When we don’t shift into open-hearted awareness, our hearts can be painfully closed, or they can be too open so that we’re frequently overwhelmed. Then we end up looking to our thoughts to create a sense of self. The result is a small, mental sense of self that makes us fearful and unworthy. Sadly, a thought-based identity cuts us off from our greatest resources for connection, loving-kindness, and wellbeing. While identified solely with a mental self, we may not be able to hear the call of open-hearted awareness. No wonder we become confused about our own heart’s desire and end up looking for love in all the wrong places.
Some people are caught in their emotional heart: feeling everything, worrying, and feeling wounded and unsupported most of the time. Shifting into open-hearted awareness has transformed many people who say they “pick up every feeling and are too sensitive to others’ emotions.” These people don’t have to shut down. They can continue to feel others’ emotions, but instead of holding them in their bodies, they can let emotions continue back through the open heart’s door to the support of the field of awake awareness within and behind them.
Open-hearted awareness builds on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to recognize, distinguish, and articulate our emotions. It’s also the capacity for understanding and appreciating the emotions of others and the way they communicate with us. Open-hearted awareness does not have to defend against emotions. From open-hearted awareness, we’re able to “be with” emotions that formerly would have been overwhelming. From open-hearted awareness, we need not consider ourselves underdeveloped or weak if we go through what St. Teresa of Ávila called the “gift of tears.”
For more information, see Loch’s book and audio of meditations, Shift Into Freedom.