Opening the heart is extraordinary. In fact, it’s amazing. I don’t mean open-heart surgery, which is incredible, too, but the opening of the subtle heart which gives rise to joy.
Joy is a deeper feeling of happiness, one that really springs from the heart and it arises when the inner heart centres start to open. If we do things that result in joy, it means that at an energy level the centres have started to change. These centres are said to be very much like flowers in the sense that they radiate from the middle outwards and can close or open rather like the petals of a flower. So joy arises when the energy in the inner heart begins to radiate or, to put it more poetically, as the petals of the heart flower start to open. Sometimes this flower is described as a lotus in bud which gradually opens as we become more loving and compassionate in nature.
Opening the heart as habit
If we want to experience joy, or experience it more deeply, we have to allow or encourage openness of heart so that there is an outward movement of energy. From time to time, events in life will trigger responses in us that cause the outward flow of energy to retract. This is rather like the shadow from a cloud passing across the face of the sun that can cause some types of flower to close their petals. This happens and will always happen – it’s human life. But we can live life in such a way that the general trend is for the heart to be increasingly more open so that life becomes increasingly joyful.
The positive effect on well-being and health
The key to these energy changes is to work from the inside outwards. The more subtle the energy we work with, the greater the effects. As joyfulness and happiness are states of mind, they have a direct bearing on our vitality and on our sense of well-being.
Joy and happiness are experienced when the mind is in a more natural state, unclouded by negative conditioning. The perception of life and everything around us is different. The beauty of a flower, for example, can deeply affect us when the mind is clear. Dewdrops in the morning sun can appear like diamonds iridescent with penetrating colours. A simple act of kindness can change how we view someone. All manner of things can happen and, when they do, there is a response in the heart centre. Joy, warmth and gladness can be felt here and that response triggers, at a physical level, biochemical reactions in the body and brain. A greater sense of well-being is experienced – we feel good, there is less stress and the immune system is stronger.
A heightened sense of awareness
So many people have told me over the years how, as they have felt increasingly better within themselves, their appreciation and awareness of life have improved significantly. This is not just a change in intellectual functioning but something else goes on. As the more subtle energies improve, the knock-on effect in the physical body is not just one of health and well-being. The level of chi or prana, the vital energy that governs health and the whole functioning of the body, is improved and that has a direct bearing on the nervous system. This isn’t rocket science – if we are in a room full of stale air, for example, we will feel dull until we can revitalise ourselves with some fresh air and exercise; and as that dullness is overtaken by freshness, our senses become more alert.
Joyousness has a similar effect. As we become happier, not only does our energy improve but our sense faculties become sharper as well. Colours appear more vibrant; we will hear, perhaps, more subtle nuances of sound and our senses of taste and smell may pick up different flavours and fragrances. It is not uncommon for people to change their eating habits to different types of food as increasing sense appreciation and awareness unfold.
These are just examples but the important thing is that our awareness and our senses inform the mind, so a cycle of improvement takes place. The joyful heart heightens perception and heightened perception helps to create the conditions for happiness and joy. Life becomes fuller and richer. When increasing richness to life isn’t present, it means that there are barriers and we’ll have a look at the reasons for those next.
Adapted from Chapter 3 of The Great Little Book of Happiness
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