We must look at ourselves over and over again in order to learn to love, to discover what has kept our hearts closed, and what it means to allow our hearts to open.
— Jack Kornfield
That’s it, isn’t it? Tells the whole journey of life. Closed hearts don’t work. For the heart itself, the emotional life of the person, and for a spiritual life because the access is right there in the heart center. (Read: Is Your Heart a Walled Garden?)
Looking at ourselves is often an option we don’t exercise. When we look we see a mountain of stuff, stuff that repels us in its sheer volume and apparent knottiness. If we but begin, and continue “over and over,” first a simple thing happens: it becomes much less intimidating and impossible just by the mere fact that we are looking.
As we look, we gather trust as well. Trust that we can turn things around, and trust that all our stuff isn’t a statement about the universe or the nature of life. Understanding that there’s a mix, highs and lows, victories and difficulties. And trust that happiness is there running through it all.
Self-awareness, like healing, is a layered process. Not only is it layered in the sense that we must give ourselves the kindness of time to uncover our trueness, but also because there are depth awarenesses we don’t even know about at the start.
Healing too is cyclic. Self-awareness and healing conjoin, one leading to the other, one opening the other more and more. Most times we only have a surface relation to healing. Once pain or suffering is even slightly alleviated, we think healing is done. Yet, healing has so much to offer.
Instead of asking ourselves, “How can I find security and happiness?” we could ask ourselves, “Can I touch the center of my pain? Can I sit with suffering, both yours and mine, without trying to make it go away? Can I stay present to the ache of loss or disgrace—disappointment in all its many forms—and let it open me?” This is the trick.
— Pema Chödrön
We only have access to limited life experiences with an unopened heart. An open heart is full of life, resilient, warm, generous and awake to mystery. It lets us feel and sort, without resistance or pushing away. Our feeling nature is an asset, but we also sequester our feelings a lot, either because they’re too painful or we’ve been taught not to feel. Avoiding feelings, we keep ourselves closed off.
A closed heart is a loveless heart. It’s an unsustainable state. Without love we’re dried up, only a shell.
To uncover what’s kept us closed is not without fear. In fact the sooner we get comfortable with fear the better, because it appears at various junctures. Too often we let fear stop us in our tracks. We sacrifice the rewards of love and self-knowledge for the false safety of staying broken, but unaware enough that it feels real and good!
Love is sublime. It’s also here and palpable. Love is real and powerful. (Read: Love’s Depth and Breadth.)
What does it mean to open our hearts? The first step is ‘allowing’ and just in that is a ton of sanity and happiness. It includes acknowledging yourself and allowing yourself to be fully seen. In allowing there’s self-acceptance and sincerity of being. Allowing leads to authenticity of self.
When love comes in, first we heal emotionally. This is a must. There’s very little forward motion with emotional loads weighing us down and keeping us padded up.
The heart center actually has two aspects. It has an emotional and a spiritual aspect. It’s one center with two aspects and becomes fully alive only when we attend to both. Emotional wholeness sparks awakening to higher levels of being. Emotional love leads to higher levels of love. (Read: The Heart Space.)
The spiritual heart is always present and available to us, but it requires an activation. This begins with doing the necessary emotional work. If we bypass emotional healing, we either can’t activate much else (stay closed), or if by chance we do, we have to come back and wade through the molasses of negative emotions.
In fact this constant wading can be a big detriment and spiritual activation may never be stable and gratifying.
Afflictive emotions can be transformed and purified at their own level with understanding and healing, as well as cultivating and establishing positive emotions. Psychological well-being plays a vital role in significantly improving our life. Yet, it addresses only one part of us.
The portal of the spiritual heart can lead us into an eternal dimension. It’s a dimension which celebrates mystery, nourishes us with wonder, gives us access to wisdom and compassion, and reveals the true nature of love.
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