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Seven Senses

3 Tips to Open the Heart Chakra

The medicinal power of self-love

by Erica Matluck

May 15, 2019


There are over 700,000 heart attacks a year in the US, making cardiovascular disease the leading cause of death. Conventional medicine puts a great deal of effort toward preventing heart disease, yet our nation continues to die of heartbreak — literally. Managing risk factors such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes and obesity can be very effective, yet there is an additional dimension to the heart that requires an entirely different kind of support.

When the great poet Rumi wrote “you have to keep breaking your heart until it opens,” he was not talking about the physical organ. He was talking about an emotional experience that many of us are familiar with. Emotional heartbreak can cause great pain and suffering, but through it our experience of love evolves. With each heartbreak, we learn how to give and receive love more fully.

If you are not sure what I’m talking about, take a moment to think about your relationship with your first love and then reflect on a more current, loving relationship. Hasn’t the way you love changed?  

After we experience heartbreak, it is common to respond with fear and trepidation about loving again. However, as the pain heals, the heart regains its strength and opens once again. This cycle of heartbreak and healing continues until the heart completely and fearlessly opens.

An open heart can give and receive love without any limitations.

This phenomenon is a process of the subtle, energetic body as opposed to the physical one.

My previous Seven Senses columns describe how the subtle body (the energetic part of ourselves that can be felt but not unseen) follows a developmental path, beginning with the root chakra, the foundation for safety and survival. It continues through the sacral chakra, epicenter of emotional well-being and feelings, and the solar plexus chakra, which houses our belief systems that contribute to our sense of self worth. It is not until the foundation of the lower three chakras is solid that we can truly experience self-love, an essential ingredient to an open heart.

To love others is not enough to open the heart chakra. It requires the cultivation of bold self-love, as well as the ability to receive it. We are not dying of heartbreak because we do not know how to love one another. We are dying of heartbreak because we do not love ourselves! And most of us are cloaked in too much armor to receive love.

Until self-love has been generated and sustained, unconditional love cannot be shared and received. This is the work of the heart chakra; it is a well of compassion capable of dissolving any and all suffering. Just as the physical heart creates an electrical impulse that can be measured several feet from the body, compassion can extend far beyond visible boundaries, and is capable of reaching all beings everywhere.

The heart chakra develops between age 21-28, when most of us are exploring romantic relationships. It is a time when we are forced to face the painful wound of rejection, which occurs when we courageously reveal our romantic feelings toward another and find that those feelings are not reciprocated. If we feel unlovable in the eyes of others, how can we fully love ourselves?

Though there is a tendency to associate love with romantic relationships, the work of the heart chakra extends far beyond romance. Romance simply provides the conditions that require the level of vulnerability and courage necessary to keep breaking the heart until it opens. It is through healing the wound of rejection that we open the heart.

It is through healing the wound of rejection that we open the heart.

Here are 3 practices to open the heart chakra:

1. Write yourself a love letter.
Read it aloud to yourself in the mirror. If it feels uncomfortable, read it to yourself every day until it no longer feels uncomfortable. When you feel ready (which may take months or even years), share it with a friend.

2. Try a daily loving-kindness practice.

Close your eyes and visualize yourself standing in front of yourself. Wish yourself the following:

May I feel safe.
May I be healthy.
May I be joyful.
May I know love.

Next visualize someone in your life whom you love or appreciate. Wish them the same phrases of loving-kindness.

May he/she feel safe.
May he/she be healthy.
May he/she be joyful.
May he/she know love.

Next visualize someone in your life whom you have conflict with or someone whom you find challenging. Wish them the same.

May he/she feel safe.
May he/she be healthy.
May he/she be joyful.
May he/she know love.

3. Make a list of all the things about yourself you don’t love — you can list behaviors, qualities or physical characteristics. Positively reframe each thing on the list to identify something you love about yourself.

Behavior: I’m always late.
Gift: I love that I’m so laid back about time that I lose track of it altogether.

Seven Senses is a monthly column where Erica Matluck, ND, NP shares insights from the Seven Senses philosophy of health. Her holistic approach draws from eastern philosophy and western medicine, and emphasizes the relationship between the physical and subtle bodies. The framework applies a unique understanding of the chakra system to gain a deeper understanding of health and illness.