Building a Heart Strong Enough for Awakening

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In an earlier blog post, I talked about preparing the mind to handle the intensity of a spiritual awakening. If you haven't read it, I recommend reading it before reading this post.

In this spiritual work, it tends to be the case that the stronger the mind, the more ability there is to allow for intense emotions from all sides of the spectrum. Whether the emotion is fear or joy, terror or bliss, a mind that has properly been prepared has space to be with these strong emotions, and that gives the heart room to heal and grow.

With that said, the thinking and tools that are useful for the mind are often much less useful for the heart. The heart has its own language, and becoming heart-strong has its own unique and important process. In this process, a person learns to heal and release old emotions, and the person learns to be with more and more uncomfortable emotions. The person also learns to be open to powerfully joyful emotions without clinging to them. This is part of learning to be at peace with all emotions.

This mentality of non-attachment towards emotions typically runs counter to expectations people have with awakening, and by golly, people have a lot of them. For many, they had a fun spiritual experience once, and they think, "This is what an open heart is. I want more!" But that is only one experience of the heart, and to think that open-heartedness is just all bliss and chocolate chip cookies is sheer nonsense. Furthermore, it is equally foolhardy to think that you just have to work through a bunch of issues, and then it will be all cake, sex, and balloons from there. As I just said in the previous paragraph, the process of building a heart strong enough for awakening is about learning at peace with all emotions and allowing them to come and go.

With that said, let's talk about some of the steps that are needed to become stronger in your heart.

Opening a Closed Heart

One of the earliest posts on this blog is about opening a closed heart. It's obviously a huge issue. If you can't feel, you can't heal a lot of issues. You also can't give or receive kindness.

Opening a closed heart often starts by un-numbing. Since it's tough to not feel--although some people end up stuck in such a space--medication, drugs, alcohol, sugary foods, working too much, sex, and many other strategies are used to numb or distract the person from what is going on in their hearts. When this is the case, that's usually an indication that someone is holding on to pain in their hearts. Since Western Culture stinks at teaching people healthy ways to process emotional pain, the idea of opening a closed heart terrifies a lot of people. They're afraid of what may come out, and therefore, they keep numbing themselves.

But before we even discuss healing what might come out, the un-numbing and end of distractions must begin. It will help to allow emotions to come to the surface, and that usually means more than a few uncomfortable emotions come up. A person who wants to awaken needs to be able to handle these surface-level emotions before ever attempting to awaken their energy. If they can't handle the emotions that are virtually ready to burst out of them, they are not ready for the deeper and more powerful emotions inside.

How to Reconnect to Your Heart

Healing a Broken Heart

This subhead is also the title of another post that I wrote in 2010 along with the "Opening a Closed Heart" post. There are all kinds of broken pieces in people's hearts, and a good portion of it is simply how our ego reacts when things don't go its way. Other issues have to do with being physically harmed particularly by people we thought loved us. There are more issues than just what I've mentioned, but these are two of the common avenues to having a broken heart. However, if we want to heal, we have to take ownership of our hearts. We have to accept how we broke our own hearts.

For example, many people have difficulty grieving the loss of a family member. Since grief is the purview of the heart and the heart doesn't have much of a place in Western Society (Even in the spiritual world at times, you see group topics like Body, Mind, Spirit, but what happened to the Heart?), people don't know how to handle grief. So it often gets stuffed down inside. This "breaks" the heart. It is torn between the grief that wants to be expressed and other emotions. This repression gets in the way of feeling other emotions and makes a lot of "positive" feelings like joy more and more inaccessible. This repression can make things particularly bleak for some people, and then they go looking to numb themselves. After that, they may seek other substances, adventures, and even spirituality to feel something again and to no longer be numb. Good God. This is a mess.

So while grief is natural--although as we progress on the spiritual path how we deal with grief changes through a deep acceptance of death and change--the reality is the person broke their heart through seeing the loss of a family member as a bad thing and through avoiding their feelings.

There are countless other situations that come to mind where people create emotional pain that doesn't need to exist, and then they resist that pain which causes heart-break. It's all done through ignorance. So it's not about being mad at yourself for not knowing how to deal with your emotions and your heart. But if you're reading this blog post, now you're starting to know differently. And it's time to get to work.

Discovering You Don't Know What Love Is

I can't tell you how often people come to the realization that they don't even know what love is. It can be quite a shocking revelation for many. For some, they already knew that they don't know what love is. The quest to find and understand love often starts people on their spiritual journeys.

Some egos will not like this realization because love seems like something that they should already know. The word gets used a lot, and people reference all kinds of things as things that they love. But what is love really?

To accept this realization about not knowing what love is, step one is acceptance.

The common traps that follow after this realization are usually attempts to find love in another person, but building a strong heart based in love is about understanding that the love you are seeking is within you. The deeper you go within yourself, the more you'll find that true love has no conditions. True love is pure acceptance. So when I say that step one in accepting that you don't know what love is, what I've ultimately said is that step one in finding love is love. It seems like circular logic, but in time, it makes sense.

All other attempts to find better conditions to feel different types of loving kindness and have feel-good moments will ultimately miss the point. They can be fun, and there is a value in learning to share compliments and consensual touches with one another. There is also a value to learning to receive kindness in its many forms too. But these should be seen as transitional lessons on the path to total acceptance--true love.

How to Find Your True Love

Sinking in a Sea of Emotions

The other spectrum of heart experiences is often those people who get lost in their emotions. These people usually have experienced and shared love, although those expressions and experiences tend to be shallow and very conditional. By conditional, I mean that there are lot of reasons about when and how they express or receive a certain form of loving kindness. True love embraces all of life. Conditional love only wants small parts of it, and typically, it only wants the parts of life that feel good. Hence, I separate loving-kindness from true love; loving-kindness is just one color in the emotional spectrum, and true love embraces all colors, the entire spectrum.

Additionally, these types of people tend wallow and regurgitate their feelings whether those emotions are enjoyable or not, but this is no better than not feeling anything. The unconscious ego fuels this riptide of emotions that can drown and debilitate some people. Seriously, some people simply cannot function because their ego has effectively overwhelmed them in emotions. They could be drowned in anger if they think a situation shouldn't be happening. They can get drowned in sorrow and depression. They can get paralyzed by fear. It's very rare that any situation someone is facing deserves such an extreme response. Furthermore, none of those responses help someone to function in the event of an extreme situation like when someone is threatening you at knife-point. That's a situation where being able to think clearly would be extremely useful, and being paralyzed in fear could create a tragic event.

People at this stage of heart-development can just as easily get drowned in certain kinds of loving-kindness. Some people get so lost in their emotions that they don't even really see the object of their affection--the person seems to be sheer perfection. They're a perfection created by a projection of the person's love painting them with an addicting form of loving-kindness rather than seeing them from clarity. Maybe this kind of addictive love causes the person to stop showing up for work as they spend every moment they can with the object of their affection. They can do all kinds of things to keep the loving-kindness drug pumping through them, and they will defend this feeling against intrusion because their ego really wants to keep these good-feelings going.

Letting Emotions Out Through Awareness

But the path to being able to emotionally handle all events starts by learning to simply observe emotions. In the same way that it is useful to observe thoughts, observing emotions allows them to arise in whatever way they need to while not acting them out or giving them more story or energy than they have.

Going back to the example of the passing of someone's mother, when the emotion comes up, it's not about asking why she had to die so young, believing it is not fair, missing all the times you could have had with her, and so forth. Those are ego beliefs that fuel the story. The beliefs give the emotion more energy. It is simply about accepting that you loved her and you miss her. The emotions can then come, and you can breathe and relax while observing the emotions that need to express themselves. As you do, they can gradually release because they are expending the energy they have without being given more. As the emotional-charge is depleted, the person can be free of their grief.

The Timeless Witness

Releasing Other Emotions

There are plenty of other emotions of varying intensities that will need their time being seen from a place of non-judgment and non-attachment. Seeing these emotions without fighting, avoiding, or holding onto them is essential. They just want to be heard. They may need to be heard for a while, but that's okay. You just keep breathing and allowing. If memories are attached to them, you learn to acknowledge them. If a memory was forgotten but is now surfacing, then a little journaling can be useful as a way to accept what was forgotten and process the associated emotions.

It can be surprising what surfaces, and many people haven't developed the heart-strength to be with much intensity for very long. That's like having trouble running a mile when you are out of shape. You run a mile now until you're good at it. Then you work your way up to the half marathon. And you certainly don't try to run the full marathon overnight.

Additionally, trying to hold onto good feelings also causes suffering. It can turn a loving relationship sour as a person keeps trying to get the feelings they want. They can become controlling and manipulative of other people in their life, and this can turn a genuinely good connection into a love-hate affair. It can do it with any kind of relationship too, not just romantic. In this way, the ego's attempts to replicate and continue a certain kind of loving-kindness can turn lots of loving situations into bad ones. The enjoyable loving experiences must be witnessed and allowed to flow through just as much as the uncomfortable emotions.

In short, any place that someone tries to control their emotion through wallowing, avoiding, holding on, and other responses is going to cause suffering. These immature ways of responding to emotions need to be resolved before opening the floodgates of the heart in a spiritual awakening.

Opening Your Heart Further

Some of you probably are in a good place with your hearts, but that doesn't mean you know every layer and level of love. Having a healthy open heart also doesn't mean you are totally surrendered to true love. If you were, you wouldn't need this blog post, would you?

For those who are ready for the next level of development, it's time to investigate more of your rules against love. Your rules against love are all the ego beliefs about when and how to express love. They define what you even think of as an expression of love.

Expressing Love in a Cynical Society

Well, true love--that pure acceptance that I'm pointing you towards and which awakened energy would move you towards--has no limits. It doesn't limit when and how you express love. So any time you have a belief about what you can or can't say or how love should or should not be offered, that's something to investigate. Love isn't about hugging and kissing everyone. That's another naive idea. The acts and expressions of loving-kindness that arise from true love come from a place of wisdom. But before those natural loving responses can arise, the heart must be opened further. Doing so for many people means seeing how their beliefs intentionally keep them limited. Once you perceive those limits, it's time to face them and let them go in whatever way is appropriate.

Opening to New Layers of Love

Ready for the Awakened Sea and Surge of Emotions

Spiritual awakening can unleash tons of pent up emotions all at once. This is a lot to take even for people who are prepared, and it's typically too much for those who aren't prepared. Learning to work out individual emotions around individual issues helps create the necessary space for awakened energy. It's also good practice for what will come.

Additionally, being able to handle lots of overtly loving emotions can also be overwhelming in a different way, particularly for people who never expressed themselves that way. That's why the spiritual advice in this post also talks about the importance of opening up to new layers of loving kindness. It helps you to be more prepared for the intense joy that can surge through you after awakening.

Even with lots of preparation, awakened energy is still going to move some intense emotions. There will be old emotions that emerge from deep within you, and there will be new powerful levels of loving kindness and bliss that arise to help you grow. Awakening knows how to find both types of things. People can get these emotional surges all at once or alternating in rapid succession. However, if you've learned to process many other emotions first, then you'll be more prepared to embrace these deep sea currents. In having a strong enough heart, you can grow, find deeper levels of loving-kindness, and more quickly reside in the center of the heart space--the space of pure presence and true love.

After a Spiritual Awakening Unleashes All Your Emotions

Comments

  1. I'm going through an awakening right now. It's been a dark awakening, starting about 6 months ago (so glad I read your post about that--it's like when you go to a doctor, and you *finally* get a diagnosis for your symptoms. I'm glad that other people have experienced the same thing....that I am not alone!).

    WOW, I can relate to everything that you post. I've been bouncing around from article to article. I do have a teacher that I am starting to work with, but I am so grateful to have come across your blog too, as it's helping me understand things even more. Thank you for what you write!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Autumn. I'm glad this post can help point you in the right direction--the direction inwards! :)

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