Living With an Open Heart

We refer to Valentine’s Day as “Love Day,” because we see it as a beautiful opportunity to focus on all of our relationships, including the one with ourselves. In yoga, we practice heart-opening poses, and when seeking answers to some of life's biggest questions, we hear about the importance of coming “from a place of love.” But what does it really mean to live with an open heart?

Within all of us lies a brilliant light, and when we become aware and receptive to it, this gift can be a guide. The challenge is to trust, release judgments, and embrace vulnerability so that we can embody connectedness with all things and rewire ourselves to be comfortable in moments of discomfort. An open heart can illuminate our darkest hours, expand vitality, increase emotional balance and enable us to face life with fluidity. When our heart is open, we are in touch with our needs and desires. We are better communicators and more compassionate friends and lovers.1

Our heart becomes closed when energy patterns (known in Indian philosophy as Samaskaras) get stuck in our minds. We can all relate to having negative thoughts and worries, and these energetic roadblocks have the potential of leaving us feeling depleted, anxious and paralyzed.1

The truth is, pain is scary and uncomfortable. It is also a part of life. However, the more we attempt to avoid grief, the more we invite fear into our lives. The most effective way to release difficult emotions is to feel them and let them go -- to focus on where it hurts, let it burn and ache and then find freedom from within our body. Happiness doesn’t exist without sadness; beauty doesn’t occur without misery. But each time we relax and release, we let a piece of that pain go forever.

Here’s a practice we love for heart opening: We close our eyes, placing our left palm over our hearts and our right palm on top. As we take deep inhalations and quiet the mind, we feel the rise and fall of breath expand into our hands. If we listen and repeat a mantra like, “Remain open,” we can imagine our hearts holding an infinite capacity for space. From this space, we can start to create room for all experiences and people (good or bad), without causing internal harm or feeling overwhelmed.2

It’s not easy to be raw in our everyday lives. It can be hard to be vulnerable, even when our surroundings say it’s safe, mostly due to the social pressure to have it “all figured out.” However, when we remove the insecurities and boundaries that our ego has created, it’s easy to see that we all crave the same things – unconditional love, compassion and understanding. If we are constantly defending ourselves from pain, we will never be free. It’s only by opening our hearts and allowing ourselves to process all emotions, that we can remove limitations in our life.

Air is the element of the heart chakra, and the space in our heart is nourished by our breath. When we start to feel that space constricting, the challenge is to practice deep and steady breathing and soften that space again. When we open our hearts, our whole spirit expands, and we start to attract the life and the love that we want.

“If you are willing to experience the gift of life instead of fighting with it, you will be moved to the depth of your being. When you reach this state, you will begin to see the secrets of the heart. The heart is the place through which energy flows to sustain you. This energy inspires you and raises you. It is the strength that carries you through life. It is the beautiful experience of love that pours through your whole being. ” – Michael Singer