In these days of celebrating Thanksgiving, we have been attuned to our gratitudes, all that has manifested in our life, continues to bless us with its presence, and for those who have left the world we honor them with our thankfulness. Thanksgiving has a lovely placement after the Fall cleansing of body, clearing out of home, and readying us for the dark days of winter.
It is mostly easy to name all that we hold dear. We hear each other around the table at Thanksgiving and think, Oh, yes, I am grateful for that too. We look at the children laughing at everything, hearts open, finding humor and inspiration for play in everything that presents itself. Naming what we are grateful for brings peace to our heart. We feel connected to each other in our heart opening.
And yet, in that day and in every other day we realize how fickle our heart is in its opening and closing. Throughout a day we see a beautiful sunrise and our heart opens in joy, our partner says something at breakfast that nicks our ego and our heart closes in resentment, our boss compliments us when we get to work and our heart opens with pride, a colleague mentions something we should have taken care of and we feel criticized and our heart closes, we hear a song on the radio and our heart opens,with joy and enthusiasm, or during our Thanksgiving dinner Uncle Otto starts to complain about the other political party or Grandpa starts in on sexual orientation and confusion and the discussion gets heated and our heart constricts, and on and on it goes, day after day.
The ancient texts teach us that our heart is meant to remain open. The heart center is an energy center that is meant to flow bountiful unlimited energy through us at all times. As we move through life, through our childhoods when between the laughter and play we are feeling wounds that get lodged in the heart, and into adulthood where the tucking away of hurt and pain that has not been addressed and released gets stored, our heart center gets encrusted with these wounds. And, our critical judging mind picks away at things helping us in the closing of the heart. It is not good or bad, it is what we all live with in this body we call home. When our heart is open we allow for the flow of boundless energy, when it is closed, our heart center constricts the flow and our heart closes in fear and discomfort.
The task is to release that which closes us and allow the heart to accept abundant energy and let it flow through us. It all sounds so simple until we notice throughout the day the complicated journey within which we live. Michael Singer in The Untethered Soul has written well of this as have others. He states that even clinging to that which brings us joy shuts off our hearts as we cling so tightly with the fear that we will loose this wonderful feeling, the new energy flow cannot enter. By freeing ourselves from the attachment to these beliefs, both our pain and our joys, and allowing them to flow through us, we can find freedom.
There are teachings in all traditions which speak to this phenomena.There are many paths offered to live in the world and maintain a peaceful heart. I find this journey with a rich variety of paths heartwarming and comforting. From the Hebrew texts and Christian Bible we read:
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
We are not meant to guard ourselves to feel protected but to guard being taken over by our mind and emotions and that which causes our heart to close.
From the Buddhist tradition (Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Author of Open Heart, Open Mind) we learn that we all have three qualities: boundless wisdom, infinite capability, and immeasurable loving-kindness and compassion. All we have to do is open our heart and remember our intrinsic nature and rid ourselves of fear and self doubt.
The Bhagavad Gita through Lord Krishna assures the sincere aspirants “To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me. To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.” (10.10-11)
Again from the Gita we find: “The one I love who is incapable of ill will, who is friendly and compassionate, living beyond the reach of I and mine and of pleasure and pain, patient, contented, self-controlled, firm in faith, with all their heart and all their mind given to me – with such as these I am in love. Not agitating the world or by it agitated, they stand above the sway of elation, competition and fear; the one is my beloved.” (trans Eknath Easwaran)
From our Muslim brothers and sisters we read, “So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.” [Quran 22:46]
“Verily Allah does not look to your bodies nor to your faces but He looks to your hearts.”[Muslim]
‘Tis the season for us to look to our heart and to be mindful daily as to what opens and what closes our heart center, to finding a daily practice like mediation or prayer that helps us keep our heart open and to finding the days and the ways that, like the children, we might know an open heart that celebrates life with laughter and song, curiosity, and openness to learning and loving. In this way, rather than judging each others ways we bring an inquisitive mind and heart that delights in the variety of ways of searching for that which we journey toward: Nirvana, Heaven, Self, however we name that state of pure awareness that arrives either in life or after death. That which touches a heart and calls the pilgrim forward, inward, and outward with service. Guiding them to abiding peace.
Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you’re willing to close your heart over it. Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul