The heart represents a powerful, albeit usually unfulfilled, yearning for love, happiness and connection. Gaining a stronger link to my heart and, thereby, finding greater fulfillment, is the focus of my life.
Conventional wisdom taught me that my heart was weak and fragile. Beliefs such as, “The heart is mushy and unmanly” led to clamping a lid on my emotional openness. “Being open leads to being taken advantage of” helped me grow into a control freak. “Heartbreak is devastating” inhibited my ability to give and receive love.
Except for magical moments, such as falling in love or being in nature, I kept my sensitivity hidden behind protective walls, while developing my athletic, sexual and intellectual abilities. (Even though my story represents a male perspective, I know that women also learn to keep their hearts safely tucked away.)
Only after suffering a great deal of heartache and with the help of books, therapy, friends and spiritual disciplines did I realize that my beliefs about being heart-connected were false and that disconnection from my heart was responsible for:
- Missing the meaningful connections for which I so deeply yearn.
- Eroding my self-esteem by denying an essential part of myself.
- Showering disrespect on others and thereby eroding the trust in relationships with those closest to me.
Emotions that emanate from my heart are warm, tender, joyful, compassionate and passionate. The feelings that fill my body are reflected in behavior that is loving, accepting, forgiving, caring and open to learning. Laughter is not stuck in my throat, sadness is not repressed behind my eyes, and orgasm is not restricted to my genitals.
My heart is my authentic self, and I think of it as pure. Therefore, cold and hard emotions such as anger, jealousy and irritation emerge only when I’m disconnected from my heart. Behaviors such as being greedy, argumentative, controlling, judgmental, blaming and a victim accompany heart-disconnected feelings.
Since I have a hard time understanding complex ideas, I try to make things as simple as I can. This was accomplished when I realized that when I’m connected to my heart, compassion and an openness to learning are always present.
Compassion is the true power of the heart. It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Compassion became the eyes through which inspirational heroes such as Martin Luther King, Alice Stokes Paul and Gandhi could see what was wrong and needed to be changed. Compassion is feeling empathy in all emotional states. It is feeling sadness when I’ve made a mistake, my partner’s joy after having healed a rift with a friend, or the disappointment and fear in my child who comes home with a bad report card.
An openness to learning is often thought of merely as learning about another person. Such learning provides important information and allows the other person to feel understood. But if that’s all I learn, then I miss what’s most important for moving further along my journey to live more in my heart: Learning about my part in the difficulty and feeling compassion.
When I’m connected to my heart:
- Compassion will not allow me to disrespect myself or compromise another person’s integrity.
- An openness to learning leads to being more heart-connected and transforming into a more authentic and powerful person.
A fail-proof test in any situation is to ask two questions, “Am I feeling compassion?” and “Am I open to learning both about myself and others?” If the answer to either of those questions is, “No” a big red flag goes up that says, “You’ve lost your heart.”
The image for this article is on the cover of my book Becoming Your Own Hero, because it so magically represents that unique and special place that sets apart a connection to the heart from all other moments. When I can stay in that consciousness in the face of difficulties, I am empowered and my own hero.