The more we harden our hearts, the more we chronically suppress our emotions.
For most of us, our basic needs are being met in our day-to-day lives. Food, clothing, shelter and physical dangers are not an immediate concern for our instincts. But our survival instincts are still looking for work, so they have reassigned themselves to the job of protecting our sense of self—the ego.
Now, when someone raises their voice, insults us or just has a different opinion about something we might not even care that much about, our instincts kick into gear to protect the ego.
Our instincts stimulate the sympathetic nervous system or the “fight or flight” response, raising the heartbeat and even sending adrenaline into the system. That is one reason why so many of us are in perpetual states of stress, fear and anxiety. We are constantly under attack!
We also instinctually build walls around the heart as a self defense mechanism to protect our ego and insulate ourselves from the outside world. We harden our hearts and dissociate in uncomfortable situations to protect ourselves from “predators” who might challenge our beliefs, values, ideas and the overall sense of self we have constructed based on our past experiences.
Every time we shut down or dissociate to protect the part of us that is weak, the ego, we lock energy and illness inside ourselves and only make it worse. The more we harden our hearts, the more we chronically suppress our emotions. Over time our hearts close down as they become blocked by stored energy and emotions that we haven’t released.
We’re not just talking about suppressing the so-called “bad” emotions like sadness, jealousy and anger; this also includes suppressing feelings of joy and happiness.
We’re all being raised to be distrusting, cynical, hard and self-sufficient.
Sadly, at some point our bodies and minds become so confused that we are no longer able to even identify what we are feeling. Even when everything in life is going well, we still might feel “blah” and we’re likely to feel guilty about not being happier.
We also might stop trying new things because we don’t want to seem ignorant or vulnerable. We become so self-conscious about our ego that we fold right in on ourselves.
Just think about the difference between a kids’ party versus an adults’ party. Ever notice that adults need a substantial amount of liquor to let loose and dance or sing in front of a group?
So how do we break this cycle?
Start to recognize how you react when someone challenges you and when you tend to shut down and dissociate. Better yet, bring awareness to how you are feeling before you respond. Breathe, relax and try to respond from a place of openness rather than being defensive.Just smile when you start to feel the need to defend yourself or some factoid that you think you know. Now you’re being aware.
2. Stop defending yourself!
You don’t want to protect the part of you that you would be defending anyhow. Enjoy life instead of clinging to it or pushing it away. Allow each moment to change you. Let go of old energies and patterns (samskaras) as they come back up. As Michael Singer says in The Untethered Soul, “Just open, relax your heart, forgive, laugh, or do anything you want. Just don’t push it back down”.
3. Embrace the feminine.
Somehow in all of this, the feminine has come under attack. Masculine traits prevail in our society and feminine traits such as being intuitive, sensitive, vulnerable, accepting, relaxed and compassionate have all seen a demise.We need to change this dynamic. It’s not a sign of weakness to be open and accepting. It is recognition of the other person’s inherent goodness and an invitation to them to join you on this journey.
4. Don’t try to fight your mind or emotions. You won’t win.
The mind is very powerful and it has a job to do—think and organize. Same goes with emotions, they are there so you will feel them, all of them. There are no negative emotions, there are just emotions. Just like in meditation, we aren’t trying to stop thoughts or emotions, we are just bringing awareness to them. Create that separation between thoughts and emotions and your True Self—the part of you that can just sit back and observe all of the drama unfolding. That is true liberation and consciousness!
The even numbered chakras are considered feminine chakras.These chakras exercise our rights to feel, to love, and to attract energy inward.Every once in awhile, allow yourself time for a more restorative yoga practice and time to just relax and receive.
Physically opening the chest and hips helps us let go of energy and emotions that have become stuck in these areas and it symbolically teaches us to live from the heart.
Hip and groin openers such as Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose), Agnistambhasana (Double Pigeon Pose), Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) and Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose) release stagnant energy in the hips and pelvis. These hip and groin openers should never be forced; instead, focus on breathing into the poses to embrace the feminine qualities of release and surrender.
Chest openers, backbends and Pranayama (breathing practices) help to open the heart chakra and release energy stuck in this area of the body. Poses such as Prasarita Padottanasana C (Wide Legged Forward Bend Pose), Ustrasana (Camel Pose), Setu Bhandasana (Bridge Pose), Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Wheel Pose) and Matsyasana (Fish Pose) are all great poses to lift and open the chest and allow the mind to drop below the heart.
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Assistant Editor: Richard May/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum