Monday, June 1, 2015

The Uncomfortable Truth About Being Open-Hearted

The uncomfortable truth about being open-hearted means that you accept all of your emotions.

When you read that on this spiritual awakening website, you're probably not that impressed. You may think, "Well, yeah. The heart is open. It lets everything come and go. Sure. What's the big deal?"

Let me say this again.

The uncomfortable truth about being open-hearted means that you accept ALL of your emotions.

All of them. No emotion is left out. Cranky, crabby, scared, tired, bored, awkward, angry, and all the rest are accepted just as much as happy, joyful, grateful, loving, and so on. Every comfortable and uncomfortable emotion you can have is allowed in an open-heart.

Are you understanding this now?

Probably not. I say this not in a derogatory way, but in referring to the physical reality of this truth. Many of my students conceptually know this for some time, but then one day as they're sobbing in a coffee shop, it hits them that that experience is also part of being open-hearted. Having the inner heart strength to be with whatever emotion arises and then the openness to let it go are both essential elements of being open-hearted. Because if you start to hang on to upset emotions, you'll only collect tons of pain. This is, truthfully, part of why so many people find being open-hearted so uncomfortable. In the initial phases of opening our hearts to ourselves and to life, a host of blocked up unhappy emotions typically gets pushed to the front to be released. Doing that means you have to feel them, and then you can at last be free of them.

Closing Our Hearts: The Clogged Emotional Body

A closed heart is a learned habit. This is good news when you really think about it. It means that you can let go of the habit and return to a natural state of interaction. My general experience with babies and children is that they let their emotions blare full force, no-filter. Then, depending on their upbringing, many of them learn that it's not okay to have their emotions. While having some level of discernment and ability to focus our emotions in healthy ways is important, most of what we learn is about suppression. We suppress our emotions. Certainly, others learn different emotional lessons. Some learn to explode their emotions at others (such as angrily yelling at someone), but that actually doesn't get rid of the deeper issue. As I've mentioned in other blog posts, anger tends to be like steam coming up from a deeper fire--coming up from a wound. Until that wound is addressed the anger will re-generate itself.

As will all the other upset emotions that we avoid.

To get to the core wounds require us to be open-hearted. Being open-hearted is one of the best kinds of inner pipe cleaners on the market today. I encourage you to notice how you close your heart. For some of you, it is so ingrained and unconscious that you don't know where to begin. To you, I would say, start by sitting and meditating and journaling about your thoughts and feelings. Things will start to show themselves to you when you stop and listen to yourself.

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Opening Up a Little at a Time

For many people, they don't get a huge surge of emotions that erupt out of them. It goes in little pieces. The more closed someone is, the more gradual this process can be, although not necessarily. It's hard to generalize any of this, but mainly, I want to point you towards patience and diligence. Gradually dissolving your inner resistance to your own emotions is important, and the gradual path will help you become what I like to call heart-strong and able to handle increasingly powerful emotions. When someone is hit by a ton of emotions all of a sudden like after a big healing, spiritual shift, or a spiritual awakening, then there's a tendency to be overwhelmed and to shutdown again.

Becoming Heart Strong

And let's be honest; our emotions are powerful. They're not just ideas either. There are powerful physiological chemicals and resultant body responses that go on, which we associate as fear, joy, etc. As such, a large emotional clearing can be quite exhausting because of all the inner resources at work. That's why I emphasize the gradual aspect of this process because getting used to this intensity is a learned practice. However, it won't always be this way when you heal your core issues.

Emotionally Drowning After the Floodgates Open

In the bigger spiritual shifts, emotions seem to tumble out all at once. They explode out of you along with all kinds of illusions, physical shifts, psychic experiences, and more for those in a spiritual awakening. For those who have always been emotionally imbalanced, opening the floodgates is actually very easy. But the initial floodwaters are less productive.

What do I mean by productive?

There's a really important distinction you have to learn to make within yourself about when you are wallowing in emotions and when you are processing emotions. The better you can breathe in and witness while still feeling your emotions, you can process them. In a spiritual awakening, there's a good deal of processing that starts on its own, but even then because of people's mental immaturity, many people can start wallowing.

What do I mean by wallowing in emotion?

Wallowing is when we are caught in our stories and ideas. Using the awakening example since more than a few of you are in this space, if you feel like awakening has done something to you, you can start wallowing because you feel victimized. You feel like your life is falling apart. You feel like things aren't going your way. All these are ideas underpinned by other beliefs, and these beliefs keep recycling the pain you are feeling. So, you don't go any deeper into the issues that are emerging and simply wallow in the mud of your clogged heart. Conversely, if you don't have any beliefs about how your life should proceed, you wouldn't be upset by the awakened shift. You'd probably feel a lot of things, but you wouldn't cause yourself further upset and would go straight into processing what is arising.

After a Spiritual Awakening Unleashes All Your Emotions

Sinking Into an Emotional Cesspool

Since many people cannot discern wallowing from processing, they sink further and further into emotional discomfort. Nothing resolves itself when you're trying to get through it, get over it, avoid it, and so on. The emotions that you do feel are only surface level emotions and not the core of the issue. It's kind of like pus that's built up over a gunshot wound that hasn't been treated. You can keep cleaning it away and cleaning it away. You'll feel like you're going around and around with the same emotions and issue, and you are. You have to learn to find peace with what you are feeling, and then drop more deeply into the underlying issue. See what is moving deeper. What does it feel like? Where is it in your body? When did you start feeling this type of issue?

These questions become more useful the more you can calm yourself and clear out the first level of emotions that are all generated by your ego ideas, which are usually dissatisfied that you feel bad. Interestingly enough, wallowing can get really bad in a spiritual awakening. A lot of people run in the exact opposite direction of conscious awareness. They want to get it all over with, and they don't want to deal with uncomfortable issues. Sometimes the worst spiritual students are awakened because they have no skills with working with issues, witnessing their inner space, practicing mindful awareness, and so forth. As such, to my awakened friends, I can only encourage you to get started building your spiritual practice if you have never had one before.

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Clearing Up the Muck and Opening Your Heart Further

As you do learn to process emotions and deal with ideas that only lead to wallowing, the inner muck clears up. It has to. Your body and your spirit doesn't want to keep it there. That's always great news to hear in my opinion. If we inherently wanted to be miserable, that would suck. But our body and energy are always looking to return to their natural vibration where we are at ease and flowing. Because of this, it takes a lot of effort to stay agitated and hold onto fear and pain. Because many people have gotten good at this, you will find that your emotional healing--much like healing other parts of you--goes in layers. You'll work through one layer, and then your heart opens further. As your heart opens further, you experience more life. You also can access deeper wounds and deeper levels of a big wound that you are healing the more open-hearted you are. You also feel more of what is going on in the world around you, and not all of that is comfortable either.

The Multiple Layers of Healing

So I want to emphasize that in life, there is discomfort. Being open-hearted and being spiritual will not take you away from this truth. It'll help you to embrace it. As we learn to stay open-hearted when discomfort arises, we will learn more about how we hold onto pain. See if you can notice when and how you close down. The sooner you can notice this, the better. Then breathe in and relax more deeply to unlearn this habit of closing your heart. Don't let yourself close down if you're at a beautiful park with a gentle breeze or are getting yelled at by your boss. They're both just a lot of wind. It's your interpretation that defines why you react differently to those situations The open-heart simply learns to feel all things without preference and let them go.

Flowing More Deeply Towards Overt Love

What is overt love? This is what we typically call love--feeling good, feeling connected, feeling whole, and so forth. Typically, I use love in the sense of higher truth meaning that everything is love, and being open-hearted starts by being in alignment with this truth. The more you can be with every emotion, the more you are in alignment with true love. But as we align more with true love, then we naturally move towards overt love. We naturally move towards people and situations that support us. We naturally offer kindness, gratitude, and compassion to others. It's simply what tends to arise.

But don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself because we all have to, and we can't wait for a perfect, easy time to do it. The world will not stop being uncomfortable, and resisting our feelings does us no good. Instead, we follow the path of becoming heart strong and learn to embrace all emotions as they arise and let them go. In this way, we become empathetic, loving, and powerful individuals who can all join together to re-shape this world in the image of overt love.

Today's photo is a gift from my student, Sean. Thanks so much, dear one!
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