Opening Your Heart to LoveBy Shelley Riutta, MSE, LPC
September 29, 2008
It is easy to shut down your heart because of past hurts - but you miss out on sharing love with those in your life today. This article will give tips on how to keep your heart open throughout the day.
“Whatever the Question, Love is the Answer.” Wayne Dyer
“There is only one happiness in life—to love and be loved.” George Sand
“You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” Sam Keen
One of the greatest experiences we can have in life is the sharing of love. Yet, for many of us - we only have fleeting glimpses of this. Our culture prioritizes other things ahead of love like; making money, working on the computer, watching sports, shopping etc. Think about your own life - do you put sharing love with others at the top of your list?
One of the Mentors in my life was an 89 year old man named Reuben. He was such a teacher to me about making love a priority in one’s life. He was constantly sharing love with those around him - and what was wonderful is you could actually feel it emanating from him. He magnetized people to him because it felt so good being in this field of love that surrounded him.
I remember one time we were visiting a mutual friend and Reuben looked at our friend and said “There is nothing in the world more important in the world than love—Nothing!” Our friend had a startled look on his face because of the level of intensity in which Reuben said this to him. Reuben meant what he said to our friend with every cell of his body. He believed in love and lived it every day. He jarred people out of the fog of being caught up in the less important things of life as a substitute for the most important thing - Love.
The time I spent with him was so valuable to me. I remember thinking to myself when I was with him—“Pay attention and learn as much as you can from this man.” I am still learning from him today when I reflect on the wisdom he shared with me. I remember one time we were eating breakfast and he said to me “Honey, I’m not sure what happened to you when you in the past - but whatever it was let it go and open your heart. Let your love out - it will help you, it will help your friend and clients.” The power of those words still echo in my mind today -“Let it go and open your heart.”
At Reuben’s funeral I learned something that made me really get that he didn’t just say these words but he had lived them as well. I learned that he had Post-Traumatic Stress from his experience in WW II. His family shared with me that over the years he would wake up screaming from nightmares from his experiences in the war. He could have allowed those horrible experiences to close his heart - but instead he let it go and kept his heart open.
When we let the love in our heart flow it is healing to us and those around us. This flow of love is a natural state for us - but so many of us walk around with our hearts closed that it starts to feel normal! I remember a client of mine years ago who struggled with anxiety, low level depression and difficulty sleeping. We worked on him opening his heart more in his life.
Within a week of doing this his life literally transformed. His anxiety and depression lifted - he was able to sleep at night. He felt a peace that he had never felt before. He also had more energy - which is a result of having an open heart. He had complained originally of feeling isolated from other people and very lonely. As he kept the focus on sharing love and keeping his heart open in all of his relationships improved dramatically.
Over the months that we worked together as soon as he reverted back to his old pattern of closing his heart - his anxiety and depression would return. His relationships would also start to suffer. It became clear to him that his life worked so much better - was more joyful and fulfilling when his heart was open.
Tips to Open Your Heart
1. Make a Conscious Choice to Open Your Heart to Love - Decide today that sharing love will be a priority for you. You can share your love and kindness with everyone you have contact with during your day. What does sharing love look like, you might ask? Here are some examples:·
Sharing appreciation for someone. Appreciate a quality they have—their kindness, compassion, integrity, creativity—you could say “I really love how kind you are”. Or appreciate how they did something—“I love the way you handled that situation.” “I love that you are such a good listener.” You can share appreciation that they are in your life “I am so grateful that you are in my life.” There are hundreds of things you could say throughout the day to show appreciation for the people in your life.
2. Let Go of Past Hurts and Open Up to Love - Most people have experienced hurt in the past and in response to that have closed their hearts. They fear opening their hearts and getting hurt again. What ends up happening is their closed heart ends up causing a problem for them in their lives. When their hearts are closed they will feel lonely and isolated from other people. They miss out on the closeness that they can share when their heart is closed. They feel their current unhappiness is related to the past hurts - when in reality it is being caused by their heart currently being closed.
The reality of the open heart is that you will hurt sometimes when your heart is open - but that is OK - you will survive. All of the love that you will experience will more than make up for the periods of pain you might have when your heart is open. The people in my life who have had open hearts have had rich lives filled with love—and they also had times of deep pain when they lost someone they really loved. Reuben was married to his Soulmate, Joyce, for over 50 years and he missed her tremendously when she died. His grief and pain reflected the depth of love that they shared. He still remained open to love despite the pain of this loss.
3. When You are Looking at Someone Look at them Through the Eyes of Love - There is so much beauty in each and every person. I remember years ago I was at training and there was a man at the training who was irritating me. I can’t remember now what he was doing that was bothering me. I initially didn’t want to be by him at all and then I decided to spend some time with him and look at him through the eyes of love.
The next time we spoke - instead of listening to what he was saying I looked underneath his protective behavior to the Essence of who he was and what I saw blew me away. He was so beautiful and loving in his Essence! I was awestruck by the fact that what I was seeing in him was what I would find in everyone I met. I thought to myself “I could do this with everybody at this training—there is so much love to share!” So today - look underneath others protective behavior and really see who they are.
4. Focus on Giving Love - not Getting Love - When you are with others are you trying to get their love or approval - or are you focused on sharing love with them? When you are trying to get love you are coming from a place of neediness and putting expectations on others to give to you. The other person won’t feel loved by you, but instead will feel pulled on by you. If you instead realize that all the love that you could ever need is already in your own heart and all around you - you won’t feel the need to try to get it from others. So by opening your heart and sharing it with others you will then feel the love that is within you. You will actually feel it more as you share it.
5. View Relationships as an Opportunity to Learn How to Love Unconditionally - When you are feeling challenged in a relationship it is an opportunity to learn to unconditionally love yourself and the other person more. When you are focused on learning about love you will be in your Authentic Self—and things will go fairly smooth. When you are trying to control the other person to be different or trying to control the outcome you are in your Wounded Self and things will be very difficult. When you are learning about love you ask “How can I learn and grow in this situation—what is my learning” vs. when you are in your Wounded Self you have your eyes on the other person and you blame them for your discomfort.
6. Remember Why You are Here - I have done a lot of research about people who have had near death experiences. The thing that I read over and over again is that when people were reviewing their lives (after they died) the question they were asked was “How well did you love?” - not how much money you made or how well you did on that work project - it was all about Love. I think one of our challenges as we journey through our lives is to keep our eyes on what is most important – Love - as other things pull for our attention and try to convince us that they are so “important.” It can take some time to reconnect with your open heart when it has been closed for a period of time. Be patient with yourself and begin to practice slowly opening your heart with others. Remember that as a child your heart was naturally open - it is how you are meant to be in the world - your heart wide open sharing your love with others. I wish you joy and happiness as you let that beautiful light of your heart shine!
Shelley Riutta MSE, LPC is a Holistic Psychotherapist in private practice specializing in Transformational individual counseling, presentations, groups and Workshops. To get her free workbook “What Do You REALLY Want: Finding Purpose and Passion in Your Life” or for information about the free tele-classes she does every month visit her web-site www.RadiantLifeCounseling.com or call her at 920-265-2627.
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Joy and love are what we feel when we have surrendered to God guiding our life. Fear is what we feel when our ego/wounded self is in charge. Yet our wounded self fears the surrender, fearing loss of self. We need to be willing to lose the self to gain the Self.
By Dr. Margaret Paul