When we feel emotional pain we close our hearts to reduce the pain. It’s a useful form of protection that everyone does. But when a useful temporary protection develops into a long-term habit of being closed-hearted… that’s when we start to experience all kinds of other, unintended negative consequences.
This 25-minute guided meditation will give you a powerful way to:
- Release old heart wounds
- Reverse the process of heart closing
- Become more open-hearted, more compassionate, and more loving, both with yourself and with others
Being more openhearted will also reduce your predisposition to stress-related diseases and will increase your longevity. You’ll be happier and healthier.
At The Heart of Things
The heart is one of the most powerful organs in our bodies. Apart from pumping blood for the entire duration of our lives, it also plays an important role in our hormonal and emotional balance.
The heart secretes half a dozen hormones and receives hormonal messages from several other organs including the hypothalamus, the liver and adrenal glands. Through these hormonal messages it coordinates with other organs to manage things like blood pressure, body temperature, and skin flushing.
By an evolutionary quirk, this puts the heart at the center of our emotional life.
When we’re afraid, the heart contracts to participate in increasing blood flow and blood pressure so that we have more oxygen for fight or flight responses. When we’re relaxed, the heart relaxes to participate in decreasing blood flow and blood pressure so that we can conserve energy. When we’re feeling compassion or love, the heart expands to participate in increasing blood flow to the skin (and other organs) to give us that romantic flush.
Overall a contracted heart engenders fear, judgment, lack of compassion, high blood pressure, stress and poor health.
In contrast, an expanded heart engenders acceptance, compassion, connection, warmth, love, lower blood pressure, relaxation and better long-term health.
It’s no coincidence that so many spiritual and therapeutic disciplines focus on heart opening. Not only will it improve your emotional life, but it will also improve your physical health and longevity.
When we feel pain, it’s natural to close off to numb the pain. This is particularly true of emotional pain that we feel in the heart.
By design, the heart is particularly adept at closing (and opening) to fulfill its evolutionarily-developed physiological functions. But unfortunately this means that the heart is also particularly adept at closing off from emotional pain.
The power of the heart to open and close physically is also what makes it so easy to become closed-hearted and lose connection with ourselves and others emotionally.
Fortunately, the heart is equally adept at opening. So with the right catalyst, heart opening can be easy and powerful.
As I said earlier, it’s fine to close off the heart temporarily to avoid feeling too much pain all at once. It’s even fine to close off the heart for an extended period of time when we have particularly tough circumstances to deal with. For example, growing up with a particularly harsh parent it may be appropriate to become more closed-hearted as a form of long-term protection.
But every time we close off our hearts, there’s a cost in emotional and physical wellbeing.
Many disciplines, such as yoga, include heart-opening exercises. These have their value, but as they tend to focus on physical posture, they don’t get to the heart of the matter – the emotional wound that led to the heart closing in the first place. As a result, many heart opening exercises can have limited impact both in terms of effect and in terms of how long the results last.
A more effective way to achieve lasting heart opening is to go directly for re-connecting with the wound that led to the heart closing in the first place: healing that wound, and then expanding the heart to match the new freedom from wound.
When the emotional shift leads the physical shift in this way, the results are more profound and more long lasting. It’s a more organic process that produces more lasting results.
Here’s a 25-minute guided meditation you can use to accomplish just that.
Heart Opening Guided Meditation
You’ll do this guided meditation lying on your back with your knees bent. You’ll use the very simple movement of rotating your knees from side-to-side while moving your head in the opposite direction. You’ll use this simple motion to put a torsional, or rotational movement, through the heart. Rotational movements like this highlight emotional content stored in a body site, so you’ll be using this movement to highlight, and then heal, emotional wounds stored in your heart.
Here’s a video of my doing the movement you’ll be using.
To start, find a comfortable place where you can lie on your back for half an hour. The ideal surface is something like a yoga mat or rug that will allow you to be comfortable, but without restricting your movements. I recommend against using softer surfaces like a bed or futon.
Here is the guided meditation recording.
After the Guided Meditation
Remember to take some quiet, contemplative time for yourself after following the guided meditation.
You may have found more than one place in your movements that attracted your attention… and you may be tempted to try to clear out everything all at once. Be patient. This kind of work is subtle but powerful. You’ve already done enough for today, and you’ll need some time to rest and integrate the changes you have just made.
If you try and to do too much in too short of a time, you’ll burn out and lose momentum. It’s better to pace yourself so that you can develop a habit of heart-opening that will serve you well over time. Give yourself at least three days before coming back and using this guided meditation again.
Use this guided meditation regularly over time to clear out all the block you have to being open-hearted, warm, loving, compassionate and caring. And once you’ve cleared out all those blocks, come back to the guided meditation from time to time to make sure that the new wounds (which inevitably happen from time to time) are cleared out so that you can remain open hearted.
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