*In referring to the “heart”, all of these axioms and aphorisms are meant to refer to the central conduit for the flow of emotional and spiritual energy located in the center of our chests (rather than the physical/muscular pump that is located slightly to the left…).
The Nature Of The Human Heart
The natural state of the human heart is relaxed -- and a relaxed heart is an open one.
A relaxed human heart is naturally and spontaneously connective, conductive, empathic and inclusive.
Life Energy flows into and through an open human heart as surely as water flows along the path of least resistance –
if presented with the opportunity, it flows.
(In fact, when it comes to the flow of Life Energy, an open human heart may be the path of least resistance at this point in the evolution of planet Earth…)
The heart is perhaps better understood not as an object, but as a conduit, a space, an opening…
(And since the heart is at the core of our being, BTW, this means that we human beings are essentially "hollow in the center"!)
The heart can be thought of as the central portal connecting our personal/immanent/individual nature with our absolute/ transcendent/unitive nature (i.e., the place where our humanity intermingles with our divinity).
Likewise, the heart is the central place in us where Peace can be felt – and the more open and inclusive our hearts,
the deeper the Peace that can be experienced there.
The mind creates division, separation and conflict by its very nature; only in the heart can Oneness be known.
Similarly, because of its divisive nature, the mind cannot actually perceive complete peace or even safety – the heart is the organ whose “receptors” are capable of those perceptions (and thus, if you wish to experience peace or safety, the heart is the place to pay attention!).
(To sum up the last three axioms: there is no access to the sacred except through the portal of the human heart.)
The heart cannot lie; it has no words to imagine things being any other way than the way they simply are (on the other hand, the mind can confuse and deceive us endlessly).
Likewise, in contrast to the mind, the sensations of the heart are always in the present moment (in other words, the heart knows no time – it is always attuned to the timeless dimension of reality, i.e., Now).
The heart is the source of wisdom – wisdom can certainly be reflected in the mind, but it emanates directly from the heart.
On The Openness & Closedness Of The Heart
When it comes to the heart (like the rest of our physicality), openness and flow are almost always in our best interest (and constriction and blockage, not so much…).
A closed heart is the experience of separateness, fear and alienation.
Said another way, the experience of a closed heart most often is the emotional/spiritual pain we’re currently experiencing.
Since a closed heart is inherently painful, we only (initially) resort to this adaptation under desperate circumstances – i.e., fear for our survival, on one level or another.
Said another way, a closed heart is always a fearful response to the perception of threat – whether real or imagined.
No one closes their heart because it feels good.
However, as with any other apparently survival-insuring behavior, this temporary “solution” can quickly become its own (much greater) habitual problem.
In other words, when it comes to the heart, our fortresses eventually become our prisons.
There is no new effort that will cause our hearts to open; we can only allow our heart to open by relinquishing the (perhaps unconscious and habitual) effort we are already engaged in to keep it closed.
Said another way: the closed heart requires the effort of contraction – and an open heart is simply the absence (or relaxing) of that effort…
We can’t close our heart to one person without closing our heart to some degree to everyone – including ourselves.
Likewise, if you attempt to close your heart to the arising of one particular form of emotional energy within yourself, you eventually constrict the flow of ALL naturally arising emotional energy (i.e., you end up feeling numb, cut off, disconnected, flat, stuck, clogged up).
Similarly, when our heart opens deeply to one person, it tends to open to some degree to ALL PEOPLE (at least until the ego gets wind of this, and gets busy finding justifications for closing the heart back down!).
It is virtually impossible to intentionally do harm to another person while maintaining an open heart (thus we train our soldiers not to allow their hearts to be relaxed and open, because that openness and connectivity might naturally extend to the other humans we’ve identified as “the enemy”, thus making it radically more difficult to convince said soldiers to participate in killing them…).
Simply noticing – and accepting with compassion -- that our hearts have become closed is a necessary (and sometimes sufficient) step in allowing them to re-open.
Implications For Psychotherapy
Connectedness (and the free flow of Life Energy through that connectedness) is the fundamental condition that characterizes all the pleasures of being alive – and an open heart is the prerequisite for that condition.
Said another way, an open heart is the fundamental condition for every experience we long for and most deeply value as human beings: love, play, fun, safety, connectedness, artistic appreciation and expression, joy – and especially, peace.
Our deepest woundings and sufferings are also experienced primarily in the area of the heart – thus they obviously can’t be healed somewhere other than there (and thus there can be no deep healing without access to the heart, and no access to the heart except through its own opening).
An open heart is thus the most necessary and fundamental precondition for the arising of human healing, transformation and evolution.
Said another way, an open heart – regardless of external circumstances -- is the most desirable possible state of affairs for a human being.
Therefore, except in situations of dire physical danger, nothing is worth a closed heart.
Whenever two (or more) human beings with open hearts occupy the same proximate space, some form of healing and/or transformational exchange will take place.
Said another way, Life Energy will flow through the conduit created by two or more open, connected human hearts -- and when it does, healing and evolution will take place spontaneously and naturally in ways we could never predict (much less control) with our linear minds.
Thus our job as therapists is simply to provide the conditions under which the human heart tends to relax -- and open. Given two (or more) human beings with open hearts to flow through, Life Itself will take care of the details…
The heart cannot be forced open from the outside for the purpose of healing – by anyone, including ourselves. It always and only opens -- voluntarily -- from within.
The longings and desires of the heart are never distractions, no matter how “inappropriate” or “unreasonable” they may seem -- they are core level reminders about what is most essentially needed for our healing and further development and evolution.
An open heart tends to draw to the surface (for healing and release) whatever might otherwise clog it up (i.e., “old pain”).
Therefore, in order to maintain an openness of heart, we all have to develop the skill of meeting whatever arises in us (especially that which we are inclined to be afraid of or ashamed of) with acceptance and compassion (hence the potential usefulness of psychotherapy!).
Peace is always a function of including whatever is arising in our hearts right now – never rejecting or avoiding it.
The heart opens naturally when we simply allow whatever is there to be there (i.e., without resistance from us). In other words, radical inner acceptance is the key to a sustainably open heart – and thus the key to human healing and evolution.
We don’t need to teach the heart anything or add anything to it – we simply need to establish the conditions under which whatever is clogging it up or constricting its natural openness is dissolved. (In other words, healing at the level of the heart is a subtractive process -- we don’t have to “add” anything, we just have to find ways to dissolve whatever is getting in the way.)
An open human heart creates a resonance in other human hearts that inclines them to open as well.
Said another way, an open heart is contagious (thus my primal contribution and responsibility as a therapist is to live in such a way that my own heart is as relaxed and open as possible, as often as possible).
Some Heartful “Advice”...
If we take as a basic premise that less suffering is a good thing, then living with a more open heart is a very intelligent thing to do – for ourselves, and for all of life.
Likewise, ANY strategy for enjoying being alive that involves maintaining a closed heart is deeply confused and counterproductive.
Despite popular opinion, it is rarely necessary (or helpful, even) to close one’s heart when emotional pain is triggered from within or without (we are quite capable of simultaneously feeling deeply AND acting intelligently!).
In fact, anything we humans can do, we can do better (i.e., in more life-enhancing ways) with a more open heart. (Again, the only exception to this I can think of is violence to ourselves or other forms of life – which we are actually quite incapable of doing intentionally with an open heart.)
Wisdom is noticing what thought forms and behaviors are associated with a contraction of the heart and what thought forms and behaviors are associated with an opening of the heart – and becoming more skillfully consistent at choosing the latter.
Thus a wise human being is simply anyone who has learned how to live in this world with a more open heart, more of the time.
The heart is an unfailing on-line moral compass: it remains open (or expands slightly) if a considered potential action is in the best interest of all concerned – and it contracts slightly if that potential action would be more detrimental than helpful.
In order to successfully guide our lives into a deepened sense of love and peace, all we have to do is learn to pay attention to these (sometimes subtle) contractions and expansions of our heart.
We may not always be able to open our hearts in any given moment -- but we can almost always find a way to allow them to soften a bit (and the softening of the heart is the precursor to its opening...).
My “spiritual teacher” is anyone and everyone in my immediate vicinity whose heart is more relaxed and open for the moment than my own.
As spiritual adults not under the immediate threat of physical harm, there is no such thing as a good reason to close our hearts – much less to keep them closed!
© 2009 Tony Rooney 404-875-8878, firstname.lastname@example.org