What Does It Mean to Have an “Open Heart”?

by Paul Zweig

One time my Sensory Awareness Teacher, Charlotte Selver, saw something in me that she didn’t like, and said to me “Your heart is closed”. I assured her that I was still the same warm compassionate person I had always been, but she insisted that my heart was closed. As we discussed it further, it became clear to me that she defined a closed heart as not being whole-heartedly and continuously present. I was saving my presence for the “big important things”. I wasn’t being vibrantly responsive every moment, with every cell (i.e. open-hearted). She saw in me a lack of devotion to being aware and accepting the every day simple happenings in life. Developing this devotion may be at the very core of living a spiritual life. Without this devotion of open-heartedness, it is difficult for an individual to respond authentically to the problems and happenings of each day and to be nourished by these happenings.

At People House we believe that the answers to our problems are within us—that the best way to know how to respond to any situation is to search for the inner wisdom we might call God, Allah, Great Spirit, Divine Presence, Universe Higher Self, etc. When we have problems, we meditate or look inward (reflect, meditate, sense or pray) but might still feel that something is missing, and the message doesn’t come through. I want to suggest that when the message doesn’t come through, it may be that we are not sufficiently “open hearted”, that we are not wholeheartedly present and giving to each moment.

The open hearted state is one of putting “our small selves” aside in order to allow the relating and aware heart, which is in every one of our cells, to manifest. It is this open-hearted state that allows us to be appropriately responsive to the ups and downs of living and be simultaneously nourished by them. We must allow the natural tendency to be present to manifest. And, when we forget, to keep gently coming back. This is qualitatively different from trying to be famous, rich, beautiful, right, peaceful etc. It is effortless and has nothing to do with thinking. It requires a commitment, a devotion to paying as much attention to the unimportant things as to the important ones.

These are difficult times. Many of us are concerned with our personal growth and want to take care of ourselves and grow without becoming overly self-involved. We have concerns about our families and communities and, now more then ever, many of us are concerned with the political climate in our country. We wonder how we can be active citizens working for change and still support the country we love. The answer is to continuously strive for the open-hearted state. Thus, we cultivate an attitude of inner quiet; we renew the ability to accept what has already happened and respond as a compassionate, whole person. I don’t mean loving everybody and accepting things to the point of inactivity. I am not talking about perfection. We can probably never know the absolute truth, but we can always strive to create beauty in ourselves and the world around us through the openhearted state.

Paul Zweig is President of the Board of Directors at People House and can be contacted at 303-758-3866

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth