To live with an open heart sounds like a lovely way to live, doesn’t it? It’s something I’ve been inching my way toward. Keeping our hearts open is an easy thing to say, a harder thing to do.
This last month, after having been on the first of 4 retreats I’ll do in the next six months, I’ve been practicing the ways to soften into the heart, cleaning and purifying the grit that inevitably covers our hearts, protecting us from being hurt. I’m encountering and re-mapping, along the way, a story of separation and distrust that has been shadowing and distorting my life, often unbeknownst to me, keeping my heart in shadows.
We all have stories of protection, some known to us, some buried. They’re meant to keep us “safe.” We all have our versions of these stories: “People can’t be trusted,” “You’re going to hurt me,” “Life isn’t safe,” or “I’m not wanted.”
Frankly, it’s not like these stories are unfounded; they’re born out of life experience. They were necessary. But are they still?
On retreat I discovered – yet again, this time on a deeper level – how insidiously these patterns take form in every interaction, relationship, thought. These patterns predetermine what we experience and shape the outcome of what will happen.
The retreat reminded me that the way through deepening into love, softening and opening our hearts to receive the inexhaustible forgiveness and mercy.
In the face of our well-constructed stories of needing protection, it seems impossible to believe this new possibility. Usually, most of us, turn away, rejecting love out of old habits of being.
In learning to walk through life with a radical open heart we begin to have glimpses where we’re not separate. We start to feel, to “know” that we are all connected. A practice that enhances this is using life as a mirror, encouraging us to see ourselves, especially those pesky parts that we’d rather not see.
What if, instead of experiencing life as a personal affront and being defensive when life encounters us in a less than pleasant way, what if we took time each day to see life reflecting back to us the undigested parts of ourselves, while holding each and every part of ourselves with gentleness, kindness, mercy.
It goes something like this.
You notice someone annoyed with you. Or maybe they’re irritated? Frustrated? (fill in the blank here for what might be happening to you.) Or heaven forbid, you’re angry with them. Judgmental. Disdainful. Contemptuous.
What does that mirror back to you? What beliefs does this point to? How are you with this very thing that you are experiencing from the other?
Instead of being defensive when someone reacts (okay, I still have work to do here!) the wonderful opportunity is to see how these very patterns keep us from having the life we’ve always wanted.
Day after day as I put my attention on myself instead of on the other I’m seeing the primordial layers and patterns of protection that have kept me separate from that which I have always longed for.
Try this out with me and see if this practice makes sense in your world.
What is it you long for? What is it your heart really wants even as you doubt it could ever be possible?
What parts reject the goodness even before it comes consciously to awareness?
This is some of what I discovered inside myself. I thought I knew myself. Thought I knew the parts that complicated my life, yet I was astonished at how much I was unconsciously anticipating rejection, anticipating not getting what I wanted.
It’s like Charles Schultz’s Pig Pen walking around in a cloud of dust around him.
We all walk around with an energy field populated with fears, distortions, anxieties as if they have already come true.
Then we’re hurt. Distressed. Resentful. We blame the other, we blame life. We blame the situation. Goodness. This isn’t me. Absolutely not.
Yet if we can open our hearts, soften, let go of the need to blame the other, realizing at the same time we’re not to blame either, we are granted the opportunity to enter into a totally different experience of life.
In this new and different world there’s no right or wrong. We don’t have to protect against being hurt – yet again. Instead of blaming, instead of retreating to our old, out dated stories it becomes possible to see the underlying patterns that run us, that design our interactions, shape our responses, kick start the stories we tell ourselves and others.
Instead we are held in love. In kindness.
In my case, this is opening my heart as I taste the possibility of what it is like to trust everything, to not be afraid, to let the crust of fear that has encased my heart begin to dissolve.
The process of encountering and befriending these patterns takes determination and enormous courage. To do this it helps to awaken to the love that is ever generous, completely merciful, protecting us even as we cringe inside encountering these things we don’t like about ourselves.
How do you walk through these places inside you?
How do you move toward love?
How do you shift those patterns of resentment, judgment, blame inside of you?
I’m inspired by the courageous ways you walk through your life. Take a moment and let me, and us, know by commenting on the blog.