Keeping Heart Open
In The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer urges us to keep our hearts open – always. Most of us, he notes, instinctively close our hearts to protect ourselves from experiences we don't like.
"But closing your heart does not really protect you from anything; it just cuts you off from your source of energy… Defining what you need in order to stay open actually ends up limiting you… As long as you are defining what you like and what you don't like, you will open and close… You are allowing your mind to create triggers that open and close you. Let go of that. Dare to be different. Enjoy all of life." (pp 46 – 47)
"If enjoying a full life means experiencing high energy, love and enthusiasm all the time, then don't ever close… You can learn to stay open no matter what happens in this world… Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you are willing to close your heart over it… Remember, if you love life, nothing is worth closing over. Nothing, ever, is worth closing your heart over." (pp 44 – 47)
Inspired by his passionate message, I've been experimenting lately with keeping my heart open, playing with various ways to do so and feeling amazed by the difference it's making in my life. There is so much to say about how to stay open. Right now I want to offer a couple thoughts about what's been working for me.
Be mindful. Notice when you close. Notice physical tightness and emotional contraction. Notice the stories of fear and shame and outrage that swirl in the mind. Pay attention to the suffering brought on by closing down. Whenever we close, we suffer.
Breathe. Soften the belly. When something painful or difficult comes our way (from outside or inside), we can breathe, soften and hold ourselves in compassionate spaciousness. We can interrupt old tendencies to tighten, close, protect and defend. We can bring care to our suffering self. In the spaciousness of self-compassion, suffering melts. When we bring love to our discomfort, we naturally open – first to ourselves, then to all of life.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Just as closing down becomes automatic and habitual, so too we can develop habits of remaining soft and open. It takes practice, lots of it – formal meditation practice and the moment-by-moment practices of staying present and embodied in everyday life.
Staying alive – supple and free – is a conscious choice and a choice to be conscious.