Since June’s gathering was full of veteran Dreamers & Schemers we skipped over the agreements and “getting to know you” and opened up the circle with a smudging ceremony. Since getting back from my trip to Peru, I have been opening sacred space for myself with a private smudging ceremony. This is more than just smudging myself and my space, but also calling out to the four directions for support and in thanks. This ritual has been a really effective way of opening up my heart and familiarizing myself with my own heart energy, so I was really excited to share this with Dreamers & Schemers during heart month!
Physical heart vs. heart chakra vs. sacred heart
Leading up to the workshop I felt a bunch of resistance to referring to Anodea Judith’s work on the heart chakra. I was wondering about that on my walk to the gathering, and then it hit me: It’s because the work I want to do around the heart goes beyond the heart chakra, which is Judith’s concern. When I refer to the “heart center,” I mean both what we think of as the heart chakra and what we might call the divine sacred heart. The first can fluctuate in its energies as with any other chakra center. The second is an eternal, unchanging aspect of ourselves. So while Judith is correct in saying that the heart chakra must always remain in balance and that there is such a thing as a heart that is too wide open (manifesting in codependence, neediness, or smothering), I do not believe the same is true for the sacred heart. If the heart chakra can be said to be either over- or underactive, then finding balance means modulating how open that energy center is. (Click here for a list of heart openers.) But with regard to the sacred heart, which is always in perfect balance, the practice is one of opening ourselves to its vibrant energy—and this we can never do too much of.
One of the easiest ways of connecting to your heart is simply by placing your left hand (or right hand—whatever feels more natural to you) over your heart center and becoming aware of its energy. This is not the beating of your physical heart, but the subtle energy of your heart center. Interestingly enough, science has found that the heart emits an electromagnetic field that is many times more powerful than that of the brain. I believe this is why being in the presence of someone who feels big- or open-hearted—a child, spiritual leader, or even a pet—can be a powerful and healing experience.
We shared a few heart openers and also talked about what it really means to “follow your heart.” This was a really interesting conversation because many of us heard this advice in our youth and pass it along to the young people we work with, but I believe there is a lot of confusion around what it actually means and how to do this “in real life.” We talked about heartbreak and how even the most painful relationships come into our lives to teach us something about ourselves if we are open to those lessons.
Head vs. Heart
In my opinion, one of the most important life skills is learning how to move from the head to the heart and begin trusting the heart to take the lead. Most of us grow up learning to rely on our heads to do the heavy lifting and it can lead to a lot of crazy-making and suffering. We did a group version of a partner practice developed by Sonia Choquette for dropping from the head to the heart. I did this as a measure of expediency, but I think it will be much more effective as a partner practice in July’s gathering.
Instead of connecting with our ancestors this month, I decided to lead a meditation for connecting with the heart. I was curious to see if people felt any difference connecting with their heart vs. their higher self vs. their ancestors (or whatever other guides or sources of support you prefer). The results varied, as I expected they would. My take is that whatever lets us go inward and tap into wisdom that is greater than what our monkey mind can produce is a good form of meditation or inner work. It’s just a matter of finding what feels right for us in the moment and also finding maybe one or two connections that feel consistently good and right that we can develop and deepen that relationship over the long run. I think the more you do these types of practices, the more you are able to distinguish the subtle differences in these energetic connections (just as you are able to distinguish the guidance of your heart from the chattering of your critical mind!).
As with anything else, daily practice strengthens your connection to your heart and you might begin to know your heart on a deeper level than you ever knew you could! Just as in my Akashic Records practice, I am a very visual person, so sometimes when I connect with my heart I actually get an image of the state it’s in. The first time this happened, I actually felt it to be very tender and saw it wrapped in a bunch of gauze. This told me to be very gentle with my heart that day, as it had been through the wringer with all the heart opening work I had been doing with it at that period in my life.
Remember, though, that everything we do is highly individual. Let it work for you in the way it happens for you. Knowing can come in all different ways for different people at different points in their lives, and discovering your way of connecting with higher knowing can be a really fun journey if you don’t load it down with expectations, comparisons, and judgment.
One of my yoga instructors mentioned to me one morning that she loves working with me because I practice with an open heart. It struck me how she noticed what I had thought was a private intention I had set for myself. This really testified to the power of an open heart! Others can definitely sense it, which isn’t to say that it will make you attractive to everyone around you. For some people (and I remember when this was the case for me), being around someone with an open heart can feel quite uncomfortable, if not painful.
My teacher’s comment also got me thinking about what it actually means to be “open-hearted.” For me I think it means being willing to welcome, even for just a moment, everything that comes my way. This doesn’t mean that I am willing to accept a bunch of shitty things or take on the energy of everyone around me. But it does mean that I don’t reflexively push away something my mind might label as an “unwanted” or “negative” experience. In short, this means suspending any doubt or skepticism, and trusting that—or at least willing to act as if—everything is happening for me. The opposite of that is standing in the energy of “Why is this happening to me?” One is very victimizing, the other quite empowering.
In this vein of empowerment, I trotted out another favorite exercise that never fails to stimulate the juiciest of conversations and insights: the other as mirror of self! (dun dun!)
Since last year we’ve been building up a whole repertoire of tools for energy release. (Consensus says that “creating and destroying a rose” is almost everyone’s least favorite technique! This makes me chuckle every time because how you feel and go about this exercise says a lot about your willingness and ability to let go of things in your life.) But, I do aim to share tools that are helpful to you, so this heart release is a gentler alternative to the rose exercise.
Connecting with your sacred heart
This tool is what I was most excited to share this month after I learned that the sacred heart is that part of us that can transmute any negative experience into one of love. It might sound cheesy to phrase it that way, but I had a really powerful first experience with this tool. It gave me a touchstone for connecting with my sacred heart (vs. my more variable heart chakra), and it also taught me a lot about myself and what I was willing and able (and also not willing and able) to accept with an open heart in that moment.