The Open Heart
The science is in. Even if your life has been especially tough, you can be on an even playing field with others who haven’t had as many troubles when you forgive and learn to keep an open heart. People who experience hard knocks usually have more health problems. However, being highly forgiving and learning to keep an open heart through things erases the link between stress and illness. This is also to say that learning how to adopt better coping skills when you feel stressed and finding ways to teach yourself and your body how to respond helpfully to life events goes a long way. How empowering that forgiveness calms the body!
Inner contentment comes about when one can keep ground to any wave. The objective is not to rid ourselves of anger or sadness or disappointment or discomfort or disgust. Often, these emotions can cue us to dig deeper and adjust our perspective just enough that we can strengthen our purposefulness to a goal or be motivated to refine something in our life approach. The objective is neither to have always fill ourselves with joy. And yet, peace cannot shine through if we aren’t at peace with things ourselves.
Why is it so vital to be at peace within ourselves? Our immune system is compromised for every moment we do not process well. It holds a chain in the body. It is not just around your neck. In fact, the way the body responds to negative emotion and the myriad ways in which it can affect the immune system can blow your mind. So releasing these emotions is a good idea.
We all know this in a simple experiment you can do right now. Close your eyes and think of a happy event, or imagine something that brings you a sense of joy and peace, and as you do take in three deep tummy and lung filling breaths. Allow the air to travel down and release to your feet. You will find that your heart frees and your breathing opens up. Your body feels lighter and your breath often tickles some part of your body.
Now think of something that is unpleasant or that upsets you, and do the same thing. Invite your body to breathe in deeply as you did just before. And yet, can you? Instantly your body seizes up. Your breath will often feel stuck and immobilized. So will your heart. Your breath will likely turn shallow. Now go back to imagining the more pleasant thought, and breathe in deeply again. Take a few moments. Which does your body prefer?
This simple exercise shows us just how easily the body is affected by the processing of emotion. Your immune system can respond in being hurt and disappointed, and staying so. Chronic anger affects heart rate, blood pressure and your immune response. Stressful emotion can tighten muscles and create an imbalanced sensation in our body. It can impact our digestion, our creativity, our focus, and our daily discipline. These bodily reactions in turn feed depression, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes among other illnesses. Careful though, for keeping it locked in is just as bad. When you dwell on things inside, you aren’t giving yourself the full benefits of forgiving events and unhelpful emotion.
We all must be careful to watch our thoughts. Meditate or walk or do something constructively positive to get the edge off where you feel an impasse. Art often heals the heart. Singing can free. Stop your day from time to time and take a few minutes for deep breaths. It will refresh and revitalize you. Volunteering your time also helps you see things more compassionately and beyond yourself. Keep to that gratitude journal or a paper jar you fill to appreciate the simple and exquisite. When we train the body to find the compassionate measure in things and forgive, many of us experience better sleep, fewer medicines and largely fewer physical complaints.
Forgiveness as a life strategy for what can’t be resets you to a good physical and mental health. Forgiveness for what can’t be at each moment is also a good form of major self-care. It insulates and protects you. It immunizes you better to let go of what can’t secure.
So what are the overall strategies we can keep in mind as we do this?
Before you go to bed, keep to that gratitude journal. Count your blessings and view the setbacks as challenges for growth and self-discovery. Dig deep and find out how you can become stronger and more resolute to your standard. More often than not, the only thing that needs stay in a day is the lesson you brought out from it. I can guarantee that each day the lesson is the same: how to love better.
From here, your one job to affirm into your next day is that you are a vibrant, determined, and loving human being. When we go about the world with an open and forgiving heart, we can show up better. Our caring for situations expands. When you take time to put things in perspective, so change your mindset or alter your perception about what the other person may be experiencing, you grow as an individual, too. The world counts on it.
Many people get bogged down as to why someone did something or why things are what they are. Sometimes it is wise to train yourself not to dig deeper. Be thankful for what you can’t understand and separate yourself from what isn’t yours to own. Set better boundaries and discipline your thoughts so they don’t catch you. As we explored in past shares, you must make sure to not respond as unkindly as those you are judging. This includes the thoughts to ourselves, too. Watch your own self-communication as you relate to others. When you don’t, you are only missing the opportunity to live from your heart in a way that can bring more peace and joy to your life.
That which we give out becomes part of us. That is why staying kind is a very big thing. When you train yourself to stop trying to demand the navigation of things and seek to depend only on your own behaviour through things, you can navigate your own path in a more relaxed manner. Outcomes will not always be to your liking – who said life came in a bottle that was full proof– but you can deal with it. When you don’t take things personally, a space within you is better freed to not absorb someone else’s pain or choice that is different than yours. And when you apprehend that pain, your well of empathy and compassion may just fill it up!
You may find that conflicts lessen. Sometimes surprises show and people step up. What people do or don’t do and what they say or don’t say doesn’t add any extra weight. When you can hold to your own standard, the opinions of others won’t matter to you as much, if at all— because the value of yourself matters more. Choices in uncomfortable situations now don’t own you. You own them. Sadness has more room to now leave you. You can better separate, almost quite neutrally, what is yours to carry and what is not. Sure, some areas of your life may be stonewalled. Trust that with your demonstration of love to yourself which in turn radiates outward that this may be a temporary thing.
This is the giving and endless beauty of the open heart.
When a leaf lets go, it continues to radiate a gift of joy and beauty to the world. Imagine you are just that, and practice this when you get stuck. Inasmuch as you can’t entirely control the cast of characters who enter and exit your life—when you hold your own in spite of what people do or don’t, and when you can watch it all as a story and nothing more, you can create a different audience towards your life. Every page in your book then has a secure spine no matter the tugs of life threads and you can more commandingly turn the pages while appreciating each moment as you go.
The loving notes to things have a far better chance to find us and guide us when we open the heart. Watch the thoughts that most fulfill you. What chapter title do you wish to give your day today? How do you wish to begin it, befriend it, and end it? Can you hug it anyway no matter the unknowns? How shall you write the pages to your storybook for this year? Watch the pen in your heart and take good notes.
Wishing you a strong story,
Photography by Marina Mashaal