A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about examining your heart to see if it felt open or closed while thinking about the question "what don't we want to let in?" This brought up the flip side: "what don't we want to let out?"
Honestly, I can't say for certain which process is harder for me: letting in or letting out. I struggle with both. One of the reasons I have fostered a closed heart space is that in Nonviolent Communication speak I'm deeply aware of my cranky inner jackal (translation: an extremely critical and judgmental inner voice).
I know my jackal can be an old softy -- think Archie Bunker after a heavy meal and a smoke -- but for fear of hurting others and myself I've opted for keeping him on a tight leash behind the steel door of my heart.
That's the tricky thing about opening your heart. If you're going to open so as to let things in and out, choosing only what you're most comfortable with such as the happy feelings is probably only going to lead you around in circles. Opening means opening to everything. The sticky, gross feelings that seem to push others away. The warm, tender feelings that draw others closer to you. Opening is trusting that every single part of your heart is beautiful, necessary, and meant to be here.
A lion roars for a reason and so does your heart. So own it.
Any act, be it gracious or violent, is a creative force filled with vital life energy. Any feeling of anger or shame is pointing the way to a deeper connection with your heart. The key is to remember that absolutely everything you let out is a sacred offering meant to be here.
The best way for me to explain this concept is to use an example of my inner critic at work in yoga class. I attend Bikram yoga where the room is heated to 105 degrees for ninety minutes. One of the guidelines is to stay present in the room for the full length of the class without leaving for a break, water, etc. For many people, not having the ability to leave the room is one of the most difficult challenges for them to face. Crazy thinking comes up when experiencing this kind of intense environment, which makes it a unique laboratory for exploring the places you get stuck when relying on your mind.
Beth's self-righteous mind on Bikram Yoga: "Crap, there she goes...she's leaving the room again. Gosh that girl really bugs me when she makes excuses to go get water. I can't stand that attitude. She should be following the directions, suffering along with all the rest of us."
Beth's mind on NVC: "What am I really wanting? Well, when she left the room I felt disappointed, because I wanted dependability and reliability."
Beth's inner jackal: "I feel like she let me down. I don't want others to let me down because I can't do it all alone. It's too much. I need the support of everyone. Can't she see we're in this together."
Beth's NVC giraffe: "Remember that what someone says or does can't hurt you. What you chose to THINK about the action of someone else is the cause of your suffering. Every judgment you have about someone else is actually about yourself, so what are YOU wanting from YOUR SELF?"
Beth's heart: "I want to be able to give myself the support I need to be strong and stay present."
Beth's higher self: "What would this presence give you?"
Beth's heart: "I would feel centered, confident, and openhearted. I would feel whole."
Beth's higher self: "Can you feel those things right now without asking the outside world [other yoga students] to make them happen for you?"
Wow! My Archie Bunker jackal went from complaining and disliking some stranger to finding out that my heart is longing for me to create dependable presence so as to build self-esteem. This particular jackal voice was a gem of a discovery!
Next time you open your heart and encounter the jackal, mouse, lion, snake, or bear struggling to be heard, try letting the angry, ashamed, screaming, squeaky voice out like an offering. You'll be amazed by the gifts waiting for you right underneath that voice -- a voice that deserves a place in our world.