Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Living With An Open Heart in 2012 and Beyond

                LIVING WITH AN OPEN HEART IN 2012 AND BEYOND 

You may have noticed world changes including unusual and tragic events but also a beautiful flowering spring and unusual vitality from the sun. This series of articles highlights Marcie Shimoff’s book on Unconditional Love in which she describes and teaches skills necessary to cope with this changing world scene. If you haven't purchased the book you can follow along with my articles which began in February of this year and are reprinted in the Advice Line section of my website. This month we will be reviewing information on heart-based living and compassion.  Increasingly we need to make a choice between living in a state of openness to the positive aspects of life instead of sinking into the morass of stress increasingly brought to us in the modern world.

 

As I’ve studied the science of happiness during my long career as a psychologist, I realized that mind-based approaches to positive living provide only temporary fixes instead of the longer-term changes we all desire. Marcie Shimoff also realized this. Her previous book, "Happiness For No Reason," contained many effective strategies which she now realizes are actually more powerfully subsumed within the positive state of Unconditional Love.  Interestingly enough, science has documented an increasing number of situations in which behavior actually is initiated before the brain "decides" to choose that behavior. So what causes behavior except the brain?  Scientists are increasingly looking at aspects of the heart-to-brain connection and documenting instances in which the heart is much more powerful than the brain. In the case of electromagnetic energy, the heart is 5000 times more powerful than the brain. Previous articles on my website describe the science of the heart as documented in more than 20 years of scientific research at HeartMath.org. Whether you think your behavior is determined in the physical brain-mind connection or whether you look to etheric concepts such as soul or spirit or higher self, you should know that influences additional to the brain are important in our quest to live a positive and enjoyable life no matter how stressful the world around us.

 

The concepts of positive and negative energy are important to this distinction.  We cannot live in a state of happiness and joy when we are pulled down by fear, anger and all their component negative emotions. When you do experience an open heart and unconditional love you will be experiencing peace, bliss and joy, totally protected from stress and negativity. Shimoff discusses many useful techniques in Chapters 7, 8 and 9 which can assist you in attaining this state.  Most people have experienced glimpses into this state in peak moments such as may be brought on by stirring music, incredibly beautiful natural experiences, the birth of a child, a marriage of love, and so forth.

 

We all have the capability of living a major part of our lives in an open hearted positive state. In the rest of this article I'm going to describe a path toward this goal. I can assure you that this kind of approach is possible and workable as I am traveling this path myself. The spiritual heart, the seat of positive emotions, is located in the same general area as the physical heart. From time to time during the day place your hand over your heart area; feel and visualize the area opening up and out toward love, compassion and beauty.  Scientifically speaking, the warmth of your hand will help activate the parasympathetic nervous system to increase the "love hormone" oxytocin and induce a pleasant physiological state. Envision and create a state of openness and receptivity, a welling up of love toward the self and loving compassion out from your heart toward the world.  Practice creating this state daily, several times a day if possible. Deep breathing and relaxation are very helpful and can be either the cause or result of obtaining this positive state. Music, beauty and nature are often an intrinsic part of the open hearted state. An example of the kind of music appropriate to stimulate an open heart can be obtained on the website EraofPeace.org on the Musical Rapture page.  You will find there a heartwarming story about this music and will be able to download it for free. Actions expressing love to others, being compassionate, kind, altruistic and forgiving, as well as feelings of gratitude and appreciation, are important parts of the state. Surrounding yourself with beauty of any kind can be important. Physical exercise can be a part of the state, whether it be yoga or meditation, walking in nature or a runner's high.  The Loving Kindness Meditation facilitates this state. Open your hearts to your animal friends, your pets and others around you like the song birds in the trees.  They live with open hearts unencumbered by the worries and stress problems of our human brains.  Look into their eyes of your pets and see their unconditional love reflected back to you. Spiritual or religious contemplation, reading, praying or participating in services, can also contribute to peak positive experiences in open hearted living.

 

Please don't just read this article. Cut it out and start to practice living from your heart.

 

As you've been reading this you perhaps have been wondering about the Stress Monster. The latest report is that he is living somewhere in a cave, hiding from the increasing numbers of people walking around with love and openness in their hearts. If we all travel in this direction, wouldn't the world be a better place?