I read recently the biggest obstacle to your health isn’t your diet, but your mind. Stress related diseases such as heart disease, depression and anxiety, obesity, diabetes, headaches, and accelerated aging can be addressed with many simple life-style changes, i.e, healthier diet and exercise, both of which are necessary for a better and healthier you, but are those lifestyle changes really that long-term without linking them to and with an open heart? Have you ever allowed the mind to wonder so much and web story after story that that the you a few minutes ago who was peaceful and centered now has become a giant stress ball fuming with anger over stories your mind has created, but perhaps aren’t really reality at all? Yes, haven’t we all.
Sometimes you have to step out of the box to grow, to see life with a little more clarity. Through yoga and meditation one can learn to quiet the mind and cultivate an open heart. As one begins to practice yoga and meditation consistently, you will find a rebirth process happening, where layers and layers of conditioned thinking (peeling back the layers of the ego), feeling, and seeing the world get turned upside down and new perspectives open up, compassion develops in a very real and meaningful way, and with compassion comes humility and forgiveness. These virtues are the underpinnings of living life with an open heart, where boundless love becomes life’s greatest guide post.
Boundless love doesn’t mean we tolerate sloth, abuse, or any form of negative behavior from our fellow brothers and sisters, but we do cultivate patience, tolerance, fearless compassion, and humility to allow love to touch not only those that are easy to love, but those that refuse our love as well (i.e. the enemy). Your smile, your tolerance, your patience, your loving-kindness just might be the bit of light that your enemy needed to see life from a new perspective and instead of being that person in her car on a “road rage” blast, she is now at ease, peaceful, and driving safely for herself and others. It is easy to love our friends and family with an open heart, but quite the challenge to love and be compassionate to those that have hate in their hearts.
Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, wrote an article entitled Cultivating an Open Heart. In the article he states that hatred is more damaging to the person doing the action than the person receiving the negative behavior. He gives the example of a neighbor that hates you and always tries to cause you distress. If you allow the neighbor’s hatred towards you to cause you distress, you invite him to affect your health in a debilitating chain reaction – physically and mentally – i.e., -the neighbor’s hateful ways will cause you to lose sleep, then you will have to take tranquilizers to sleep, which harm the body, this affects your mood and your friends won’t want to come around much, the anger you harbor constricts your blood vessels, etc. If you allow your neighbor to affect your emotional and mental state this way, he will have harmed you without really doing anything to you at all! The Dalai Lama further explains that if you treat this particular situation with patience, tolerance and an open heart you will keep your heart and mind healthy, your friendships will grow strong, you will become successful at your endeavors in a positive way. In this way, you are “harming” your neighbor in the most positive way possible, and you keep your health intact. The Dalai Lama finishes the article by saying, “your enemy becomes your Guru, your teacher” because we have very few opportunities to cultivate an open heart, patience and tolerance with people we love and who love us in return. So in closing the Dalai Lama sees the neighbor situation as a blessing.
Your neighbor may keep trying to cause you harm, but in time, if you continue your journey as suggested by the Dalai Lama, you will elevate yourself to a higher spiritual plane and experience peace, health, and happiness, and the neighbor may even eventually join you in that journey. Our “enemies” in life are our greatest spiritual teachers. They test, push, and guide us to a higher consciousness. I am grateful for the “enemies” in my life. They have taught me about the virtues of life in ways no one else could.
To cultivate an open heart, I suggest carving out time each and every morning to rise early and spend some time breathing/meditating/praying and connecting with your higher Self and the Divine. Set your intention for the day and once you adopt this as your daily practice, you will see how this small change in your daily routine can open up spaces in your heart to see the world in a different and positive way.
Hate and destructive anger are always signs to me that the person exhibiting those qualities are crying out for help and love. Learn to cultivate an open heart for long-lasting health for the whole you. And, then pay it forward folks not just to your friends, but your enemies and strangers as well, because they need you too.
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea