The other day I parked in front of this house and went to yoga. I stepped out of the car and felt a little nervous because the house had boards nailed across every window and three large dogs guarding a gate. My first thought was "What the heck is going on inside this house that they don't want anyone to see?"
I felt so uncomfortable that I almost moved my car to another spot, but I was running late so I abandoned my grand plan and skipped off to yoga. During class, as my mind searched for something to fixate on I remembered the house. In a moment of awareness, I heard myself turning my initial thoughts around to become "What don't they want to let in?" My heart softened, and I felt like I knew this house.
What don't we want to let in?
I'm guessing all of us grab hold to the belief that we are naturally loving, caring, nurturing, and giving. Well, gosh I have a whole laundry list of things I've done to prove this: taking care of people, volunteering my time, donating money, teaching, listening to others, etc. Most often we use our actions to prove our hearts are open.
Nevertheless, over the last year I have noticed that a physically, emotionally, and spiritually open heart is much more passive and subtle. It doesn't require that I do anything.
Lately, I've started an awareness practice where I periodically check in with my heart to see if it's open or closed. If it's closed, my heart feels like a clenched fist holding on tight for dear life. If it's open, my heart feels like an empty palm. I do this practice in the middle of conversations, driving my car on errands, standing in line at the grocery store, talking on the phone, etc.
I have to say that I was shocked how many times my heart feels a lot like this boarded up house. This new honesty was disappointing at first, but then I realized that it was just like practicing a yoga posture. Every time I encounter the closed fist heart, I imagine releasing each finger one by one into an open palm. Then I see my whole hand relaxing and sense that tender spot in the middle of my palm that is completely open and empty.
This practice isn't moving me towards a destination. It's ongoing. It's a promise to connect with my own heart wherever it's at and to accept it completely whether I'm ready to let something in or not.