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Opening the Heart Center

The Heart Chakra is located in the center of the chest. It is associated with the element of Air. The Heart Chakra is the bridge between the lower and higher chakras— or, put differently, the meeting ground of the personal consciousness and the transpersonal consciousness.

The lower three centers of Root, Sacral and Solar Plexus correspond to the “lower self,” the individual personality with which most of us consciously identify. These centers regulate our sense of our own tastes, preferences, characteristics, feelings, modes of relating, personal boundaries, memories and the physical body.

The Upper centers of Throat, Third Eye and Crown correspond to the Higher Self— the eternal, spiritual essence of an individual which persists throughout many lifetimes. In these centers we find access to universal wisdom and awarenesses which transcend the sphere of the physical senses. In contrast to the subjective and finite consciousness found in the lower three centers, the consciousness belonging to the upper centers is transpersonal, without boundary and detached from personal biases.

The Heart center is the bridge between these two planes of the Self. The Heart Chakra is the springboard from which we may launch into higher levels of awareness and understanding, gaining a more objective or transcendental perspectives on ourselves and life itself. The “prerequisite” for entrance onto these higher planes is the unconditional love or total acceptance which is cultivated in the Heart Center.

In order to see and experience on a higher level of reality, we must be able to unconditionally accept the truth of the moment. This includes acceptance of that which appears outside of us as physical circumstances and other people, as well as acceptance of that which we meet within, in our emotions, desires, needs, ideas, preferences and personal boundaries.

To love unconditionally does not mean to like. Acceptance does not necessarily mean finding a way to appreciate something undesirable. True acceptance means the ability to be with the reality of a situation openly and honestly without needing it to change.

In this sense, opening the Heart Center is largely a matter of cultivating the state of neutrality. When the Heart Center is open, we are able to be with anyone just as they are without resistance or resentment. We are able to listen to any idea without becoming “triggered” by it. We are able to sustain inner peace no matter what environment or condition is surrounding us. While we may not like the idea, people or circumstance, we are nevertheless able to remain completely present with the reality of the moment, without reacting to it with resistance, resentment, judgment, denial, aggression or blame. We are not attached to an outcome that is different than what currently is; we accept reality just as it is.

This non-resistance or unconditional acceptance of the Heart Center is the state referred to in teachings about “turning the other cheek” or loving thine enemy. There is tremendous power in a non-reactive state, for it enables one to remain in sovereignty and freedom instead of becoming entangled with what is unwanted. Whatever we resist persists, while acceptance is the first step to transforming whatever is unwanted into something better.

Techniques for Opening the Heart Center

We may open the heart center by practicing compassion, tolerance and forgiveness of others, as well as acceptance of all aspects of the Self.

For instance, make a practice of trying to find commonalities between yourself and others— especially those people whom you judge as different or even hostile. Try to identify the way you and your enemy are similar— even if your statements are as general as: “We both need food, water and shelter.” “We both need love and acceptance.” “We are both doing what makes the most sense to us, given our past conditioning.”

If you have trouble accepting something that happened to you in the past, see if you can find approval for it in some way. Identify any positive aspects of this situation, no matter how small. Identify what lessons you learned or what skills you developed as a result of this situation. Name the things that went right during that situation, and the positive developments that have transpired as a result. This will help cultivate acceptance for even horribly painful or unfair events, which will, paradoxically, help you release the pain and move forward.

Any activity which inspires connection, appreciation, love or relief is also beneficial to the heart chakra. Any soothing, uplifting or awe-inspiring activity which elicits appreciation and a sense of connectedness to all life is beneficial. Physical touch, whether with loved ones, animals and even plants, is especially beneficial for opening the Heart center.

Meditation— especially a mindfulness practice like Vipassana— is an excellent way to cultivate the ability to unconditionally be with…

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