This time of year, passion and love seem to be on everyone’s mind. If it isn’t, chocolate, roses and Valentine’s Day cards are sure to remind you of it. Whether you are single or partnered, this can be a beautiful time to reflect upon the deeper meanings of love, passion and what living with an open heart truly means.
Passion is a word that easily conjures up ideas about romantic love or sexual energy. But it can be so much more than this. When I talk about passion, I mean the free-flowing energy and emotions coming from your heart; the love, caring, and an appreciation that you feel. It’s the unbridled feelings of positive esteem, caring, and tenderness you have for another person and the impulse to share these feelings with them. You feel a reciprocal wellbeing and trust that it is safe to be vulnerable with your feelings and soul.
Usually the object of our heart’s desire lands on another person, but passion can also refer to an inner fire, a vitality for life or a love for your work or self-nurturing hobby. Essentially it is a state of being where your heart is open and able to send and receive love, without any restraints.
With heart disease the leading cause of death in the United States, we put a lot of emphasis on heart health. How to eat right, exercise and manage stress for a healthy heart and cardiovascular system is a common topic among health seekers. While this is essential to having a healthy physical heart, a less common, but vitally important piece to your cardiovascular and overall health, is the state of your emotional heart. Paying attention to how you feel has a profound impact on your nervous system and is actually very therapeutic.
We’re all more sensitive than we feel or believe, and feelings can be hurt, often unintentionally. Take for example a busy morning, rushing around getting yourself and maybe children ready for the day. It’s easy to be thrown off center, feel irritable from lack of sleep, or not having accomplished what you wanted to do for the household. Then your spouse or partner asks you one more question- and you snap back with a quick reaction that results in hurt feelings. They react back and you both leave the house in a hurry without addressing what happened.
It’s not always possible to handle hurt feelings the minute they occur; sometimes, it’s subtle and you may not even be aware that your heart has closed, ever so slightly, towards your partner, friend or colleague, until later in the day, or even a week later.
The important thing is, when you realize it, share your feelings with this important person in your life! It can take practice to recognize and own your feelings without blaming the other person. By paying attention to your feelings, you’ll get to know what it’s like when your heart has subtly, or not so subtly, shut down. It’s common to actually feel physical sensations, like a tightening of the throat or chest. In these moments, you may need to give yourself empathy before addressing the other person. Often the physical sensations can overwhelm your nervous system and in a moment of providing protection for yourself, you lashed out at the other person.
Of course, you feel badly about this later, when you’ve had some time to reflect and you’re feeling less reactive. It’s always healing to address what you were feeling in that moment and ask your partner, spouse of friend, if they “are available to talk about it now?”
It’s important to address these interactions that cause emotional upset, for these moments create hurt feelings. Before you know it, these little unresolved moments and hurt feelings, which may seem insignificant at the time, have accumulated. Then, when you ordinarily would feel loving, you notice your heart feels closed, and the natural and free flow of love, caring and intimacy isn’t present.
I like to think of the energy of the heart, or passion that flows from the heart similar to a river. The river needs to be flowing smoothly, with minimal debris in its path. It’s important to be centered in yourself and have energy that is clear of debris, so you can be intimate with another. The debris is analogous to the clutter we all accumulate in our daily life- too much to do, too little time, office politics, world politics, and those around us who may be similarly stressed.
This may sound like a simple concept to you, but we need to be connected to ourselves first before we can have a healthy connection with another. It’s also about having the care and attention to listen to your heart, to know you’ve been hurt and to have the courage to acknowledge your feelings. This way you are able remove the obstacles as soon as you are aware of them, so the river can flow freely without becoming stuck from debris and blockages. It’s from this center that you’re able to connect with another person, from a place of free-flowing energy and love.
Making self-care a consistent priority by nourishing your body and spirit, and doing the things that make you feel good, will enhance your relationship to yourself and will extend to those around you: partner, children, parents, co-workers, and even to the people you have brief encounters with like at the grocery store or over the phone. Doing the things that make you feel good and nourish you on a deep level is another way you can listen to what your heart wants. Maybe self-care looks like dancing in your living room for 10 minutes every morning, a cup of hot tea after the kids have gone to bed, chatting with your best friend regularly, or joining a meditation group. There’s no one way to do self-care; your self-care practice will be unique to you!
When your heart is open, you feel safe and your parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This is the “rest and digest” aspect of the nervous system, as opposed to the “fight or flight” mode, known as the sympathetic nervous system. When the parasympathetic mode is activated, the major stress hormone, cortisol, decreases, which results in less stress and inflammation in your body. This translates to better digestion, improved sleep and enhanced mood. This is such an important and interesting topic that an entire field of scientific study, devoted to the heart’s complex and intricate nervous system, called neurocardiology, or the heart-brain, has developed. They are finding that the heart mirrors the neurotransmitters, proteins, and nerve cells found in the brain, validating how important the mind body connection is for us all.
Taking a few minutes every day to center in your heart will activate the parasympathetic mode and give your nervous system the message that “everything is ok, you are safe and supported.” I invite you to take three deep breaths as you say the following to yourself:
When I close my eyes and visualize my heart being open, I feel positive energy and love flowing out of me into the universe and towards my friends and family. I tune in to the messages my heart sends me by the emotions that I feel. I tend carefully to my heart and choose to take care when it is hurting. When I take care of myself, I am more able to care for myself and my loved ones.
For excellent resources on how you can activate the intelligence of your own heart and compassion, visit the HeartMath Institute and the Center for Nonviolent Communication.
I’d love to know how you tend to your heart and practice self-care to allow love and passion to flow from you. Feel free to comment below or email me here for a 15-minute free consultation on how I can help you address any obstacles you may be having to an open heart, so you can reclaim your health to restore your life!
To Your Open Heart,
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