How many times have situations in life caused us to consciously or unconsciously close our hearts? When we get hurt, we tend to form a wall around ourselves, to protect us from getting hurt again. When I look back on my life, I see experiences from an early age and relationships which have caused me to close my heart in fear of feeling the same way again.
In moments of contemplation, my reaction from painful experiences has been to erect an invisible barrier between myself and others. I acknowledge that it has caused me to unconsciously keep people at a distance, to not let them in fully. It has caused a fear of being vulnerable, of expressing thoughts and feelings that may expose me and leave me at the mercy of others.
With so much to fear, why should we even try to open our hearts? Those that have watched Brene Brown’s popular TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” understand that vulnerability is the space in which we can really truly connect with ourselves and others. It has the incredible power to open us to life.
Opening your heart is a delicate process. It involves the intention to be authentic, open and honest with yourself about where you’re at, how you feel, and the dropping of walls that we build and masks that we wear.
It requires the intention to have a deeper relationship with yourself, and the courage to go deeper into feelings that you have been avoiding feeling for a long time. Those feelings then have the ability to be explored and held. It’s this space that holds so much power.
To know that we have the ability to hold our pain is transformational. Opening your heart involves letting go of beliefs and attitudes that no longer serve you, and filling the space with something that is more helpful. It involves risking the possibility of being hurt again – but the possibility also to gain a more authentic connection with yourself and others.
How do we even start to open our hearts? We can practice it in meditation, to first learn to have compassion and love and kindness towards ourselves. Meditation provides a safe space to start the process of practicing awareness of thoughts and feelings. Loving kindness meditation, or metta, is the practice whereby we call to mind the positive emotions of love, joy, and compassion, and practice directing those feelings towards ourselves and others. It is in this space where you can also notice any resistance to giving or receiving love.*
Beyond meditation, we can also have the intention of being honest with ourselves. We can work on having healthy emotional boundaries that help us feel safe within our relationships. We can practice expressing ourselves with integrity and honesty.
Try answering these questions in a journal and notice what comes up for you.
1. When do I shut down and withhold my loving? What initiates this action?
2. How long has the past defined how I respond to life?
3. How will love enter if I am closed?
4. How do I feel when unconditional love is present?
5. What would life reveal if love was my first response?
6. What kind of person do I want to show the world each day?
Each day, challenge yourself to act from love in an area that is difficult for you. Remember, it’s a practice, so be kind to yourself.
* To start practicing Loving-Kindness meditation, go to http://www.theindigoproject.com.au/yoga-mindfulness/products and listen to the track for free.