowingly created space for God to enter. In these moments, I saw no distinction between the emotional and the spiritual bodies. It was all God.
As my spiritual journey unfolded, schmaltzy films became my spiritual practice. An elixir for whatever blocked me, I would creep back to the couch whenever I needed to reopen.
When I would come back from a difficult workday, the couch. When I got lost in overanalytic patterns, the couch. When life disappointed me, the couch. Pouring a little schmaltz on my wounds now and then restarted my heart. As it turns out, it wasn't beginner's mind I sought. It was beginner's heart -- the freshness of appreciation that comes through the open heart. I didn't want to wait until my death bed to finally wake up, safe in the knowledge that my vulnerability was time-limited. I wanted to wake up now.
In the presence of another, I touched the heights of this practice. Just before she died, my 90-year-old grandmother and I would watch sentimental movies together. Our hearts opened in unison, crying like babies at sentimental endings. Where before I saw my Bubbi as a silly romantic, I now saw her for who she really was -- a paragon of enheartened courage. A sentimentalist to the core of her being, she knew that vulnerability was not a sign of weakness, but a sign of life. Better hurt than hardened.
Schmaltz has been given a bad name for far too long. Leaving aside its etymological origins as chicken fat, it is often characterized as excessive or banal sentimentality.
As a rule, we don't bow to schmaltz as a path to God. We throw it in the trash with the rest of the gooey stuff. Its negative characterization reflects a long-established cultural tendency to diminish the value of the awakened heart. This pattern was birthed in a survivalist landscape, one where repressing emotions was deemed necessary to social protection and structure building. Better to survive by our wits than risk the wild beast of deep feeling. How much we have sacrificed to build a foundation for our eventual re-opening.
It is high time that we honored the high and deep feelings of the awakened heart. Enlightenment is not a head trip, it's a heart trip, gusts of God blowing through the portal of the heart, the aortic love valve merging with the love that courses through the universal vein. Through an enheartened lens, schmaltz is God's door opener. It is his release valve, his armor buster, his healing balm, his saving grace.
For those of us who have forgotten how to feel, schmaltz excavates our holdings and brings us back to life. At their heart, repressed emotions are unactualized spiritual lessons. If we want to expand our spiritual consciousness, we have to shake our heart tree often. Opening the heart unlocks the heart of the universe, and we see what is always before us.