Monday, May 31, 2010

Some factors that keep closing your heart

Like most human beings, you close your heart, whether automatically or deliberately, because you feel angry, hurt, or threatened by others. Perhaps you’re afraid they’ll take advantage of your kindness or crush your tender feelings with their insensitivity or restimulate painful memories. Or maybe you’re just ticked off about all the times you’ve been mistreated, and you don’t want to let it happen again. We all have our own unique reasons for closing our hearts. Whatever yours happen to be, they may be preventing you from getting the love you really want.
Here are some of the most common factors that close the heart:
  • Fear: When you’re afraid, for whatever reason — of being attacked, criticized, manipulated, overwhelmed — you close your heart in selfdefense. As one popular slogan puts it, love is letting go of fear — and learning how to trust, both yourself and others.
  • Resentment: When you hold on to old hurts and let bitterness and resentment build up in your heart, you shut your heart, not only to the people who hurt you but also to life itself.
  • Unresolved grief: This natural human emotion can get stuck if you continue to mull over your losses and refuse to let go of the past. When grief fills your heart, you’re reluctant to open it because you don’t want to feel the pain inside.
  • Jealousy: Actually a brand of resentment, jealousy can close your heart to the person who has what you wish you had — and to yourself as well for being somehow “inferior.”
  • Pain: Also known as hurt, this feeling, if allowed to build to intolerable levels, may cause you to board up your heart completely and post a sign saying, “Keep out! No trespassing!”
  • Grasping and attachment: As long as you’re emotionally attached to having life go a certain way, you’re going to close your heart as soon as other people interfere. In fact, emotions like grief, pain, and even resentment are ultimately rooted in attachment — and the fear of losing what you’re attached to.
  • Self-clinging: If you believe that you’re an isolated individual cut off from other people and from your own essential being, you’re going to hold on to your own little piece of turf — your own possessions, your own accomplishments, your own happiness — and close your heart, if necessary, to defend it. Also known as ego in many of the meditative traditions, self-clinging perpetuates separation and gives rise to the other factors in this list.
Ultimately, of course, only the most enlightened, selfless people can keep their hearts open all the time. I mean, we’re talking Jesus or Mother Teresa here! As for the rest of us, we’re going to keep closing our hearts again and again. Only when we’ve dissolved the barriers that separate us from others —which is what enlightenment is all about — can we keep our hearts open even in the most difficult circumstances.
But, enlightened or not, you can definitely develop the ability to open your heart when you choose to do so. In fact, the regular practice of meditation gradually erodes the experience of separation that causes the heart to stay closed in the first place. Who knows? One day you may open your heart and never close it again!

No comments: