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

Via Lauren Hanna
on Feb 13, 2012
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“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…


About Lauren Hanna

Lauren Hanna, E-RYT 200, MSS Candidate, is a social worker by day and yoga ninja by night. It was in Pittsburgh that she first discovered the thrill of yoga and her love for social welfare and animal rescue work. With her cats Lotus and Calia in tow, Lauren hopes to someday combine her love for yoga and animal welfare with her career as a social worker. Lauren likes to dream a lot about saving the world – one puppy, kitten and human at a time. Lauren also loves cobblestone streets, arts & crafts, action movies and writing books with her Grandmother. If she had a billion dollars she'd probably spend it all here. Follow her @laurenfoste.


48 Responses to “3 Steps to Cracking your Heart Wide Open & Letting the Light Shine In.”

  1. Oh my God Lauren–this is exactly what I needed today. Thank you!!!! So glad you are writing again!

  2. Ozz says:

    I thought this was gonna be one of those uber-gushy ‘shine your light’ essays and was prepared to scan quickly and move on. But, it caught me. Grief, loss, mourning – and love, strength and freedom. Yes, of course. Nice work, and thanks.

  3. Johanna says:

    SO BEAUTIFUL!!!!! Thank you for sharing this gift, it brought tears of joy to my eyes.

  4. Erin says:

    That was so beautifully written and exactly what I needed to read. Thank you!

  5. Ruchi says:

    thanks for this article! Very uplifting …and I resonated with much of what you said… thank you esp. for the quote at the end by Howard Thurman and the music…its just what I needed! And I so like that idea of there have been 2 people living you your entire life … thanks so much Lauren!

  6. Christina says:

    Bless you, Lauren. That is so fabulously written and expressed. I have shared it all over Twitter and all over Facebook.

    My cousin and I call ourselves the Two Feet In kids, because we do live and love to the extreme, with our hearts on our sleeves; we approach love with our whole selves, not fearing the consequences, and, thus, jump right in. We are sometimes cajoled for this habit, because we sometimes get hurt that way. Sure, maybe I am naïve sometimes, but I don't believe in cynicism, especially with regards to love. We just want to love with all of our hearts, so this article rang true. Thank you.

  7. aw, thank YOU Kate. I am glad to have written this and hope there will be more coming, more consistently!!

  8. Thank you so much for reading. I am glad it surprised you and shifted your expectations 🙂

  9. Thank you Johanna! I am motivated to write when I know I have reached someone with the words! Be well.

  10. You are an insightful and exemplary writer. Beautiful conversation…. Thank you.

  11. Anon says:

    Wow… this speaks to me on levels you can't imagine. Thank you so much! Your words have really helped me right now, I needed to hear this to be able to move on and forgive myself.

  12. You are welcome Ruchi! I am glad the piece spoke to you. Thank you for reading.

  13. Christina, thank you so much! Keep loving BIG and FEARLESSLY. xo lauren

  14. Sonny, your words are so kind!! Thank you for commenting. I'm glad to know the message resonated with you. ~ lauren

  15. maggie says:

    incredible. thank you for this. so much fuel to the fire. this will keep me warm for months.

  16. danielle says:

    i needed this today. THANK U.

  17. TIZ says:

    Thank you so. Yes, love DOES mean freedom. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/happy-st-r

  18. […] a few moments today for you, to open your hearts and connect, building a bridge; perhaps it is with a spouse, child, family member, friend, pet, or […]

  19. […] an end. Life is too short to turn our backs on knowledge. Soak it up, spread it around and be the embodiment of the love you hold inside. […]

  20. […] asked for unconditional love in all of my relationships a few years ago. I will save that tale for another day, and how easy it has not been to truly […]

  21. LeeMJ says:

    I am struggling with a lot of these issues, letting go of a relationship in order to move on and the looming death of a family member and this article comes along and perfectly expresses how I am feeling right now. Thank you.

  22. […] I tell you to be happy, I am simultaneously convincing myself that happiness is what I […]

  23. […] 3 Steps To Cracking Your Heart Wide Open and Letting the Light Shine In. (elephantjournal.com) Rate this: Share this:FacebookRedditDiggEmailTumblrPrintStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  24. […] But this is is what I kept, and what left me full of hope, “Love is always where we end up.” We don’t wade through all the sh*t of anger, sadness and grief to just be empty. We get through it to allow the love in. […]

  25. […] on my face most of the time, or so it seemed. But even after a month I wasn’t sure about this “opening the heart” stuff. It’s easy to feel benevolent in a retreat […]

  26. […] It is hard to let that much love in when you have been scrambling for it for so long. It’s like, getting stuffed with sunshine after living in northern Russia for years. It hurts its so bright. […]

  27. […] So let’s get curious: open our minds and we will open our hearts. […]

  28. Beth says:

    Perfect fit for me and my other self : ) (both parts of me) today- will share your wisdom and beautiful way you share-
    I'm receiving your love that is eeking through your writing right now- Thank you for sharing my dear!
    I've got love and I'm going to be intentional and show it, share it , give and receive it today!
    Much love!

  29. Lory Farrior says:

    My life has taken on an unusual synchronicity lately. I sent my daughters father a kind lecture regarding this very same topic. He embraced it, thankfully, but he will surely take me seriously after he reads your article for himself. Thanks Kate…By the way, I’m 48 and doing back bends again after over 30 years. My wrists are weak and I can’t hold it for long. Any suggestions?

  30. Judith says:

    This post was EXACTLY what I needed to read this morning. Your words have helped to crack my pained heart open. Let the healing begin!
    Blessings to you.

  31. Anne says:

    This is so wonderful, and I am glad to have had the chance to read it. Opening the heart is my greatest challenge; so, it comes as no surprise that the backbends (including Dancer, the standing backbend) are my least favorite asanas. Maybe, one day, that will change. Dancer actually makes me dizzy (a weird reaction, I think!).

  32. Lory says:

    I'm sorry "Lauren"!
    It was late when I sent this message.
    FYI your article brought him to tears:)

  33. […] just maybe if I bore out the pain, the intense bodywork would be the trick that would finally unlock my heart and allow me to be […]

  34. maya says:

    how do we be open without getting hurt? and i don't mean emotionally by lovers, but by the outside world? by harassment of strangers? of unwelcome advances?

  35. […] Don’t mistake loving with being loved or being in love which are two completely different things. Learn to love and open your heart and let the light shine in. If you do, each time you love, you will release more of your repressed stuff, getting rid of that […]

  36. […] courageous, Being humble, Being vulnerable, Being open, Being a risk […]

  37. […] to do, or like a no-brainer. But sometimes dark moods crawl over your being and prevent you from knowing your heart, let alone opening […]

  38. Joe Sparks says:

    Nice article makes a lot of sense. All of us have a backlog of regret and grief that is what we are feeling in the present. If we were allowed to feel these feelings of loss and grief when they where happening in the past we would be able to fully alive and human. What we need to do is discharge the effects of the past that stopped all of us of living the life of our dreams. We can do it, but not alone we need each other to make it happen. Thank you!

  39. Tcyogin says:

    Beautiful article! I come from a place where I believe there are two root emotions from which all others stem: love and fear. Every time I do something that doesn't feel right, get angry, feel vulnerable, laugh until my sides hurt, smile at a random thought, I ask myself "is this coming from a place of love or fear?" It always, always feels genuine and healthy when the answer is love. Living a life a love is what I truly believe is the secret of life. So simple, yet it can be so hard for us.

  40. geoff says:

    One shouldn't try to eliminate getting hurt from their lives but know that living with the hurt and experiencing the pain whether it's harassment, embarrassment, opening up without being accepted or just experiencing life is all part of partaking in life and giving of yourself so you are free to enjoy all that you can from the world.

  41. Pat says:

    This is perfect , so inspiring. I'm having a hard time letting go of a relationship (an affair) I had last year and going to keep reading this. Thanks! I want to be able to find love again

  42. Alanna says:

    I love this!

  43. Amy E says:

    I love this post and this music. Food for the soul.

  44. Agnes says:

    This post is a gem. I relate to so many ideas you wrote about forgiveness and grief, and struggle with some that are still a work in progress. Your shared experiences will help me in my journey of mourning, love, and my self.

  45. ashiechristina says:

    I came across this article about a month or two ago.. and here I find myself discovering it again.
    Ever since the first time I read, “What would the world look like if everybody started the day opening their heart with a backbend?”, I've tried to start every morning off with one (and encourage others to as well). I definitely feel more open as a person and ready to embrace the day. Thank you for putting the question out there. 🙂

  46. Adila Ahmadi says:

    This Adila from Kabul Afghanistan.
    Thanks Miss Lauren!
    Today is the 1st day of the year 2016. And today its the 1st time I am reading your qoutes which are really wonderful and awesome. Thanks it made my Day!