“My heart is twisted, feels like it’s pounding right out of my chest. Fried up and crispy; she’s got it wrapped up in beeswax.” – MB “Beeswax” (listen above)
Oooooh, the heart. We’ve all got one. It’s in there pounding away, pumping blood to the nether regions, all the way down to our fingertips and toes. This blog has been by far the most challenging for me to write for some reason. I’ve been writing a weekly series on the seven major Chakras. Chakras are energy centers in our body, and have been cited in Hindu, Qi Gong, Buddhist and New Age practices. These energy centers or “wheels” have different emotional characteristics and correlate to physical organs, cerebral processes and spiritual aspirations. New Age-y stuff might make you cringe and all week long I’ve been saying “take it or leave it,” but if you are into self reflection (and many of you are artsy types so you probably are into delving into the depths of your fabulous soul), my hope is to send you away with a few things you can focus on this week to balance your heart.
This one is pretty obvious. Your HEART. What do you think of when you live your life with heart? LOVE, duh! This is a huge, HUGE energy, love. The driving force of many a life. Castles built, wars fought, lives created from love. Maybe that’s why I’ve had such a struggle writing this – because the energy is so big, I don’t want to belittle it, or make it “trite” by a silly blog post about it. The ancient Egyptians believed that your soul lived in your heart. After death, they would syphon out the brain and other organs but leave the heart in the body. It was believed that your heart would be weighed against the weight of a feather and if your heart was lighter than the feather, free from sin, you would enter the afterlife. WOW. That’s big energy. Nowadays we know that heart disease is a huge killer in this country. We know this has a lot to do with genetics, but also STRESS, diet, exercise all play a role. Symbolically, why are our hearts “breaking” in this country so much? This is why I have approached this chakra with bit of a “heavy heart.” But first, the good stuff.
The Heart Chakra or Anahata Chakra is an energy that “moves love through your life.” This energy relates to compassion, kindness, deep bonds, generosity, respect and love – including self-love. When you are living with heart and balanced in this energy, everyone around you can tell. Can’t you feel it when someone full of love walks into a room? You are drawn to them, want to be near them. There is an openness, a welcoming. This also relates to knowing when to retreat and take care of yourself – we all need to pull back and give ourselves rest, nourishment, relaxation to refill the well, so to speak. Ever notice when you get crunchy, bitchy, snap at your loved ones (cuz “they’re the only ones who put up with your shit” – LOL)? You probably need some time to yourself to roll up in a little ball, cry it out and give yourself some pampering. In the last week, two majorly compassionate celebrity acts came into my newsfeed – first of all, actor Johnny Depp plans to buy the sacred land that the massacre on wounded knee occurred and gift it back to the native people. WOW. Secondly, late night show host Jon Stewart and his wife have turned their farm into an animal sanctuary for abused factory farm animals. Double WOW. These acts of compassion are based in the heart, generous, healing acts, working towards balancing horrible wrongs, not that these things could ever fully be repaired, but these acts are made with loving kindness.
On the flip-side, an unbalanced heart chakra is where we turn in and try to protect our hearts. Physically this looks like shoulders curving inwards and the upper back rounding forward, chin sinking down towards our chests. Arms are crossed. Eyes averted. When the heart chakra is closed, we are stuck in grief, anger, hating of others an/or ourselves, rife with jealousy, fearing betrayal. To have an open heart chakra we are vulnerable (not necessarily a bad thing); closed, we are just that, closed off. Holding onto this hurt harbors negativity and cuts you off from opportunities to love.
Letting go is a choice, and healing + opening can be a long, hard but beautiful road. Let’s look at a few ways to open up your heart chakras!
Yoga postures for heart opening: (click on each for instructions):
Warrior I, up dog, camel … also simply sweeping your arms overheard and gently stretching back will literally open the front of the chest. Especially as it’s getting cold out, we all are hunching forward more to stay warm. When you can, lift your chest, breathe deeply into the lowest parts of your lungs and feel your ribcage expand and lift. Let your inhale be energizing, invigorating, awakening.
Journaling reflection questions:
What am I grateful for? Try and write 3 things a day. Some people post on social media, some people tell their friends or family. Things as simple as “coffee” or “my legs” or “the delicious minty-ness of my toothpaste” to as grand as you want (“the ocean,” “my parents,” “the Beatles”).
How do I take care of myself? What more can I do to show myself love?
How can I cultivate kindness + empathy to acquaintances and even strangers?
Tonglen / loving kindness meditation
This is an incredible meditation – I first learned it in my Transpersonal Psychology course as a psychology undergrad at University of MN, Duluth. My professor Bud McClure created an incredible curriculum and this meditation was in there somewhere.
Find a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes. As you inhale, think about something in yourself that needs healing – a sadness, a betrayal, a hurt place. Envision that thing as black, sticky smoke and inhale deeply. As you exhale, transform that hurt into white healing light and exhale slowly, envisioning white, healing, gorgeous clean light. When you feel ready, start to move outward from yourself. Think of someone close to you going through a hard time. Inhale their pain (as that dark, thick smoke) and exhale white healing light to them. Stay with this for awhile. If you want, keep moving outward. You can even do this with your enemies, or things as large as the suffering oceans, war, deforestation or factory farming or whatever it is that pains you and the world.
Pema Chödron has wonderful books on opening the heart and developing loving kindness. I highly recommend her book “Start Where You Are” if you want to work deeply with your heart chakra and break your life wide open. 🙂 Here is Pema leading a guided meditation on Tonglen.
From my heart to yours, have a beautiful day!