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  • Jessie Brennan, MPH

An Open-Hearted Life

The heart is a mysterious thing. Even though its behavior governs the course of our lives, it is not understood. We fall in love, we fall out of love, we feel hurt, we feel joy, or sometimes we feel empty. All of these experiences are felt in the heart. Sometimes we recognize these experiences simply as emotions, but sometimes we have the experience of physically feeling those experiences in our hearts. Have you ever physically felt love in your heart? In my experience, it feels like your heart is expanding, others describe the feeling as more like a sensation of filling up, or of pouring out.


The heart is an energy center, the most powerful energy center in the body. It controls the energy flow by opening and closing. You probably have a sense of what your heart feels like when it is open and when it is closed. Maybe you have had the experience of feeling your heart close against someone. We typically do this in self-protection, to defend ourselves psychologically, defend our self-concept, our ego.


This self-protection, this closing of the heart can become a habit. Every time we experience something that disturbs us, scares us, or makes us feel insecure we close our heart against it in order to protect ourselves. We each have our unique “stuff”, our soft spots that we guard dearly. We go from day to day protecting our soft spots and making sure nothing goes too wrong. It happens subtly, but eventually we can come to see life as a threat, and the longer we live like this the more closed-hearted we become.


How do we remain open-hearted? How do we fight the deep, innate tendency to close down in self-protection? Start by watching life and noticing the constant flow of people and situations that hit your soft spots every day. How often do you feel the urge to protect that part of you? If you continue this practice of watching, you will eventually get conscious enough so that the minute you feel that tension in your heart you can choose to stop, and let go.


Letting go is something that you do inside. Something occurs, you feel the disturbance arise inside of you- maybe you start to tighten or get defensive, a thought or emotion emerges, you notice it, and it passes by because you allow it to. You let it go, instead of being carried away by the thought. If you want to stay open, then every time you feel that change in your energy, just relax behind it. Don’t fight it, or judge it, simply allow it to pass through.


When you’re free from the hold your soft spots have on you, you’re free to experience the joy and expansiveness that lives within you. That’s how open-heartedness feels, total freedom to experience life without worrying about getting hurt or disturbed. From a place of open-heartedness you can put your whole being into whatever is happening, instead of hiding yourself away.


Start to practice letting go with small things. Somebody honks at you at a stoplight, you feel the energy inside of you shift, tense. The moment you feel a change relax your shoulders, then relax the area around your heart. That’s it, relax and release, let the feeling go. A co-worker makes a comment that hits your soft spot. Relax and let go. Your mind may scream that you’re being disrespected! That you can’t let someone treat you that way! The mind can be very melodramatic. Relax in the face of its melodrama.


Life is surrounding you with experiences that stimulate growth. You don’t have to worry about who’s right or who’s wrong. You only have to be willing to open your heart in the face of it all.



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