Take heart. How to feel, give and receive more love

Heart-shaped tree in field

Ah, love, that most desirous and ruinous of human emotions. Fortunately this blog is not about the drama of romantic love (although that is relevant too) but love in a spiritual sense.

The heart chakra, located in the centre of the chest, is the energy centre that’s all about how we give and receive love – to all people, not just our partners, and to ourselves. 

People who have blockages in their heart chakra can be judgmental or they could be prone to jealousy. They might be unable to forgive someone or they might be grappling with grief.

As the fourth of the seven chakras, this is the meeting point of the energy centres that are associated with the physical world (the basesacral and solar plexus chakras) and the three chakras representing the spiritual world (more on each of those in future posts). To get a bit airy-fairy, it’s where heaven and earth meet. 

When the heart chakra is balanced, we’re compassionate, empathetic, forgiving, peaceful, loving and able to help others without depleting our own resources (i.e. we don’t overcommit). We’re also able to honour our feelings, crying when we need to, but also administer self-care when we need it – that’s everything from drawing ourselves a bubble bath to simply speaking kindly to ourselves. We’re also able to receive love easily – we don’t say ‘no’ to people when they offer to help and we don’t put up barriers when people who we like get close to us.

What I think is so significant about the heart chakra is that while the solar plexus was all about shame, this chakra’s enemy is grief. If you think about it, it is loss of any sort (not just bereavement) that makes the heart hurt. Because self-love is so strongly emphasised in this chakra, this loss might be to do with your attachment to ideas about what your life should look like or who you thought you should have become.

Repressed emotions really come to the fore in this chakra – particularly for people who suffered deep hurts in childhood such as a death in the family, bullying or abandonment by a parent.

Two hands forming heart shape

People with deficiencies in the heart chakra might be:

* anti-social

* lonely

* fearful of intimacy

* narcissistic

* judgmental (including racist, sexist, homophobic etc)

* lacking empathy

* unable to let go

* unable to forgive

* struggling to accept help from people

People with excessive energy in the heart chakra might be:

* co-dependent

* jealous

* demanding of their loved ones

* needing to be needed

* fearful of betrayal

Physically heart chakra blockages show up in heart problems (obviously), circulation issues, asthma and lung issues, low immunity, high or low blood pressure and tension between the shoulder blades. 

Any issues with the arms can be related, too – and when I’m clearing this chakra in a reiki session people often report tingling in their hands. That’s because this chakra is all about touch – and that’s a key way we show love to people, right?  

To clear blockages in the heart chakra, forgiveness is the key (read my post about that here).

· Another suggestion I’ve heard is to try and go a week without criticising anyone, which will really help you examine how accepting you are.

· Remember that love is about giving AND receiving, so look at how you can increase the amount of love you’re giving out – that’s anything from smiling at people regularly to giving compliments and donating to people in need.

· If you’re into yoga, back bends, bridges and the wheel pose are great for targeting this chakra – and yoga also helps you to sit in the present moment, which is beneficial for your energy field as a whole.

I'm very sorry for your loss. How can I help?

The letters H O P E in outstretched hands
In February I wrote a letter to a Canadian woman I had never met. I had seen an appeal on social media by the woman’s daughter asking people around the world to send letters of hope and well wishes to her mother who was nearing the end of her struggle with pancreatic cancer. Because I do volunteer work at rest homes I have seen how much a simple handwritten letter means to people who are suffering and feeling alone, so I put pen to paper.

Sadly, a fortnight ago I found a message in my ‘other’ inbox on Facebook (which I seldom check) from this lovely woman’s daughter, letting me know her mother had passed away the day before my letter arrived. She attached a photo of a wall (see below) covered with letters from around the world, and said that it had brought her some comfort to know that so many people cared so much.

Once I got over my annoyance that it had taken me three days to post my letter (!) I realised that a beautiful thing had happened in this Ontario town. In a time of immense pain, this lady was able to derive a small measure of peace from small but powerful acts of kindness by complete strangers. It was a heartwarming thing to bear witness to, as well as to have participated in, in a very tiny way. Of course, no wall of letters can protect her from the unrelenting ferocity of grief but perhaps this visible reminder of the power of hope can provide fleeting moments of shelter.

This got me thinking about the ways we can help people as they grieve. I’m not talking about strangers here, I’m talking about the people we care about. It’s heart-wrenching watching someone dear to you in absolute agony over the loss of someone dear to them. What do you say? It’s hard not to fall into well-meaning but ultimately useless clichés: “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”; “Call me if you ever want to talk”; or the woefully inadequate: “time heals all wounds…” It’s so difficult to know what you can do that will actually help.

There are Cheryl Strayed quotes for these situations, as there are for every emotional quandary. A man wrote to Cheryl (aka ‘Dear Sugar’) asking for advice on how to support his partner as she grieved the death of her mother. Nothing he did seemed to help, he wrote, and it was tearing him to pieces seeing her in so much pain. Cheryl’s response explained that we have a tendency to want to rush in and offer advice or practical solutions when someone we care about is suffering. But what counts, she says, is not *how* we show up for that person, it’s simply that we *do* show up for them, again and again and again. We keep in contact. We let them cry. We listen. What comes from our heart is more important than what comes from our mouth. Anyway, thats what I took from Cheryls response. Heres what she actually wrote: “It feels lame because we like to think we can solve things. It feels insufficient because there is nothing we can actually do to change what’s horribly true. But compassion isn’t about solutions. It’s about giving all the love that you’ve got.”

Yes, it is. Thanks, Cheryl.
The 'letter wall'.

PS: On a lighter note, I got chocolate smeared all over my keyboard in the process of writing this post. Totally worth it. Happy Easter, everyone.