“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key” – Already Gone by the Eagles.
This has always been one of my favorite lyrics. It is timeless, as relevant today as it was in 1974 when the song came out. Living with an open-heart means releasing ourselves from the chains of fear, hate, control and judgment, not just of others but also of ourselves. If people lived with an open-heart, I believe that the world would be a more peaceful, happier place.
I often feel bombarded by the media with painful examples of groups and individuals with hatred, intolerance, and ignorance of anyone different from themselves. I cannot imagine being consumed with constant anger, anxiety, and the need for control. Being open-hearted is a way to achieve the opposite – a life filled with acceptance, compassion, love, and joy.
Living with an open heart takes courage. Rather than closing yourself and your heart off, you are choosing to be vulnerable and to trust in the unknown. You are choosing to love and to possibly have your heart broken, but the alternative is possibly never feeling love at all.
I don’t believe that you can selectively cut off part of your feelings. You may think that you can block out pain and fear while still feeling joy, but that is usually not the case. Blocking out your feelings causes you to become numb and disconnect from your authentic self.
How can you learn to live with an open-heart? Start by figuring out what might be causing you to feel the need for protection. It is usually a learned survival response from living with hurt and uncertainty, or with people who are closed off due to trauma, fear or hate. In these situations, you come to believe that the world isn’t safe and that you must protect yourself.
You can break the cycle! You can transcend your past and create the life you want. I grew up in a small, predominantly white town with an openly racist, angry, misogynistic father. His views were always repulsive to me. I made a vow to raise my children differently and my husband and I are the proud parents of two open-hearted and open-minded daughters.
Recipe for living with an open heart:
- Compassion for yourself and others – I have always said that when I am perfect, I can judge others. There is no such thing as perfection.
- Acceptance and tolerance for people of other races, religions, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and culture. A lack of acceptance and tolerance most often stems from a lack of understanding and education. I’m not talking about academic education but the kind of knowledge that comes from getting to know someone. I have very strong views on women’s health care rights for example, but just because someone has a differing opinion does not mean that they are “bad” people or that I can’t learn from them.
- Patience – Think about a time when you couldn’t find your credit card or when the register you were at was malfunctioning if someone in line in front of you is “taking too long”
- Empathy – If someone’s behavior is annoying or confusing you, make an effort to understand rather than immediately feeling anger or hurt.
- Mindfulness – Many of us live in the past or future or both, not taking the time to be in the moment. You can’t learn new information or process feelings if you aren’t present. Spending time in nature or with pets can help us to slow down.
- Release stress – Movement is one of my favorite ways but anything you do to “get off of the hamster wheel” and let go of stored anxiety, anger and stress will help you to think about the possible consequences of your words and actions.
Having an open-mind and being humble – There is room in the world for everyone. If we were all the same, life would be very boring and allowing yourself to get to know people who are different in some way will expand your horizons.
You can make a difference in your little corner of the world. Be kind and courteous. Be compassionate and patient. Post uplifting stories and words of encouragement on your social media. Support people and organizations that promote positive social change and be a spiritual teacher for others around you by living in an open-hearted way. Hate often creates hate but love creates more love and I will truly believe that love is more powerful.
Katie Beecher, MS, LPC is an Internationally known Medical and Spiritual Intuitive and Licensed Professional Counselor. She creates an extensive report and symbolic painting for her clients, people and animals, knowing just their name and age. Katie is featured in many publications and blogs, including Poosh, Well and Good, Lyme 360 and Goop, who calls her “eerily accurate”.
Heal from Within: A Guidebook to Intuitive Wellnes, is her book about connecting to intuition, healing and wellness and how she healed from a severe eating disorder, depression and anxiety. She shares the exclusive techniques she uses in her readings and knowledge from her intuitive guides and Jungian psychology.