We, in the ever expanding yoga world, talk a lot about opening the heart and often picture this big expansive cracked open heart center during our practice.
This is awesome, of course, because the power of love (in the most honest, non-cliched way) truly is the strongest force in the universe, and the most powerful tool for healing.
But what I think really gets missed are the deeper subtleties of the functioning of a healthy heart that get blanketed by this “wide-open” rhetoric. Again, I am not criticizing the concept, perhaps it’s just the problem with the inherent brevity of social media and the watered-down ideas that necessarily ensue.
One fine point that is often missed is balance.
The heart sits at the center point of the physical body and the energy body, as the toggle between all the layers of ourselves. So the heart cannot be healthy in extremity, and that includes being too open.
This bring me to the second overlooked point. Healthy energy centers are balanced, while unhealthy centers either function in excess or deficiency. A deficient heart chakra would show up as an inability to empathize, a cold or numb demeanor with feelings of isolation. A heart in excess, for all the wonders of love and sacrifice, can lead someone to be self-sacrificing and be overly empathetic, thereby draining their vital energy.
Upon reflection, the socio-historical reality for women has been to function at an excessive level of heart chakra energy, taking care of everyone and everything around us first, empathizing instead of being compassionate, and ultimately putting ourselves last.
In terms of women as artists, I think this has often been the case: that we somehow have not been allowed or allowed ourselves to prioritize our art above all else. It’s time to take back a piece of the pie.
Keeping balance in mind, and that tipping the scales would just create a different set of problems, how do we find the balance in our hearts to make our own health and well-being, our own art and craft or creative process a priority equal to the needs of others? Can we allow ourselves to ask for help? Can we let go of standards of perfection held to our faces by a fraudulent mirror?
Not surprisingly, forgiveness is the work central to the healing of the heart, while fear, jealousy and hatred are its enemies.
So I decided to sit down and let my heart write me a letter:
I forgive you for not taking the best care of yourself lately. I forgive you for putting the needs of others before your own. I know that your intentions were good, that you wanted to heal them and to support them on their journey, but I am telling you the truth when I say that you will never be able to heal others until you heal yourself. That you cannot take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself.
I give you permission to think of yourself first. You will change the world by changing yourself.
I forgive you for not writing. I forgive you for making excuses and fogging your mind and distracting yourself, and telling yourself that you aren’t any good at writing anyways and thinking perhaps there’s something else you were meant to do. I forgive you. I thank you for taking care of me now, and letting go of past hurt. I am more happy now and feel lighter.
I am so proud of you. I believe in you. Thank you for letting me speak. Thank you for trusting me.
It’s funny. Even somewhere inside me there was a tiny voice that wanted to criticize this letter as being cheesy. I recognized this is as subtle aggression born of fear: Fear of changing, fear of actually accepting myself. I consciously befriended this voice and filled it with love.
Afterwards, my writing felt re-born. Not to say that it’s now easy to write, or that my writing is necessarily any better, but forgiving myself for all of the ways that I allowed myself to be creatively blocked opened me up, propped a few concrete blocks under my confidence.
I am trying, day by day, to take care of myself in every way. Where I was concerned with the health of others, I am concerned with mine; where I was worried about being out-lapped in life, I am picking up the pace; when the past feels heavy, I let it go; where I was obsessed with making life perfect, I embrace what it is.
Guess what? Everything has changed for the better.
As artists, as women, as creators, as mothers and partners and friends and community leaders, to own the personal power of self-responsibility for our wellness and happiness might be one of our biggest challenges in personal transformation and social change.
The lessons of the heart center have been central to my life: The heart can be too open, and too closed. Sit in the balanced present, forgive everything and find empowerment and creativity through self-love first.
From my heart to yours.
Author: Mara Munro
Editor: Emily Bartran