One of the hardest challenges in life–I think–is cultivating and keeping our hearts open.
I don’t know about you, but I learned quickly in life that an open heart can be a big liability. Often, when we speak and share what we really feel we’re open to the knives and guns and axes of other’s scorn, ridicule or contrary opinions.
Some people seem good at expressing themselves no matter what criticism comes their way. They stand up for their personal free speech without locking off their heart with big metal locks. Others of us struggle to express ourselves and learn to wall away our personal challenges and enthusiastic engagement behind prison bars of our own making, just to keep ourselves safe.
Many of us walk a fine acrobatic act balancing between sharing too much and too little. We attempt to express ourselves in a way that’s open but not too vulnerable. Honest, but not too revealing. Real, but not raw.
When many of us started posting on social media we shared our thoughts and feelings enthusiastically. But little by little we received scars on our engaging hearts. Maybe we didn’t get enough–or any–likes. Maybe we received off-base or annoying comments. Maybe some folks argued. Maybe we started feeling out in left field.
When I am cruising on social media these days I feel like so many people are playing it safe, fitting themselves into socially accepted boxes. And in many ways–hey, that’s probably a good thing. There can be something awkward and irritating about folks airing their dirty laundry in public, showing us their underwear blowing on the clothesline.
However, there’s a way that playing-it-safe starts to feel antiseptic and disconnected. We’ll post pictures or memes, but we won’t post our hearts because it’s just too scary.
I keep experimenting with this in different ways over the years. How to have a wide-open heart, and yet simultaneously protect it when it’s feeling too raw or vulnerable or insecure. One of my spiritual teachers often talks about “growing sturdy legs under our wide-open hearts.” The spiritual journey, to me, has been one of opening the heart in places where it has clenched down.
And most of us have closed down in certain nooks, crannies or corridors of love. We’ve barred the windows and slammed the doors. The world just doesn’t feel safe out there anymore, does it? Danger seems to lurk everywhere, if the niggling fear is correct. We have to be alert and guarded. Attack could come from any angle.
I find this spiritual journey of opening the heart–and learning to relate from it with wobbly legs–the most challenging. There are things that feel too vulnerable to talk about. I try to respect the private and secret closed doors of my heart with the general public, but love to gab away with interested loved ones.
It often takes deep inner detective work to discover why we close down. I have learned that I don’t always trust my heart to be “true” and wise and appropriate. However, as I learn to trust that the heart is speaking its imperfect and incomplete truth in the moment–and that it doesn’t need to be perfect and absolute–then I can allow for so many other different viewpoints. They aren’t really opposing my open heart. They are merely offering other illuminations. What was once viewed as challenging can now be seen as another heart’s offering. (This was really a hard paragraph to write because it feels like I’m trying to express something that’s half-visible in the deep inner fog.)
It feels as if this is the only thing worth doing. Opening and sharing from the heart, but not in a violent or unkind or sloppy way that denies the need for secret gardens within our psyche. Not in a way that inappropriately stinks of unprocessed sewage in public spaces. It’s kind of like a continually unfolding hologram that keeps testing the limits while growing those sturdy legs of engagement.
It can be so darn scary. Yet it also feels like the most vital medicine for our planet. To open again and again and again and again.
To soften and unlock and open when we’re called to open by what we know is true.
How much can we open today? It does feel like love spills out into the Universe when we’re not spending so much energy with wolfhounds guarding the precious flowers of our heart. When we can learn to trust the small quiet inner voice that says, “Show your love to the world today.” Find ways to learn trust both the heart and the many-petaled other expressions that may arise to encircle it.
Anyone else want to share stories about the heart?
Originally Published on Lake Superior Spirit