If you had an open heart, what would you do with it?

If you had an open heart, what would you do with it?

When I talk about opening the heart, what exactly do we do? Well, one thing you do is acknowledge that you feel closed. That’s the first thing. You don’t make believe you’re open hearted, which most people do much of the time, when they are actually a little more aloof than they’re feeling themselves to be. They always feel a little hypocritical.

First thing is to acknowledge what you’re feeling. I’ll tell you there are numerous practices for doing this, and you have to find one that’s comfortable for you. For example, I work a lot with my breath, and I breathe in and out of my heart, and when I’m breathing out in my heart, I allow whatever love I can muster for anything to be offered to people, to beings around me, and when I’m breathing in, I’m taking the existence of the universe into myself. I keep feeling this breath going back and forth and the breathing out is, ‘may all beings be free of suffering, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be happy.’

I’m just saying to myself that no matter how hard-hearted or closed hearted I am, I am going to use my energies to the extent that my mind and my heart can do it for the benefit of others. I’m gonna wish them well, and I start out very uptight, you know, so I start out and then I watch.


I’ve watched it work on people, and it’s quite extraordinary. I’ve watched the process of looking at another person; the way I do it all the time, and looking beyond my reactivity to their individual differences to see a fellow soul in there. I feel my heart does a very different thing with a fellow soul than it does with a woman or man or achiever or judging mind; my protective stance. I see a fellow soul, “You here?” I’m here. They don’t have to tell you they are there because you just see it.

So I practice turning my receptor to tune to that in other people. So I’ll sit on a bus, and I’ll look at all the people on the bus, and I’ll just feel, ‘These are all souls that have taken birth, that are going through that,’ and I see in the faces and in the way they are so much information about who they think they are, what they’re going through, and the quality of compassion awakens in me.

It’s the question of awakening the feelings of compassion towards others. That’s a big chunk of the opening of the heart. It doesn’t have to be lovey-dovey romantic love, it can just be a feeling of ‘Ahhhhh.’ The quality of it. So I practice it, and sometimes I start with visualizations and I imagine somebody I love or something I love, like my cat, and I just feel this wave of love for the cat, and just appreciation.

The cat doesn’t give a shit about me, but assuming the cat really loves me, and you know, especially at meal time, and I feel this incredible love for the cat. Then I keep shifting my consciousness to different beings, and I find certain ones come in, and my mind does a little ‘whiiiir’ and then I start to open, and see that soul and what they’re going through this lifetime, and I just keep open. It’s like you’re just practicing, you’re practicing and you’re not demanding that your heart be open. You’re just open, and you’re just practicing caring, and compassion, and the quality of ‘if you had an open heart, this is what you wish you’d be doing with it.’

-Ram Dass

 Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart

by Ram Dass

In Polishing the Mirror, Ram Dass gathers together his essential teachings for living in the eternal present, here and now.
Celebrating Solitude
Channeling Excellence

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