New Year, Open Heart

I never liked New Year's Resolutions.  I always associated them with crowded gyms for the first few weeks in January, and declarations that this would be the year to get rid of 10 or 20 pounds. From my point of view, they always ended in broken promises.  

Then came 2014.  I decided to make an intention for my practice that would last the whole year.  It was the year that I would concentrate on peeling away the layers of protection that I had built around my heart, and what an amazing journey it has been.

 Some people think they like their layers of protection.  I know that I did.  Mine was somewhat like a castle wall, complete with a moat.  If this sounds familiar, I would like to encourage you to consider the journey during 2015.  Consider these benefits that I have experienced, and find a few for yourself.

  1. Learn to love yourself - I had always been a more harsh judge of myself than of others.  It is great to work hard, but if you can't really love yourself, you'll never be able to fully love others.  Love yourself - you deserve it!
  2. Build old relationships in a new way -  I knew the journey was really taking me somewhere when I met my brother while on vacation.  I believe it was the first time we exchanged a non awkward hug, EVER!  What a great day I was able to share with him & his beautiful family.
  3. Ask for what you really want - This one probably comes from loving yourself.  I have gained a new yoga schedule that works so much better for me, vacation days around Christmas, and attended classes that I would have otherwise avoided for really no reason.  You don't have to always deprive yourself.
  4. Build new friendships and relationships - Without an open heart, it was pretty challenging to make new friends or support existing relationships.  Learning to open my heart has taught me to reach out to others.  It may be a daytrip with a new friend, or someone to chat with in yoga class.  Friendships and positive community experiences lower stress and improves life!
  5. Feel a new energy in your body - I measure the energy in people's hearts every day at the hospital, but I'm only now discovering that it is something that you can feel.  The wall (or protective layers) may be the feeling of stress or a tightness or heaviness in your chest.  You may be so used to it that it feels normal.  When you open your heart, you can start by feeling a lightness and relaxation of the muscles of your chest.  Eventually you may be able to feel a positive energy emitting from your chest.
  6. Actully enjoy hugs - Who knew, hugs can actually make you feel better.  I have quite literally spent a lifetime learning to guard myself.  When someone reached out to hug me (other than my husband), it was at best a challenging situation.  I would hold my breath, stiffen up, create as much distance as possible, pat their back (I just became aware of that one last month), and wait for it to be over.  I'm so glad that I'm getting beyond that point now.  It was great to really experience joy and a genuine hug when an injured yoga student returned to the studio after several months recovering from surgery.
  7. Less room for criticizm - Facing the world with an open heart leaves less room for a critical or negative nature.  This will open up your entire experience of daily life! 
  8. Higher sense of gratitude - Leaving my wall behind, I have been able to experience so much joy and gratitude that I would have missed.  The little things that my husband does for me, my teachers, my grandmother, and even my father.  When you open your heart, you can take time to appreciate the positive experiences in your life.  It takes away judgement, and leaves you with love and gratitude.
  9. Greater ability to give back - With an open heart, you may be able to see what others need in a different way.  You'll have a higher capacity to give to those who need support, and you'll appreciate all of the amazing things that others are doing in the community.
  10. New experience in meditation - The true experience of peace in meditation is much easier to access.  Even just a few quiet moments can make a big difference.
  11. Improved relationships - I can imagine that it is honestly very exhausting attempting to love someone who is always very guarded.  Much thanks to my husband for the amazing 23 years that we have spent together.  I would like to thank my son.  Motherhood has taught me so much!  I would also like to thank my yoga teachers and their teachers.  What an inspiration that all of you have been.
  12. The rest is up to you to discover - Every person has a unique experience.  You may discover some or all of these to be true for you.

Let go of the traditional New Year's Resolution, and replace it with an intention for 2015.  Consider an open heart, but maybe there is something else that speaks to you.  Whatever it is, own it.  2014 was the year of heart opening for me, and I'm still practicing, but have experienced some amazing results.  I am a better mother, wife, student, teacher, and friend.

If you see me and have read this, come over and give me a hug :)

Namaste - Beth