What does it mean to live with an open heart? This month I have been trying to do just that and I have disovered that it is harder and more rewarding than you might first think!
I had forgotten that last month, after taking note of all of the things I was grateful for, I discovered that I was a stingy receiver of things and so had put out to the universe that I wanted to receive with a more open heart… The month began and I just kind of got on with it, but I felt more uplifted than usual. I was still keeping my daily gratitude list, but found the things I was expressing gratitude for were just that – daily things…they were small things of little consequence or value – and this wasn’t bringing me any breakthroughs…or at least that’s how it felt.
The thing is, when you look a little deeper, you see that these ‘small’ daily things are actually what count the most. They provide us with opportunities in which to practice gratitude – especially when you don’t feel like it, or when it seems as though you have nothing to be grateful for. Then, these small things ARE the breakthrough; the finding of something positive IS the breakthrough; the doing the work regardless IS the breakthrough!
So while I was ‘just getting on with my month’, small breakthroughs were occurring all the time! Then a couple of significant things happened that showed me that my heart was in fact open to receiving freely, and I learnt just what it takes to live with an open heart.
The first thing that happened was a previous work colleague made contact and invited me to part of her gratitude group. Of course I jumped at the chance, and now we text each other weekly about the things we are grateful for and where we are struggling with gratitude. I’ve even started a happiness jar (though mine is more a file on my computer). I know you’re all dying to know…What is a happiness jar? A jar in which you put notes about the ‘good’ things that have happened to you over the year (big or small), and then on your designated day of the year (like New Year’s Eve) you open the jar as a reminder to yourself that, while you may have had some awful moments throughout the year, great things happened to you all the time.
It really is the simple things…like keeping a gratitude list or creating a happiness jar that have the biggest impact on our lives. I LOVE my happiness jar – thanks Bec for sharing this idea with me!
The second thing that happened to me was that I became more mindful of my friends and made a concerted effort to communicate regularly and deeply with them – especially the ones who live far away. This resulted in feeling more connected and yet more vulnerable as a result. Strengthening and deepening these close friendships triggered some raw emotions within me. In my head, it kind of goes basically like this: if I let you into my heart, you then have the power to hurt me.
Knowing this helped me become of more aware of how I respond to people and situations. And suddenly I saw that I had been operating from this basis, from a foundation of fear of hurt, in most of my relationships. In trying to live with an open heart, I discovered that this fear was not very open and not very powerful!
This month, living with an open heart has meant facing myself and working our how I want to live my life. And that’s just it…I want to live. I want to live fully and bravely. I don’t want to turn away from things because I am aftraid. I want to challenge myself to reach beyond what I thought was possible. It takes some courage, but I’m up for the challenge. I want to live fearlessly!!
If you want to take up an open-hearted life, be aware that it is not all roses and sunshine. Sometimes it’s just plainly painful. But, despite feeling vulnerable, despite facing your own fears, despite freaking out those around you every now and then, despite having your clearly visible and wide-open heart taken for granted at times…it’s still all worth it! And I’m talking from the personal experience of great heartbreak and even greater joy.
Tips to living with an open heart:
- Living with an open heart is expansive, so expect to be stretched. This might mean you are pulled in ways you find thrilling, but equally in ways that you struggle with. Not all change is easy. Be kind to yourself, sit quietly and rub your belly, tell yourself it will all be okay…because it will be!
- Be gentle with those around you. Just as you may not be used to living with an open heart, other people may not be familiar or comfortable with those who do. Diving deeply and enthusiastically into their world with your heart wide open might cause ripples of chaos to bounce their way. Being kind to them, reflects kindness back to you.
- Don’t worry if you mess it all up. Sometimes life just sucks…you don’t feel grateful, your heart is anything but open, your behaviour is not mindful, you want to live in the past or future or just anywhere other than right here and right now. That’s okay, we all feel like that from time to time. Accept that you are, after all, merely human – try to avoid all that negative self-talk. Just accept that you slipped from your focus, then get back on the horse and have another go!
- Practice forgiveness, compassion, understanding, and letting go of negative emotions. You might need to do this over and over and over again, but like any muscle, the more you work it, the stronger it gets.
- Sit with your emotions. It is okay to feel uncomfortable – don’t run away from difficult emotions, just sit with them without judgement, don’t label them good or bad, just allow them to be. Guess what? They soon pass!
- Regularly remind yourself what it’s all about. When you are faced with a challenge or a hurt of some kind, remember your desire to live with an open heart. Remind yourself why you have chosen this path and what kind of life you are trying to create for yourself. In doing so, you reconnect with that energy and this, in turn, helps you move through the difficulty you are facing.
- Praise your own bravery – it takes a great sense of fearlessness to live with an open heart, to share honestly and openly. Celebrate your own courage!
- Don’t forget that living with an open heart also means fully accepting and receiving joy. So do something fun!