Opening Your Heart Chakra
by Lisa Erickson
Buddha Chick Life’s February theme is ‘In Love With Life’, and I find that refreshing in a month that we usually associate with cupids and valentines. There is so much pressure around the search for romantic love, and the expression of it. Women especially are conditioned from a young age to consider romantic love as the primary foundation for happiness. But isn’t loving your life the real key to happiness?
In relation to Energetics and energy body mappings – the topic of this column – the heart chakra is the center of our ability to experience love in any form. It is also the center of our energetic structure – literally the center chakra in the most commonly used 7-chakra mapping. And although there are many different energy center mappings that have evolved around the world through various healing and spiritual traditions, I have yet to find one that does not center on the heart chakra. The heart is the universally acknowledged center of our being.
What does it mean to open our heart chakra? In a way, all of life is about opening our heart chakra, especially once we consciously embark on a path of self-development. In our relationships with everyone in our life, from parents, children, and closest friends, to those we just interact with once a day or once a lifetime, we are always faced with choice points – situations in which we can choose to act from love or some other emotion or state. And either way, we feel the results. We learn over time, how it feels to live from love vs. something else. As social creatures, every human interaction becomes our spiritual practice, an opportunity to open our heart more.
But there are also formal spiritual practices and meditations designed to help us open our heart. Within these practices, our ability to access love is often described in terms of levels:
- The first level might be called emotional love. This is what we are culturally conditioned to think of as love – the actual feeling of love. The affection or warmth we feel for someone when we are intimate with them, or when we have a meaningful encounter in some form with them.
- The second level can be thought of as expanded or unconditional love. This is when we begin to experience love as a force that comes through us, and that does not require an attachment – a person we have feelings for – in order to be triggered.
- The third level is universal love. This is when we begin to know the source of our own being as love. We experience our entire being as an expression of love, as opposed to experiencing love as an emotion or state that comes and goes.
These levels are of course just a way of talking about love – the gradations and variations are infinite, perhaps as infinite as the number of people on the planet. But in many spiritual traditions – some people might say all spiritual traditions! – the spiritual process is about moving from emotional love, through expanded love, into universal love. And then learning to integrate that love into our every thought, word, and deed.
Here is a simple heart chakra meditation that anyone can use to begin to open their heart energy and explore the movement between these levels:
- Sit quietly and take a few deep breaths. Now visualize some being that you care deeply about, and who instantly evokes a deep sense of affection and connection in you. Often our most ‘uncomplicated’ relationships are the best focus for this – young children or even pets, with whom we have little emotional ‘baggage’, so that our mind doesn’t get pulled into mental conversations or distractions.
- Visualize this being for a few minutes, until you are actively feeling the emotion of love towards them. This may even manifest as a warmth or tingle in your chest area – your heart chakra. Don’t worry if your mind wanders – as with any meditation, just keep bringing your focus back.
- Now let go of the visualization, and see if you can sit in the feeling of love that you have generated. Don’t try and control the experience, but see if you can simply sit quietly in the feeling, without the visual cue. If it fades, simply re-establish your visualization for a bit.
- If you feel as if you are able to sit in this beautiful feeling of love without your visual cue, try to move your awareness towards the center of this love. See if you can find this center. In other words, actively seek the source for this feeling of love. Over time, this search will open you up to love in a universal way, to love as the source of your being. You may begin to experience yourself as an expression of love, rather than the other way around.
This practice is really a lifelong practice – in some spiritual traditions, it is literally so. There is no end to love, and so there is no end to the deepening this practice can activate. As our heart center evolves, we can learn to work with that energy in a new way in our daily lives as well. And that truly gives a whole new meaning to ‘In Love With Life!’
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