Many of us find ourselves desiring more authentic connections while realizing that satisfying relationships are elusive. Why? Because relationships involve far more than basic interactional skills.
If we can expand our awareness to see that we are not alone, attention is brought to our heart, which is the center of inner truth and courage. The heart’s specialty is the expression and receptivity of tenderness, compassion, generosity, authenticity, and love without conditions.
Exploring the four stages of heart consciousness invites us to engage in life with open-hearted presence.
As you read on, notice how your own heart is affected. It might help to place the tip of your finger or your whole hand in the center of your chest.
We are most familiar with this stage, yet we may not be fully aware when we are experiencing it. This is where we feel defensive and reactive, unable to differentiate between our emotions and ourselves. We use a wide range of self-protection strategies, everything from being overly sentimental to cold and cut off. All are attempts to reduce pain, but they also reduce joy and meaningful connection with others.
In this stage, we shift from reacting to observing the sensations in our heart. Through this practice, we begin to recognize and allow the feelings that arise, while also learning that these experiences do not fundamentally define who we are.
This doesn’t always feel good. Part of what our heart feels is sadness, pain, discomfort, and disappointment. We practice being with all that comes up with an attitude of kind attentiveness.
It takes courage to feel and listen to the sensations in our heart. This can be overwhelming, and the desire to shift straight back to the defended heart may come up. When we have the capacity to stay with what comes up, we have access to a type of inner knowing, based on our heart’s intelligence, that feels like an unshakeable truth.
Many spiritual traditions refer to a liberated, freed, open heart. This stage does not include egoic distortions that try to force connections or place conditions on how we love or receive love. Instead, we are at the intersection of giving and receiving, all at once.
As our heart gains more prominence in our consciousness, it becomes evident that we can create the conditions for and participate in the evolution of our hearts. Wherever you are in this heart journey is exactly where you are meant to be in this moment.
We invite you to our upcoming Deep Living Retreat on April 27-29, 2023 where we’ll be exploring these Four Stages of Heart Consciousness.
Adapted from Roxanne Howe-Murphy, EdD, The Dynamism of Life: Essentials of EnneaCrossings™, unpublished manuscript in progress, 2022