Heart-and-Body Work | and How to Take the Work Out of It
I have never ascribed to the terms "an open heart" and "a closed heart" These are not honest to how the heart works. Can you say I have an open body, or I have a closed body? No: there are too many factors that determine how our body moves and reacts and responds to the world.
The way I envision our energetic or biochemical system (heart) is how I view the somatic system (physical/emotional body) as a whole; it is not an open/closed structure or system because it is part of a learning process. It is not a binary computation — on or off.
For many of us who have experienced trauma, abuse, neglect, the body is relearning to be supple, expansive, mobile, with flowing tissues, membranes and flexibility. This "open" body is in contrast to what we could call the western body: rigid, contracted, tense, stressed, and holding. Closed and holding are similar terms as we often feel and appear closed or unresponsive to others when we hold trauma, a story, victim-hood, and an identification as someone who is broken, wounded, or un-redeemable. Thankfully, we are so much more than our shame and hurt. As we learn to FEEL — via sensitive-subtle-awareness — we notice the stagnancy or limited bodily perception.
This article is about re-framing your viewpoint of an "open-or-closed" heart and body, but to also promote body work as a continuing practice. When we work on the body (i.e. FEEL into the body) and can relax into a stable heart-space then we can reach a feel-good flow. One's bodily interaction with life becomes more fulfilling and fluid. This can be during movement or stillness: running a 5k or a computer program, sitting in traffic or at a desk, conversing with coworkers or a friend, climbing a mountain or a staircase, reading a book or a cereal box, doing yoga or doing nothing.
Society is often the culprit when speaking of stress because — in this mindset — doing nothing, such as relaxation, will not guarantee success. We buy into it and are mesmerized by the seeming rewards. "If I work over 40 hours, I will..." fill in the blank. "If I buy this, then..." It's a lot of conditionals to feel healthy, happy, and at ease. Learning unconditional love is to relax into that heart-space that I spoke of, and the first step is body work. To simplify this is to say that condition/control=stress and uncondition/acceptance=health.
By no means am I saying society is bad, but the system which teaches us health is skewed towards an unhealthy outlook. The source of our happiness is outside of us as opposed to within as many meditative and spiritual traditions point to.
Simply, feel where your heart is and this is your connection to source. Breathe into it and relax your body. Unconditional love of oneself is to learn how to tap into your Source connection.
As a society, we continue to feel stress as we are nurturing bad habits of dis-ease and stagnancy and pain. All stress and pain happen within the space our heart inhabits, just as all movement of the body happens within the spaces we inhabit. The outer environment directly impacts and affects the inner environment of the heart and body. If our outer environment is stressful, our body and heart will be filled with stress. Likewise, if we fill our hearts with compassion, love, and health, our outer environment will have to reflect this.
If the tree is hard and brittle, even a gentle breeze will break the structure; if the tree is supple and fluid, the stress by the wind will not break anything but merely bend the unbreakable body. It is unbreakable when it is rooted deeply in the earth and branches out expansively into the sky.
Bodywork is so important in both working with professionals as well as learning to give compassionate and articulated self-care. Self-Body-Care is as simple as self massage; but also ranges toward dance or calisthenics which moves the viscera and soma. Other activities include yoga and chi-gong to stretch all bodily tissue — physical, emotional, mental, and energetic bodies. Bodywork waters and nourishes the tree of our body.
Professional body work, like acupressure, acupuncture, all types of massage, biofeedback, craniosacral, etc. are beautifully necessary because we, as bodies, are relearning trust. And as we can relax in the hands and care and space of another person, we build and grow energetically (in our heart-space); simultaneously, we begin to heal and repair physically (in our body). Even dance, without ever touching another body, can be intimate and rejuvenating because shared spaces are our birthright; when we can hold a space sacred, we can also see the body as a sacred space equally. Your heart-space is your temple.
Coming back full circle: the reason the heart, for instance, cannot be open or closed is because it is not a door. It is a limitless expanse, or field, of perception. How we PERCEIVE the heart is that it can be a doorway or gateway or portal, but it is not a limited thing. The difference between a door and a doorway is immense: the former keeps things out, while the latter always allows things to enter. The heart can feel everything, but our perceptive capacity — which is reinforced by society — is often geared toward mutedness or numbness; being closed off. Body work, of all kinds, opens the aperture or doorway to receive. It is not a yes/no thing — the heart is always an open doorway and can merely open more--it is never ever closed, shut, broken, or off.
Amazingly, the heart is the first organ to develop in the fetus. As such, the synapses and neurons of the heart hold a certain frequency. It is our electro-chemical command center more than the brain in the head. When affected by external factors such as trauma and stress, the heart can hold a certain incoherency or chaos. The truth is that upon taking a holistic lifestyle — or health-based lifestyle — one's coherence becomes more ordered and stable.
For many people, their heart may appear "closed," but this is merely a defense mechanism that we all share in a society that does not value health, but does value work, fame, haste, and quick fixes i.e. outide sources of life. An "open" heart is just a body that has experienced holism, totality, and expansion, while also developing skills, trust, and rhythm with other beings.
Simply: this is learning relaxation, this is learning surrender, this is learning faith, this is learning trust, this is learning love. These are not haves and have not's: we are all learning health and what it means and feels to be healthy. Your Source connection nourishes your body and path thru life as a whole Being.
When you give yourself fully to health you cannot help but be whole. When you give yourself fully to wholeness others begin to learn from you and you begin to perform miracles. Even the simple miracles of eating healthy and exercising and meditating.
Please, don't be so hard on yourself; we are all in health together.