Are you someone who is feeling a desire to live more open-heartedly? Or maybe you're having experiences of more open-heartedness and are feeling a bit disoriented by them?
As I'm often asked for some spiritual guidance in these situations, I thought I'd write some suggestions up here, for whatever value you might glean. Feel free to comment and add your own experiences and/or suggestions!
These are NOT in order of importance or time-priority or simplicity, just random order.
Put your attention on your heart area whenever you think of doing so.
Imagine, remember, or feel now, appreciating something. That vibe brings coherence to your physical and energetic "hearts," according to the HeartMath Institute's research.
Place your hand on your heart.
Imagine your breathing goes in and out of your heart itself.
All four of those can be done separately or combined mix-and-match. They are no big deal: you can do them anytime, anyplace, for as long as you wish: several seconds to several minutes. And just notice what happens, as you do.
Lying down, on your back, you or someone else can hold a pendulum (small object on a string or chain several inches long) steady over your heart area and just watch what it does. Ideally it will swing in a circle several inches wide, clockwise from the point of view of the hand. Any other pattern indicates incoherent heart energy, and will, if the pendulum is held for awhile, tend to normalize in that direction. As it does, you might experience emotions, memories, spontaneous body movements, so be prepared to allow all that to move through you like a wave, not holding onto any of it. The force of healing knows what it's doing, and you haven't a clue.
You can do that as often as you like, for as long as you like.
Begin to intend to become aware of which feelings/emotions you are experiencing in your heart area. Is that where you experience love? What else: grief, heart-ache, longing, sadness, regret, forgiveness? Just become more aware.
If you read and search around, you will find many guided meditations available in print and audio and video formats to cultivate heart-opening; experiment with them and find the ones you experience as most useful -- and expect the most useful ones to change over time, as your heart becomes more open, more "intelligent" in its natural functioning, and you move to the next stage of development.
Find people you regard as living open-heartedly and hang out with them. You'll learn a lot and be changed a lot just by their transmission and your own "osmosis" -- the way we learn as children, mostly by subconscious observing and imitation. You can also converse with them and learn that way too.
A variation on this is to be around animals and/or children that you find heart-activating. This goes also for movies, videos, books, artworks, and music, etc. Just notice and experience and welcome and explore, your responses.
If you're into it, ask your Guides, Angels, Spirit-healers, for help in having a more healthy, natural heart-chakra, (or whatever words you use for your own intention) and follow their guidance. Your intention itself, and also their guidance, will generate the impulses that if you follow them, will bring the best resources and experiences to you.
You might "contemplate" "open heart" (or whatever your own phrase is), just by keeping your attention on the phrase for some minutes, and write down or speak-record whatever insights arise for you.
You might also "inquire" on your own questions or beliefs about heart, in the same way. (The difference is that contemplation has a shorter object of attention, and is somewhat more meditative. These two powerful modes of spiritual growth are described at length in Adyashanti's book The Way of Liberation.)
For example, does being open-hearted mean to you only having more compassion? Does it mean only being kinder? Does it mean only "feeling loving" more often? What else might it mean to you? Explore the delights of many new meanings and experiences.
If you find it useful, you can create experiences of the standard colors of the heart chakra (green, pink, gold) and/or you can use images that you find heart-activating, whether they are symbols or pictures, or even stories you read. Maybe a piece of jewelry that hangs from a necklace over your heart, reminding you to attend there, or which even activates your heart energy.
A very important "practice" of heart-opening is to be sure to allow your own heart its full expression. Act on heart-impulses when you feel them, if you deem that OK for your and others' well-being. The results might be unexpectedly delightful or unpleasant, but you'll be learning how to live with a stronger heart energy in this world. Part of this practice is to get clearer and clearer over time, about what your own intention is: what way do you want to be living, with respect to your heart?
Another practice, which you might need some guidance from a spiritual counselor for, is exploring the current relationship of your heart chakra to your other chakras. Which ones are inhibiting which ones, and how could the interactions among them all, be encouraged to become more free-flowing, open, healthy? In this regard, you might explore some Tantra teachings which can help integrate heart energy and sexual energy.
Check your posture. Can't easily keep an open heart chakra when your chest is all contracted, when you're hunched forward. Work on retraining, keeping your whole body relaxed, including stomach, throat, and heart areas. That will probably bring up a lot of "shadow" material to heal ! Be sure to get professional help if you need it.
Most of us have unnaturally closed hearts to protect us from re-experiencing overwhelming unpleasant, painful feelings or memories, and prevent those in the now and future. If you decide to live more open-heartedly, you might want to get some professional support for healing this often-intense stuff from this life and past lives.
It might not be true that we should all live with totally open heart chakras. Perhaps the optimal is that there be no blocks to living with a heart chakra which is free to use its natural Divine Intelligence as to when and where it is more or less open or closed. Perhaps a heart can get "stuck" closed, or even "stuck" open; both situations would be not-optimally healthy and natural.
I've previously described my own views of what a healthy and unhealthy heart chakra looks like in a person's life; here is a summary:
Some indications of healthy heart chakra:
Love, connection, caring, relating, belonging. The sense of loving life, the external world, and one's own body. Ability to embrace, to nurture, to protect. All the flavors of human love. Love as a state of Being, not just a human emotion: unconditional love.
Unhealthy heart chakra shows up in life like this:
Playing the martyr, neediness, emotional unavailability, sense of isolation or disconnection, emotional shielding or numbness. Hating life, the world, one's body. Feeling unworthy. Protection against emotional pain, criticism.
However, it's really best not to have pre-conceived ideas of what your own healthier, more open, more activated heart-chakra functioning will look like or be experienced like. That would severely limit the possibilities for developing the unutterable beauty and majesty of your own unique heart's expression in the world.
Comments are invited, about your own questions, experiences, and suggestions!