When I talk about opening the heart, what exactly do we do?
Well, one thing you do, is you acknowledge that you feel ‘closed.’ That’s the first thing. 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, while they’re aloof a little more than they’re feeling themselves to be. They always end up feeling a little hypocritical.
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, and I breathe in and out of my heart, and when I’m breathing out in my heart, I allowed whatever love I can muster for anything to be offered to people, to beings around me, and when I’m breathing in, I’m taking 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 energies to the extent that my mind and my heart can do it for the benefit of others. I’m gonna 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. 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 woman or man or achiever or judging mind, my protective stance, but I see a fellow soul, “You here? I’m here. Ahhh yeah I see you…”
So I practice turning my receptor to tune to that in other people, so I’ll sit on the bus and I’ll look at all the people on the bus, and I’ll just feel that these are all souls who have taken birth, that are going through that, and I see in the faces and in the way they are so much information about who they ‘think’ they are, and what they’re going through, and the quality of 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, that quality of resting in love. So I practice it, 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 this and then softening, opening to it as well.
– Ram Dass