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Mindset Mondays: Heart-Opening Practices for Radical Generosity

by M.J. Ryan

We at SheEO practice radical generosity, which I define as giving with no strings attached, no expectation of some kind of personal payback. To practice this kind of open-hearted giving, our hearts need to expand. We need to allow ourselves to be touched by the world around us, with all its pain and beauty. But because of the woundings from our past and the immense challenges of the present, our hearts can be afraid to expand. We want to stay safe, to protect ourselves. And this is natural, we need to be able to both open and close. But how do we open as much as we would like? Recently I came across an article by Erica Matluck in mindbodygreen. She was writing about the heart chakra, one of the 7 energy centers in the body and how we can heal from our wounding to be more open-hearted. I thought it was very helpful and I hope it resonates with you as well: 

“The primary wound of the heart chakra is rejection. Most of us have had the experience of making ourselves vulnerable to another and feeling like it was not reciprocated. This is the nature of rejection—there is no exchange of energy, so we keep giving and giving in hopes that reciprocation will follow. If it doesn’t, we feel rejected, alone, and sometimes foolish. This is a painful wound, and most of us respond to it by cloaking our hearts with armor to protect ourselves from future rejection.

“However…the walls we build around the heart also prevent love from getting in. This drives the isolation deeper, and exchange becomes impossible…..

“[I]n the absence of reciprocation, the more we give, the more alone and isolated we feel. Just like the physical heart can only supply fresh oxygenated blood to the body if that blood is returned to the heart, the heart chakra can only continue to give love and vulnerability if it is reciprocated.

The healing path of the heart chakra moves from isolation to compassion. Compassion is essential to the survival of our species. It binds us to one another, making isolation an impossibility—but it requires that we reveal our pain, our suffering, and our wounding to each other. We have to be courageous enough to risk rejection over and over again to experience the gift of the heart. We must remember that the heart has nothing to fear because either it is generating compassion for others or it is wounded, in which case it inspires others to generate compassion. Either way, the heart is always responsible for radiating the highest form of love into the world….

“The heart chakra thrives on the transformation of suffering into compassion, and it is through witnessing the suffering of others (a mirror image of our own) that the armor begins to melt and the doors of receptivity open. Here are three exercises to support heart chakra healing:

“1. Practice receiving.

From now on, when someone compliments you, pause, take a deep breath, and receive their words before responding. Visualize their words coming in through your inhale and spreading throughout your body. Then, you can say thank you. If you have an urge to change the subject or complement them back, try to refrain and notice how that feels. 

“2. Try a breath practice.

On your inhale, imagine breathing in all the pain and suffering of those around you. Feel it enter your heart, and on your exhale, send love and compassion to all those who are suffering. Do this for 10 to 20 breath cycles.  

“3. Create coherence.

When we generate positive emotions of the heart (gratitude, love, compassion, appreciation, care), our heart rate variability (a measure of resilience) increases. When we do this in a group, it creates a powerful collective field. So gather a group of at least four people and sit in a circle with one person in the center. Those on the outside of the circle should close their eyes and generate positive emotions while the person in the center simply bathes in the harmonious field and receives for 5 to 10 minutes. Take turns so each person has a chance to sit in the center.” 

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