How do you open your heart?
Well, the first thing you do is to acknowledge that it feels closed. You don’t make believe you’re open-hearted, which most people do much of the time. They’re making believe they are open-hearted, meanwhile, they’re aloof. They always end up feeling a little hypocritical.
The first thing is to acknowledge what you’re feeling: “My heart is closed.”
I’ll tell you, there are numerous practices for this, and you have to find one that’s comfortable for you. For example, I work a lot with my breath – I breathe in and out of my heart, and when I’m breathing out of my heart, I allowed whatever love I can muster to be offered to people, to beings around me. When I breathe in, I take the existence of the universe into myself, and I keep feeling this breath going back and forth, and the breathing out is, “May all beings be free of suffering, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be happy,” and I say:
“Hard-hearted though I am, and closed hearted though I am, I am going to use my mind and heart for the benefit of others. I’m going to wish them well.”
I start out very uptight, and then I watch the meditation, it’s called Metta meditation in one tradition… or loving-kindness meditation. I’ve watched the way it works on people, and it’s quite extraordinary. I’ve watched the process of looking at another person, and looking beyond my reactivity to their individual differences to see a fellow soul in there, and I feel my heart does a very different thing with a fellow soul than it does with a woman or man or achiever or judging mind, from my protective stance, but I see a fellow soul, “You here? I’m here. Ahhh yeah, I see you…”
So I practice tuning into that in other beings. I’ll sit on the bus and I’ll look at all the people on the bus, and I’ll feel that these are all souls who have taken birth, who are all going through different things, and I see so much in their faces and in the way they exist about who they ‘think’ they are, and what they’re going through, and then compassion awakens in me.
It’s about awakening feelings of compassion towards others. That’s a big chunk of the opening of the heart. It doesn’t have to be all lovey-dovey romantic love.
It can just be a feeling of, “Ahhhh yes.” That quality of resting in love. So I practice it again and again, and I sometimes start with visualizations, that’s one way you can do it. Also, the psalms, the chanting, singing is a great one, music is a tremendous vehicle for opening the heart, absolutely incredible.
What could you say about opening the heart? We’re not talking about it emotionally, we’re talking about a kind of liquid boundary-less flow of which you are a part.
I’m not really talking about the superficial emotional states, those come and go. It’s not just about “Oh, ok, love everyone, sure,” it’s about looking for a deeper feeling of actual connectedness with the universe – tuning into that and then softening and opening to it.
– Ram Dass