…continued from The Ten Practices of a Happy and Successful Life — Part II)
Practice # 5 — Awaken Your Heart
Practice awakening your heart and you will be amazed at how much joy and love you will experience. Every day all of us have numerous opportunities to feel deeply our special relationship with others. The most amazing feeling of “oneness” happens when we open our hearts to what surrounds us and let it all in.
Our relationships with others can and should be a source of pleasure for us. And if what surrounds you doesn’t bring you joy and happiness, then it is time to take a close look at your life. What is it that keeps you from enjoying these contacts? Perhaps you need to break out of the enclosing walls of constant self-preoccupation. Perhaps you need to open the windows of the “self” and let in some fresh air.
Awaken your heart and you will awaken your life to a whole new set of possibilities. Not only should you awaken your heart, you should expand it to include many hearts. The awakening of the heart is a great blessing; suddenly you are so much more than just yourself.
“Breaking out of the prison of little self
I find myself flowing into everything.”
— A Vision of Power and Glory
How do we awaken our hearts? We begin by honoring heart wisdom, and realizing that the heart sees and knows in ways our mind will never understand. So rather than try to understand the heart, our approach is simply to allow ourselves to experience its truth and beauty. We let go of logical critical thinking for a moment and feel our way into whatever situation we find ourselves in. We let others’ pain and joy touch us deeply, and we’re not afraid of these feelings.
Trusting our feelings and acting upon them puts us in communication with the heart. Often it is instinctive. Someone slips, your arm reaches out. A car is in a ditch, you join the others and push. A colleague at work is depressed, you let him know you care. Already we are kind and loving in many ways, but this can deepen immeasurably. These are only the first few steps on the amazing path to the center of your heart.
When the heart awakens, the boundaries between self and others diminish. Each of us is linked to all others in more ways than we can imagine. We are all parts of the human tribe, and through love and appreciation of one another, we awaken this realization.
It might seem strange at first, for we are so accustomed to separating self and others, with self’s concerns being very important, and others’ concerns being allowed in only grudgingly, when time allows. This separation makes us feel safe and protected, we think, but we pay a high price for fostering this illusion. We arrive in the prison of little self, building a wall that separates us from the abundance of the universe.
Are you ready for this new adventure? The heart will lead the way. It is always trying to make its way known to us. It will be relieved to know that you are indeed listening. When we quiet the mind, we hear the heart more clearly. A little confidence in its wisdom, and a little courage to follow where it leads is all that is required. Your heart knows what will give you happiness. Even if your mind doesn’t always know, your heart knows, and this knowledge can only enrich and expand your life.
Unfortunately our lives are complex, overcrowded and full. Sometimes we feel we are too busy to let others in. There are always so many things we have to do for ourselves, and they all seem so important. But if we do not value and place importance on awakening our heart, helping others, getting to know others, if we do not see this as an vital and precious part of our own growth and development, what does that say about us? What path are we on if service, compassion and love are not part of our journey? Do we really think that making more money, watching another episode of a TV show, or going out to a fine restaurant will make us happier or more content? Actually, if we look at it closely, we will see that it is our constant self-preoccupation that is the true source of much of our unhappiness. If we are to awaken our heart and learn its truths, we must also be brave enough to go where the heart leads us. We must learn to trust heart wisdom and not just mind wisdom. This is the way to a balanced life. We must trust and explore and move more fully and joyously and yes, sometimes recklessly into the realm of love and compassion.
And where will the heart lead us? To others. The heart longs to nurture others. To explore others. To experience and interact with others. To experience our oneness with others. This offers a clue to some of the truths and perceptions that the heart contains. While the mind may conceptualize, “We are all one,” as indeed it tries to do, it can never truly know this. But the heart knows this intimately, and by following the path of the awakened heart, we will know it intimately too. For this is the first and most important truth the heart teaches us. To know this not just as an intellectual concept, but as a reality that we experience each day is to be initiated into a great mystery. We are all one.
Open your heart daily to others. Listen, share and help wherever and whenever the opportunity arises. Your heart will surely awaken, and much joy and happiness will be yours, flowing to you in ways that could never happen by remaining preoccupied with yourself. By helping others, you help yourself. Knowing this will change your life forever.
Practice # 6 — Embrace Change
Everything in life is in the process of becoming something else. There is no one constant source of happiness, success or pleasure. The only constant in life is constant change.
When you look closely at your life you will see that this is true. Our finances, health, opportunities, experiences, knowledge, desires, problems, challenges, insights and pleasures are constantly changing, morphing into something else. Life is the endless dance of something that is happening to us now, giving away to something new, which will in turn give way again to something else. Welcome change as a guest, even if this guest is a complete stranger. You never know what gifts, insights and treasures are awaiting you. To make yourself comfortable with change is to make yourself comfortable with life. When you embrace change as your friend, it will keep your life healthy and interesting. Change will take you where you want to go; it will refresh and delight you in innumerable ways when you learn to celebrate it.
As the Law of Constant Change manifests in our life and we watch it in operation, it reveals to us that there is no final arrival point. Or to be more exact, one arrives at one point only to immediately leave for another. There is no stability, only movement. Understanding this and living your life in a way that recognizes and honors this process is key to a fulfilling and happy life. You learn to enjoy the moments as they happen. Rather than wanting things to be different, which causes you unhappiness, learn to appreciate everything as it is happening to you, and let this appreciation nourish you. If you like something, then enjoy it fully now, while it is happening. If you don’t like something then let it be what it is without regret, for it too will change. Enjoy the process of life, with each moment being a part of that process. Life is to be appreciated moment by moment. There is no other way.
Some changes we initiate ourselves and this is good, for we are a creative power able to initiate change. Other changes happen without us understanding why or how. This too is good, for this is the nature and law of our life. The Law of Constant Change will always work to our advantage when we recognize it and use it as a tool to better understand and appreciate our life. Let go of all illusions and be one hundred percent with your life and what is happening to you today. Today is the source of your power, and of your happiness.
The Guest House – by Rumi
This being human is a guest house,
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of it’s furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.