One of the hardest challenges in life–I think–is cultivating and keeping our hearts open.
I don’t know about you, but I learned quickly in life that an open heart can be a big liability. Often, when we speak and share what we really feel we’re open to the knives and guns and axes of other’s scorn, ridicule or contrary opinions.
Some people seem good at expressing themselves no matter what criticism comes their way. They stand up for their personal free speech without locking off their heart with big metal locks. Others of us struggle to express ourselves, and learn to wall away our personal challenges and enthusiastic engagement behind prison bars of our own making, just to keep ourselves safe.
Many of us walk a fine acrobatic act balancing between sharing too much and too little. We attempt to express ourselves in a way that’s open but not too vulnerable. Honest, but not too revealing. Real, but not raw.
When many of us started posting on social media we shared our thoughts and feelings enthusiastically. But little by little we received scars on our engaging hearts. Maybe we didn’t get enough–or any–likes. Maybe we received off-base or annoying comments. Maybe some folks argued. Maybe we started feeling out in left field.
When I am cruising on social media these days I feel like so many people are playing it safe, fitting themselves into socially accepted boxes. And in many ways–hey, that’s probably a good thing. There can be something awkward and irritating about folks airing their dirty laundry in public, showing us their underwear blowing on the clothes line.
However, there’s a way that playing-it-safe starts to feel antiseptic and disconnected. We’ll post pictures or memes, but we won’t post our hearts because it’s just too scary.
I keep experimenting with this in different ways over the years. How to have a wide open heart, and yet simultaneously protect it when it’s feeling too raw or vulnerable or insecure. One of my spiritual teachers often talks about “growing sturdy legs under our wide-open hearts.” The spiritual journey, to me, has been one of opening the heart in places where it has clenched down.
And most of us have closed down in certain nooks, crannies or corridors of love. We’ve barred the windows and slammed the doors. The world just doesn’t feel safe out there any more, does it? Danger seems to lurk everywhere, if the niggling fear is correct. We have to be alert and guarded. Attack could come from any angle.
I find this spiritual journey of opening the heart–and learning to relate from it with wobbly legs–the most challenging. There are things that feel too vulnerable to talk about. I try to respect the private and secret closed doors of my heart with the general public, but love to gab away with interested love ones.
It often takes deep inner detective work to discover why we close down. I have learned that I don’t always trust my heart to be “true” and wise and appropriate. However, as I learn to trust that the heart is speaking its imperfect and incomplete truth in the moment–and that it doesn’t need to be perfect and absolute–then I can allow for so many other different viewpoints. They aren’t really opposing my open heart. They are merely offering other illuminations. What was once viewed as challenging can now be seen as another heart’s offering. (This was really a hard paragraph to write because it feels like I’m trying to express something that’s half visible in the deep inner fog.)
It feels as if this is the only thing worth doing. Opening and sharing from the heart, but not in a violent or unkind or sloppy way that denies the need for secret gardens within our psyche. Not in a way that inappropriately stinks of unprocessed sewage in public spaces. It’s kind of like a continually unfolding hologram that keeps testing the limits while growing those sturdy legs of engagement.
It can be so darn scary. Yet it also feels like the most vital medicine for our planet. To open again and again and again and again.
To soften and unlock and open when we’re called to open by what we know is true.
How much can we open today? It does feel like love spills out into the Universe when we’re not spending so much energy with wolfhounds guarding the precious flowers of our heart. When we can learn to trust the small quiet inner voice that says, “Show your love to the world today.” Find ways to learn trust both the heart and the many-petaled other expressions that may arise to encircle it.
Anyone else want to share stories about the heart?
I love this post, Kathy. And now I’m realizing that you just posted it and I’m the first response – impressive for me. I’m usually way down on the list. I’m planning to work on my own blog post today and I may be able to be more open with my heart. I appreciate the encouragement and the knowledge that other people are out there, trying to do what I can only hope to do someday.
Sherry, I loved seeing your comment first thing this morning. And I love the ways that you are brave out in the world. I think, perhaps, we’re brave in different ways. And we can be so hard on ourselves when we’re not brave in the ways we want to be. Looking forward to reading what you write from your big beautiful heart today.
Food for thought, and the heart, super choice of images. Thank you.
Hello uphilldowndale. Nice to see you again! I had such fun picking out the images that might dovetail with this topic today. Glad that this inspires your own thought.
Opening up the heart – I think it depends on where you are. There is the social media self, and then there is the real self. I don’t believe in the public airing of dirty laundry, and just keeping certain things to oneself doesn’t mean that the public image is false, just limited (as it should be, in my opinion).
As for real relationships with real people, you have to decide how open to be. Guarded is not a bad thing – necessary sometimes. But closed off and guarded are not synonymous. XOXO
Hi Stacy, thank you for sharing your feelings about this. A very good point that closed off and guarded are not synonymous. I was trying to give equal credibility and validity to the many ways our heart operates here. Brene Brown, a diva of vulnerability studies, shares that we need to be careful with whom we share our vulnerabilities. That sounds like wisdom to me, especially if the legs beneath our heart aren’t too sturdy. I do feel like part of my lifework involves becoming more comfortable with being vulnerable, with continually noticing when and how and where the heart shuts down. One of my heroines is Anne Lamott. When I grow up I hope to be a little like her. ❤
I definitely agree with Brene Brown. I’ve been burned by many for sharing too much of myself. But I always find inspiration in your words, too, as in this post’s quest for being more in tune with the heart’s when, how, and where.
And–oh Stacy–that burning can hurt so very much. It can feel so very painful. And that presence within us that has been hurt needs to be respected and honored. And that we can find a way to gently blossom while not hurting that wobbly tender being any more than necessary.
Yes, yes! Blossom instead of retreat. (Easier said than done, but keeping your words close helps the process.)
Stacy, well just don’t get the idea that I know how to do this! Quite often what comes through in my blog posts are the words that I need to hear. And today it’s just noticing the different ways of retreat instead of softening and staying open. You should have heard my friend and I at lunch as we mulled all of this over and explored it from a dozen different angles.
Understood. I often know the words to write (or say), but implementing them in life is sometimes a struggle. After having been a high school teacher for so long, kids still contact me years later and extoll my wisdom. I sometimes forget my own words!
I identify with this so much! Though I always worry, I have found that the posts I am most concerned about, the ones where I bare some aspects of myself or my life that I’d be more comfortable keeping hidden, those are the ones that get the greatest response. I think we all relate to exactly what you are talking about. We all worry that if we show too much of our true selves, we won’t be accepted, Yet that’s exactly what we all long for in this life, to be fully ourselves, quirky and crazy and messy and flawed, and be loved anyway. And not “in spite of…” but BECAUSE OF exactly who we are.
Wow, Cindy, I read your comment to my friend, Susan, at lunch today. It really clicked for both of us. YES! You nailed it. Especially this: Yet that’s exactly what we all long for in this life, to be fully ourselves, quirky and crazy and messy and flawed, and be loved anyway. And not “in spite of…” but BECAUSE OF exactly who we are.
Double wow and deep bows…
You’re on to something with this writing of your thoughts about being open, fully and powerfully! I certainly relate. Part of me has shut down a bit because I was, and still in the midst of building a health and wellness business. So being selective or relearning how to expressed our sense of compassion and spirit with sounding to “out there” while still offering a service through content and language.
Yet there are still times when I wish for people to truly “hear” me! So there are others I have to be open with, discuss the process of becoming…. etc.
You did great here. (((Hugs & Love)))
Jeff, I love your honesty. You teach so much with your heart (and hugs & love). This is such an interesting topic, and not an easy one to express all the energetics of it. Because perhaps we need to be guarded and discerning at times. But in other ways we’re being invited to soften and open. And we do need others in our lives who can truly “hear” us. Thank you for stopping by today and sharing of your heart.
I am glad I did stop by and honored to have such a friend in circle who “gets it”!
I agree with your assessment about the way in which personal blogs are going: “playing-it-safe starts to feel antiseptic and disconnected.” And I’d add that many of them are repetitive. 🙄
I’m finding it more difficult to want to follow anyone who plays it too safe. I’ve also come to believe that many bloggers are writing their blogs as a way of feeding their egos instead of nurturing their hearts and minds. Like I’ve said for years, I write a blog to keep my mind clicking and my heart open. You may or may not like it, but it’s there.
Yes, that energy of playing-it-safe can be so draining wherever we discover it, in ourselves or others. Ally Bean, I like your incentive to keep your mind engaged and your heart open through blogging. I’m always discovering there’s a fine line between feeding my ego and nurturing my spirit. Sometimes my mind likes to play tricks. What a lifelong journey of discovery! Good to see you here this afternoon. ❤
This is beautiful. Thank you. So clearly articulated, resolving, like a swan landing on water.
Maazz, it is so interesting that you said this. I just saw the first swan of the year on our lake and thought how beautiful it was and how lucky to see it. Your comment sounds like a swan landing on water, too. Thank you so much for sharing your heart here.
After having lunch with you, and discussing this blog and, after fully reading it upon arriving home, I can’t see anything missing. Truly. “Guarded” got an equal platform. Truly. It’s a wonderful work you offer here. Thank you! And thank you for lunch, dearest. ❤
It was so lovely to have lunch with you once again! Thank you for your patience and presence and existence and love and open/guarded heart. I read it again upon returning home and thought the same thing as you. I think the guarded part inside of me needed to feel like it was love and respected as much as the wide-open part. Love you so much! –she said in an open sort of way. Ha ha!
A big open “Ditto” !
It seems the older I get, the more likely I am to just speak out, to follow my heart and my whims and let the chips fall where they may. At the same time, I have internal walls, parts that refuse to come out of hiding.
Perhaps way off topic for what you’re saying – I feel as if we’re all hiding from the world to some extent – Facebook seems to be full of people ignoring the “real” world, which is fine to an extent – yet shouldn’t we open our hearts and minds and stand up for what we believe to be right, knowing we’ll likely get slammed by those who prefer to swallow what they wish to believe and be rude to those who disagree?
Carol, I find that many folks say the same as you–that as they get older they are more able to just say what they want and need to say. I applaud you for the honesty and wisdom that you share. And I respect the parts that want to stay behind internal walls.
It’s also interesting about Facebook and the real world of politics. I think this is an area where we need to listen very carefully to our hearts. If we’re guided to speak out, then speak out we must. If we’re guided to speak of other things, then we should do so. But I believe it’s important to keep examining our heart to discover our motives for silence or speaking. Are we holding back out of fear of being slammed? Or are we holding back because the Universe wants to use our expression in different ways? Such a fine energetic line. I have had this conversation many times with a dear friend who is an environmental activist and does not understand why everyone is not posting about environmental issues.
Your image choices are always interesting and underline what you are saying. You are such a thoughtful person and your words are always carefully chosen. And you are so darn tolerant. I am out there with my views and struggle mightily to accept the views of those whose views don’t mesh with mine; awwwww who am I fooling — I don’t really try.
Sorry … what was the question again ?
But, Sybil–you are doing it. You’re following your heart. My heart more often than not chooses tolerance. Your heart perhaps chooses to express your views and struggle with those whose views do not mesh with mine. (And don’t imagine that I don’t struggle at times to accept discordant viewpoints. I do. I just so often struggle with the deepest desire to be undivided, to somehow mesh things.) I like your honesty. I like the way Sybil shines through. Perhaps my deepest heart’s desire to be undivided and allowing causes more challenges than not. So your heart doesn’t really try. That’s because that might not be your journey. OK? Kapeesh, girlfriend?
Your post resonated with me on many levels, and then reading the comments left my heart feeling open then scared shut then open again. When I was a child into adolescence, I felt SO MUCH, which means I hurt often inside. Not from what people did to me, but what I saw people do. Humans can be so cruel to each other, as well as to other beings. I almost couldn’t stand the pain of realizing that this was the world I lived in (which is why for a year, during 6th grade, I persuaded myself that I was an alien who had been placed on Earth to watch and they forgot to pick me back up again – I was a stranger in a strange world!). Eventually I learned to close up my heart a bit, so I wouldn’t hurt so much. I think you understand. I stopped reading sad stories and watching sad movies (oh my gosh, do I have to tell you how much I sobbed when I saw the movie West Side Story? – my friend had to help me out of the theater!). Protecting our heart is not a bad thing if the heart is too soft, too vulnerable to getting squeezed too hard with the truth of cruelty. On the other hand, I have found that through my writing, I can open up. The theme of my novels and children’s books is love. That’s it. Love. Because that’s what keeps our hearts beating, keeps our souls alive. When I write, I allow my heart to be open, and I share my words, no matter what others may say. Because my writing protects me, like a strong but flexible and happy heart. ❤
You are such an empath, my dear friend. To feel so much is a gift…and such a challenge. And I know many of us need to shut down little snippets of our heart just to survive. Such cruelty! Such horror! Why and how did we arrive here? I do sooo understand. I have held my breath through cruel movies (and cruel life) trying to figure out how to survive it. It makes perfect sense that we would find safe sanctuaries. Like you, I have discovered that writing opens up doors and windows and moon shadows. Thank you so much for sharing your fear, your hope, your path forward. So beautiful, so human, so divine.
I knew you’d understand… ❤
I struggle with voicing my opinion on line because I just can’t handle the negative push back. During the 2016 election I voiced my opinion for a woman running to replace my district’s Congressman. I couldn’t stand him, his stand on things, his coldness, his inaccessibility, so I worked on her campaign. It was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done. A few times I supported her online and got blasted from many of my ‘friends.’ I had no idea of most of their politics…had an inkling on a few of them. After that I kept my political opinions to myself, though I resent that many of them still voice their own opinions and I keep silent even though I disagree with them. Some unfriended me. Some I unfriended. Still..it’s hard to take a risk, because before this last election we were all good friends. And I miss that.
Dawn, I actually got prickly tears in my eyes reading your comment. How sad to express your opinion and feelings and thoughts…and then to lose friendships over that. Politics seem to be so tricky. We can all take our opinions so seriously at times–I know I can. And have felt so annoyed at friends who express the exact opposite viewpoint. When I look inside myself I can see a fine line between where my heart loves or admires or respects a political person and then where thoughts take over and start bashing, disliking, sometimes even despising the other person. In my spiritual classes am learning how an open heart loves in a way that does not polarize. I am just a baby learning this, though, and have no handy-dandy answers how to live it. Wanting to give you a big hug for your courage to move past your comfort zone…and for your hurt in losing loved ones over differing opinions.
Thanks Kathy. I don’t know if I’ll be brave again in 2020. We will see.
For me, it’s more important to live my heart than to speak my heart. My mom used to say, “It’s easy to talk the talk but harder to walk the walk.” I admire those who walk the walk of their ethics, morals, and beliefs through the example of their lives. BTW, Kathy, even though you might not always “speak” your heart, I believe you try to live your heart.
I so agree with you, Barb, about “living your heart”. What a great way to put it. And it can sometimes be so hard to do that. Some of my greatest challenges have been when I haven’t been able to “walk my talk” as well as I might wish. However, I have tried! Your mom was very wise and so are you. ❤
This is very true. I’m often afraid to express myself because of the mere fact that people will judge me. I don’t remember a time when I posted something on social media without thinking of what others might think of me. Sometimes, I even feel a bit self-centered for thinking that way. I think we all innately want to please people whether we are aware of it or not. It’s part of our beings. The only caution I’d want to share it to practice discernment I think this will help us understand ourselves and others too.
Junie, thank you for sharing your honesty and your heart here. I am lately tending to think of it as a scared little one inside of us that really feels it needs approval and love from something outside of ourselves. And perhaps the greatest kindness is to honor that part of our being when it shows itself. Of course it wants to be loved and approved, dear inner part of us. And discernment is a great capability we have to be present with everything that’s arising and choose accordingly. When we’re not being sabotaged by other parts of inner selves. Blessings to you.
Sometimes I sigh and say to myself, I’m too sensitive for this world. It is a balancing act, trying to keep an open heart without letting it get bruised beyond repair. Your words resonate with me deeply.
I am glad you have a sensitive heart, Barbara. Yet it’s a hard thing to carry. May you stay strong without too many deep bruises. Much love…
You, too, my friend…