February 13, 2012

3 Steps to Cracking your Heart Wide Open & Letting the Light Shine In.

“Two people have been living in you all your life.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche

I bought a wedding dress and my boyfriend didn’t freak out.


His reaction is probably due to the fact that he has the most open heart of any person I’ve met. He is 100% accepting of me. I think I am drawn to this quality in him because it is something I want to have more of in my life—a completely open, cracked-wide, spill-my-guts, all-i-want-to-do-is-hug-every-stranger-i-see kind of open heart.

Two people have been living in you all your life.

There is the person you wish you were, and the person you actually are. There is the person of your past and the person in front of you. There is regret and there is love. There is guilt and there is hope. There is hard and there is soft.

This past Saturday I spent the afternoon in a seminar on grief and mourning. The subject material was not only about death, but about other kinds of losses too. We experience losses all of our lives as we develop. While we work towards greater and bigger dreams—we must let go of others. For example, I let go of my work in animal welfare to pursue my masters of social work. This was a loss (despite the immense gain I was receiving).

We let go of the past to move forward. Sometimes we let go of relationships to blossom new ones. Losses can be coupled with positive experiences – times of happiness and joy. Losses can be a ripple effect of a prior loss. For example, loss of a spouse (by death or separation) can become loss of future children, loss of connection to other couples, loss of another half of you.

Grief is the immediate consequence of a loss. It is usually short term. Mourning is how we integrate the loss into our existence and keep on living. Mourning is the process of bringing our two selves and merging them into one – bringing the past with us to the future. Bringing who we want to be and who we actually are together as one. Union.

Two people have been living in you all your life.

On this same day that I sat for three hours in a lecture on grief and mourning, I also led a backbending intensive at my yoga studio in the evening. I called the class More Love.

Originally I named the class such just because it needed a name. I also planned this class in accordance with Valentine’s Day. What better time to work on opening one’s heart than near Valentine’s Day?

Backbending for me means bringing more love into my life—I’m not a super gushy yoga teacher so this is a lot for me to say. Quite simply—backbends give me no other option but to be happier, more energetic, and have more love and compassion for people I encounter. I often pose the question in my classes, “What would the world look like if everybody started the day opening their heart with a backbend?”

Backbending asanas have also been, for some time, quite frustrating to me. The class, More Love, was appropriate in the sense that I wanted to have more love for my backbending practice… and spread that love to my students.

For a while there – I was drawn to the strength and fire components of my personal yoga practice. I loved and continue to love arm balances. I focused my personal practice on my love of balancing on my hands—and neglected, admittedly, the other parts of the practice.

I was ignoring the fluid, cascading, outpouring-of-love side of the practice.

Strength versus love. Fire versus water.

Two people have been living in you all your life.

Love can mean anything to anyone. It could mean love for oneself, love for others, love for yoga asana.

Love to me means freedom.

In planning for my backbending class, I made a realization:

Strength allows for the possibility of freedom.

I had done the work for strength, and now it was time I did the work for freedom. When we grieve and we mourn, no matter what the loss is, we are struggling with these two sides of ourselves. How to remain strong and how to free ourselves from that which ties us to grief: Regret… guilt.

While sitting in this seminar on grief and mourning, and also meditating on the class I was teaching later on in the day—I made a realization: There is not enough time to waste our living on regret and guilt. We do not live long enough to waste a moment of our energies on anything other than love.

Why do we regret? Why do we feel guilt?

One reason: we hold back our love while we are living. We are never truly living with our whole selves. We always think we will have one more day. One more year. One more holiday.

Mourning is about learning how to live again once we’ve realized there are no more days, no more years, no more holidays after a loss.

What can you do right now, today, to have more love in your life? It probably has nothing to do with starting a backbending practice. It may mean forgiving someone. It could mean forgiving yourself. More love could mean ending a relationship and opening yourself up to the possibility of something else.

I promised you three steps you can take to open your heart and let the light shine in. Starting today, starting right now. Take it or leave it:

  1. Be open to receiving anything and everything the universe has to offer. This means living from the word yes instead of no.

  2. Check yourself. Are you living the life you want to be remembered by? Do you react to, speak with and love others in the best way you know how? Are you living your truth? The time is now to make some amendments if any of your responses are no.

  3. You don’t have to suppress the past to move into the future – integrate your losses into what you are as a person. Love and embrace all parts of your being – the past and the future, the strength and the fluid parts too.

    Okay, I know I told you there would only be 3 tips but here is a 4th, and possibly, the most important tip I have for you:

    Do something you love everyday. Even when you don’t have time for it. Because as Howard Thurman said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

    I can think of no better way to crack your heart wide and spill your guts all over the universe than by coming alive in doing what you love.

Bonus tip: Love, love, love, love, love. No exceptions.

Bonus bonus: What does a heart cracked open sound like?

For me, anyways, love sounds kind of like this…

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