Have you ever wondered what it really means to “keep an open heart?”
Sometimes it comes after a good cry or after a moment of deep connection with another or after witnessing an act of pure loving kindness.
An open heart is a state of being where you feel open, accepting and expansive. Love flows through you without obstruction.
We all long to experience an open heart more often, but at times we can feel too scared and vulnerable to reveal ourselves in this way.
So many of us have learned to close our hearts off due to traumatic events that have happened in our lives—some recent and some long ago.
We try to deflect the hurt and pain by “shutting down” and pretending that it doesn’t exist or matter. Paradoxically this makes it more difficult to connect within ourselves and with others in a healthy way. To live more vibrantly and joyfully we need to learn or relearn how to trust and open our hearts to ourselves, each other and to life’s experiences.
How would life be different if you were able to keep an open heart more often? What new experiences might you attract with this new, high-level vibration?
Brené Brown says that allowing oneself to become wholehearted requires an act of courage. Then it inevitably leads us down the path of greater happiness and connection.
Signs of a closed heart:
Finding fault with others and judging them harshly.
Avoiding new experiences and adventures out of fear of the unknown.
Feeling paralyzed or stuck.
Being angry, mean, critical of yourself and others.
Withholding love and affection.
Hiding out and avoiding connection with others.
Signs that your heart is open:
Smiling, laughing, and sharing with ease.
Savoring life despite disappointments.
Demonstrating affection toward others.
Focusing on the good in people rather than the negative.
Being open to new experiences and opportunities.
How to open your heart:
Whenever retreating into fear and doubt we need to take a step back and re-evaluate our behavior. Here are some ways to open your heart more fully.
1. Breathe into painful emotions
Whenever a painful feeling, memory or situation arises, instead of running away or masking the hurt, take some deep breaths and lean in. Running away from uncomfortable emotions only makes them stronger.
Emotional and physical sensations are fluid and fleeting. Allowing yourself to feel sensations as they arise is the best way to move through them. Abdominal breathing is the anchor, your ultimate resource that will help you tolerate and move through difficult feeling.
2. Tune into the messages of your heart
When confused or unsure about next steps, instead of suffering over making certain decisions, it often helps to look inward. Tune into your instincts, intuition or deep knowing about which way to go.
More often than not, the answers about the actions that you need to take are available to you. Practicing even an abbreviated meditation can also help you tap into your inner wisdom which resides within you.
3. Follow your bliss
Joseph Campbell, the famed writer and mythologist, believed that each of us needs to follow our bliss. This means that we trust and engage in our highest calling. This goes beyond the pursuit of happiness and is about tapping into what excites us and brings us a sense of purpose and meaning. This often involves being of service one way or another to others—which of course helps to open our hearts in all kinds of surprising ways.
4. Spend time alone
While being of service is powerful to finding life purpose and opening the heart—so can spending time alone. Solitude can free us from distractions and the influences of other people. It gives us the space to explore our thoughts, dreams, emotions, purpose etc.
Of course the challenge here is not to become distracted by all of the possibilities out there and to experience what it’s like to be alone with one’s self. While sometimes frightening at first, allowing yourself to feel whatever comes up can add depth, perspective and new understanding about your life.
5. Connect with others
Bringing an open heart into the context of your relationships with others adds a rich dimension to these connections and continues to bring a feeling of even greater expansion and love.
When you seek to listen, to understand, to appreciate the uniqueness of others, everyone benefits and grows—especially you. Focus on the beauty and positive qualities that each person brings to the table and notice what happens inside of you.
You don’t need to do these “strategies” all at once or at the same time. Practice whichever step seems most relevant and see what you can discover about how your heart responds.
“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless.” ~Pema Chodron
When do you feel like you’re truly experiencing an open heart?