is your heart open?

VDay card for Dave 2014-cropI’ve been hearing for years the Course in Miracles exhortation to choose Love instead of Fear.

It sounds good, but it never made sense to me. It’s just not that simple in my experience!

First of all, it’s not just Love I want—it’s joy, goodness, compassion, peace, fulfillment, gratitude…Perhaps they are all expressions of Love, but the exact feeling state is different.

And it’s not just Fear I don’t want—I’m not particularly inclined to want to feel anger, hatred, confusion, sadness, shame…

So, what does it mean to choose Love?
Isn’t it really about keeping your heart open?

Every time we turn toward ourselves or others with compassion and curiosity, we are practicing opening our heart.

If I’m afraid, angry, or sad, instead of distracting myself, getting busy, or drowning in my feelings, I turn toward myself with kindness. I hold my fear, anger or sadness, acknowledging it and how hard it is to feel this. I am gently curious about how I am feeling with a desire to  understand. I don’t try to change myself, but accept myself just as I am. Read more about practicing mindful self-acceptance.

I find an image can help here. Think of a hand that is contracted into a fist. This is what it’s like when we are contracted by the less enjoyable emotions. The heart is literally closed up. When we turn toward ourselves with compassion to acknowledge this contraction, the heart can soften, releasing its tight grip and begin to open again. When the hand (heart) is open, it is available to experience more life.

Any practice that helps you to be more present and open to your own experience will foster open-heartedness. And when we practice opening our heart to ourselves, we are also more able to open our heart to others.

Another way to practice, especially helpful when we need a radical re-orientation, is to turn our attention toward Love or one of its expressions in the moment. This practice is not meant to replace practicing to accept your own feelings in the moment, but to increase your  capacity for open-heartedness.

Center of Gratitude Practice

“The heart cannot hold gratitude and negative emotions at the same time”
(A Life Worth Breathing, p. 84)

We practice opening up to Gratitude, one of the expressions of Love, in any moment, in order to train our neural pathways and nervous system to let more in. Practicing when you feel good makes it easier to practice when you really need it! I learned this from Max Strom’s book A Life Worth Breathing (p. 83-84).

Think of someone you love and feel grateful for.

  • Imagine them sitting before you, smiling at you, beaming at you.
  • Remember all the ways they have enriched your life, all the beautiful and wondrous things about them.
  • Allow yourself to feel the gratitude you have for this person and radiate that gratitude toward them in your imagination. You may even find yourself smiling!
  • Wordlessly, keep beaming your love, your gratitude, your appreciation toward this wonderful person in your life.
  • Imagine them receiving it and tears coming to their eyes as they soak your love in.
  • Notice your heart and how you are feeling. Allow yourself to savor this experience of a wide open, loving heart.

Note: This is a beautiful practice, but it does not replace feeling your real feelings in the moment! Both are necessary to heal and open the heart. Read more about working with difficult emotions.

What practices do you have in place for opening your heart?

Turning toward yourself with kindness is a key component of the coaching work I do. If you would like some support with this, I invite you to sign up for a Free Discovery Session.

I find it’s helpful to have many practices to open the heart, so I offer some, too! Come to Singing Meditation March 2nd and 9th, check out SomaYoga on Tuesdays at noon, and  watch my calendar for more opportunities.

p.s. Do you have friends who would love support in opening their heart? I’d love it if you would share this post with them on Facebook!

Join my community and get your
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Author: Katy Taylor

I am a regular person, like you. I am an earth lover, a seeker, a singer, a gardener, a partner and friend. I have attended a lot of trainings and continue to do my work to grow and deepen and become a more loving person. If you're interested, you can read more about me on the About page.

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