The Human Body
The human body is truly a miraculous thing when you really sit down and think about it. It breathes, it grows, it heals, and it exists without much thought. Our brains are more powerful than any supercomputer known to man. Under normal circumstances all our organs function in complete unison without any effort needed. We’re even able to grow another human, another soul, inside our bodies. While the body is capable of so many incredible feats, I think that the most impactful aspect of the human body is the 11oz powerhouse that resides in your chest.
From a purely anatomical perspective the heart is a marvelous piece of hardware. From the moment it starts beating in your mother’s womb it begins a tireless journey until it’s final beat. It will keep doing its job, pumping away day-in-and-day-out and you will never pay it much mind. However, we have to look past the just the anatomical aspects of the heart when thinking of it’s true potential and consider the emotional power that resides in it; the way it sings when we are happy and the way it sinks when we are sad. The nature of romantic relationships are a prime example of the emotional power of the heart.
When you first start talking to someone and the feelings of mutual infatuation give way to pure love the heart sings; there’s an energy coursing through you unlike any other. The mere thought of that person sends a warm wave of wholeness and love throughout your body that originates in the center of your chest – there’s no guessing why the heart is the universal symbol of love. You’re happy, you’re open, and you never want this feeling to end.
But time marches onward one heartbeat at a time until one day you get a text message that reads, “I think we should see other people. I just need a break from this. I am sorry.” and your stomach sinks and a tightness takes hold of your chest. The fingers of sadness and hurt close your once open heart. The warmness that once radiated from your chest is gone, replaced by the cold winds of anger and pain.
In the beginning your heart was open – absorbing the love coursing through your veins and emitting feelings of pure bliss, goodness, and hope. You felt receptive to the love of others and the love of the world; but with such an openness you made yourself vulnerable – there were no walls to protect you and when things went wrong your heart closed, and with a closed heart the warmness of love disappeared. You cling to this fear of pain and you swear you’ll never let yourself be vulnerable again. You build walls that encase your closed heart and every moment of anger, fear, and hurt are just one more brick in a looming tower.
Hiding From Fear
The demise of a relationship is just one of the many incidents that cause us to close ourselves off and put walls up, some others include: traumatic experiences, deceit, loneliness, fear, rejection, and many other painful experiences – but the end result is always the same: a closed heart.
So many of us live with these closed hearts that we forget what it’s like to live with an open one. We become so accustomed to distancing ourselves from others and from life itself – so established in hiding from the fear of pain that we think this is truly how life is meant to be lived. To remember what it’s like to live with an open heart we can simply turn our attention to those of us who live so freely: children.
Children are the epitome of what it means to live with an open heart. They openly express love and appreciation without the hesitation of fear, without thoughts that they’ll be judge. They live moment to moment and while they still experience the full spectrum of emotions, children don’t typically cling to them. They experience the emotion, they feel it, they move on – heart unaffected. As we grow older we forget how to detach ourselves from pain and instead we cling to the fear of pain in order to live undisturbed lives – we seal the heart in order to avoid feeling pain, but at the same time we seal ourselves away from enjoying life.
So how do we tear down the walls that surround our heart? How do we remove the locks that keep it sealed? How do we open our hearts again to the warmth of life and love?
We need to undergo personal emotional heart surgery.
Open Heart Surgery
The only surgeon in this world that is skilled enough to open your heart is you. You’ll be the one confronting the ghosts of your past, sifting through your pains of now, and quelling your fears of tomorrow – and there’s no one more equipped than yourself to do that.
The first step of the procedure is acknowledging and accepting that you have been closed for the past x-amount of time. This acknowledgement and acceptance paves the way to healing. Say to yourself, “Hey self, listen … I know this is how we’ve been doing things, but I’m sick of being fearful. I’m tired of avoiding life because I’ve been let down in the past. I can continue down this path for the rest of my life, but there won’t be much life in that life. I need to change. I need to open my heart.” Acknowledgment and acceptance warm the first layers of frost that encase the heart.
Now comes the time of action. You must continue to warm your heart with inward kindness and gratitude. Start by being kind to yourself in the face of your faults and regrets. Remind yourself that no matter what ghosts of your past haunt you you’re doing the very best you can. Be kind to yourself in the face of pain, both emotional and physical. Be kind to yourself in your outlook on the future. Let inward gratitude help move you towards healing – find even the littlest internal thing to be grateful for: your sense of humor, your smile, your intelligence, anything that you like about yourself and let it grow from there.
After practicing routine Inward gratitude and kindness the locks on the heart begin to drop off one by one. But there’s still action to take: you must now take that kindness and gratitude and apply it outwards while also maintaining it inwards. Outward kindness and gratitude, on the surface, sounds easily done, however, it often times takes you out of the comfort zone that you’re used to while living with a closed heart. You need to seek out opportunities to be kind to others, to their emotions and their actions. You need to be kind animals and other creatures of consciousness. You need to be kind to events that take place around you and remind yourself that you have very little control over the actions of things outside yourself – your control lies in how you react, let kindness be your default reaction. Let gratitude fuel this kindness; be grateful for those people in your life that support you, those in your life that teach you lessons, and those that appear to merely just exist. Find gratitude in nature and the natural fluctuations of life. Find gratitude in the small things the same way you’re grateful for the large things.
By utilizing both inward and outward kindness and gratitude you’ll find yourself behaving in such a different manner than before. You will literally feel more open to your surroundings and those who inhabit it. Where you once felt fear and shame, you’ll now feel love and acceptance within yourself. You’ll forgive yourself for mistakes rather than belittle yourself. You’ll forgive others for things you once held grudges for. You’ll still feel and experience anger, frustration, pain, and fear – but you simply won’t cling to them, you’ll let them pass through you unaffected. Your heart will be open.
It takes effort to maintain this level of openness – especially in a world that is seemingly dominated but negativity. There will be times in which you want to close yourself again, to lay the bricks of fear – but you must remind yourself that openness will always triumph over pain. The short term hurt does not justify robbing yourself of life. Keep practicing inwards and outwards kindness and gratitude. Keep yourself open to the highs and lows of life, both offer opportunities for growth. Keep yourself open to not just romantic love but the love of friendship and the love of life. And if you do find your heart closed once more, that’s okay, just acknowledge it and accept it and begin the journey again.