Next in this series is the fourth, or heart, chakra. It may sound cliché these days to say that in order to love others, and receive love from them, we must first love ourselves, but when we explore deeply what this really means, we are walking the path of the heart chakra.
In many ways, this heart chakra path is the essence of what it means to be human. We are social creatures – this is part of what defines us. In our daily lives, our heart chakra is the energy center most closely involved in this social nature, and in our ability to feel empathy, compassion and love for others. It is through our heart energy that we relate, either by creating connections or by shutting them out. As we do this, we are also always in relationship with the divine – either acknowledging the common Source from which we all spring, or pulling away into ourselves, into isolation and separation.
What most often causes us to pull away is fear – a fear of getting hurt, and of making ourselves vulnerable to pain. This fear is often rooted in feelings of unworthiness – that we are not worthy of being loved, are bound to be rejected, and therefore it is safer to just avoid all that by keeping our guard up. Sometimes this fear also turns to anger – the injured part of ourselves wants to hurt others as we have been hurt, and then we fall into patterns of judgment, of separation, even of hate.
When our heart is open and strong, we feel balanced and accepting – both of ourselves and others. We feel in alignment with spirit, and organically appreciative of what we have, with no need to conjure feelings of gratitude. We see the light of spirit (whatever words we may use for this) shining through the eyes of others, and experience this as a reflection of the spirit within us. We are naturally compassionate, not out of a moral obligation, but because of the inner connectivity we feel with everyone we meet. We appreciate beauty, and the small wonders of our day. Nothing is forced, and nothing is hidden. We are fearless. We are often also silly, as the heart chakra loves laughter!
From this perspective, it’s easy to see how blocked, wounded, or weak heart energy might manifest in our lives:
Difficulty with True Intimacy: Heart intimacy is about give and take, sharing and receiving, and opening to the flow of interactions. It is not about oversharing, or letting it all hang out just for the sake of it, but it is about being willing to show our vulnerable parts, and holding space for others to show theirs as well. When part of our heart chakra is blocked, out of fear or feelings of unworthiness, it’s very difficult for us to do this. As we work on the issues of self-esteem and self-care, we are able to open more, and experience deeper connections to everyone in our lives.
Inability to Accept Help and Support: When we block others from seeing the real us, we often also block help and support – both within this world, and from the divine. In the energy body model that I work with, the back of our heart chakra is particularly linked to receiving help, especially spiritual help and guidance. Practicing opening here, and feeling loving support flowing in to us, can build our ability to accept help in all parts of our lives.
Lack of Empathy: When our heart is really closed, which happens to all of us at times when our fears or insecurities are triggered, we are unable to feel empathy. We cannot relate to how others are feeling, or even acknowledge that their feelings are valid. They become completely ‘other’ to us – separate and different. When we work through this blocking, we can find empathy – the root of both compromise and compassion.
Taking On Others’ Problems or Pain: The above three tendencies are all related to our heart chakra being blocked. It’s also possible for our heart chakra to be open but imbalanced. When this happens, we often swing between some of the problems listed above and the extreme opposite – taking on others’ pain as our own, with no filtering. Sometimes this stems from a desire to martyr ourselves, out of a desire to ‘make up’ for what we feel is our essential unworthiness. Sometimes it stems from a true desire to help others, but we have neglected the self-love and associated self-care component. In therapeutic fields, this is called ‘compassion fatigue’, and is a very real risk. As we open our hearts, we must remember to strike the right balance between meeting our own needs and meeting the needs of others.
Constant Feelings of Being Burdened or Imbalanced: Closely related to the above issue is a feeling of being overburdened or imbalanced, Our lives may feel out of control, or simply heavy. We may feel that we can never meet the demands of everyone in our lives, or ever balance work and family, self-care and family responsibilities. It’s at these times that we really need to retreat and re-gather ourselves. While we can’t always change our external situation, we can change our reaction to it. When we find equanimity within ourselves, and rediscover our essential lightness and humor, we are better able to deal with the stresses of daily living.
In energy medicine, the heart chakra is linked to the physical heart and lungs, so problems can manifest physically in these parts of our body as well.
The following guided meditation will help open your heart chakra on many levels, including the back of your heart chakra to support and guidance, the center for balance and integration, and the front for selfless emanation of lovingkindness. I hope you enjoy!
All Posts in this Series: