Live Life With HEART

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the purpose of life is spiritual growth and learning about loving; that our mission is to co-create a world with more love and compassion in it, to establish a norm of love in all our interactions, starting with ourselves.


In yoga there is a great deal of emphasis on opening our hearts. Back bending postures are the most effective way to accomplish this. Through our practice of asana on the mat we learn the technology of back bending and keep our bodies safe by following certain principles of alignment. We learn the importance of engaging muscle strength to balance our stretching efforts to protect ourselves from injury. As challenging as remaining safe in heart opening back bends can be on the mat, I think keeping our hearts open and safe is an even greater challenge off the mat.

In order to approach life with an open heart we need to feel psychologically and emotionally safe. Vulnerability without safety leads to injury. The heart’s built-in intelligence causes it to contract and protect itself if it does not feel safe. So how do we create emotional and psychological safety as we invite our hearts to remain open, even in the face of great challenge–including heartbreak? In order to feel safe enough to remain open-hearted off the yoga mat we need to create an internally safe environment by practicing principles of alignment that keep us emotionally and psychologically safe.

What comes to mind is a book I used when I taught executives at the University of Michigan Business School called “Managing From the Heart” by Bracey, Rosenblum, Sanford, and Trueblood. It tells the story of Harry, a financially successful businessman, who is more concerned about the bottom line of his company than he is about treating his employees with care and respect. He suffers a heart attack and in the liminal state between life and death is instructed by an angel to follow five principles of caring for and about others. If he agrees to follow these principles he will be given a second chance at life. Though skeptical and somewhat resistant, Harry accepts the challenge in order to gain that second chance. Once he accepts the challenge, he regains consciousness and even before he leaves the hospital begins to practice these five principles of love and caring that become the norm in his interactions with others.

Hear and understand me.

Even if you disagree with me, please don’t make me wrong.

Acknowledge the greatness within me.

Remember to look for my loving intentions.

Tell me the truth with compassion.

In the story Harry applied these five principles effectively in his interactions with his employees to create a more emotionally and psychologically safe, caring, and loving work environment. But these are also principles you can use when you relate to yourself.  Just imagine how life might change for you and those around you if you applied these five principles of emotional and psychological safety to your own internal dialogue … if you managed yourself from your heart.

Hear and understand me.

Just as others need to feel heard and understood, you need to feel heard and understood, too. It starts with you. When you listen to yourself with an attitude of understanding you hear yourself more clearly, are more likely to take actions that serve you well, and are more likely to feel understood and listened to by others.

Even if you disagree with me please don’t make me wrong.

No one likes to be invalidated or have his or her worth questioned, which is what happens when you criticize someone for being wrong. They usually become defensive and communication stops. The same thing happens when you treat yourself this way. How often do you get into arguments with yourself about what you’re thinking, feeling, doing? What kind of inner turmoil do you think you create for yourself when you disagree with yourself and tell yourself how wrong you are? Notice when you do this how you shut down.  What if instead of habitually criticizing yourself you contemplated the possibility that  “I’m not doing anything wrong”?

Acknowledge the greatness within me.

Everyone has the potential to grow.  We tend to respond positively to people who address our potential greatness. When you acknowledge your own potential for growth and greatness, you become your own cheerleader, your own safe place to land, and you enhance your capacity for growth and greatness.

Remember to look for my loving intentions.

Give yourself the benefit of the doubt that your intention is to make things better. This even applies when you make a mistake. When you make mistakes or come up with an idea that others may not fully understand or appreciate, are you willing to give yourself the benefit of the doubt and trust that your intention is really to make things better?

Tell yourself the truth with compassion.

Are you caring and respectful when you talk to yourself? Do you apply the principles of right speech to your internal dialogue about yourself? Before shaming, blaming, or criticizing yourself, do you ask yourself these three questions: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?  If the answer to any of these three questions is no, why tell yourself these things at all?  Change the internal dialogue.

Give yourself a second chance at life. Make a commitment to become an emotionally and psychologically safe person. Apply these principles to yourself first and applying them to others will become second nature. When you live your life with HEART you’ll like yourself a lot more and others will like you more, too.


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2 responses to “Live Life With HEART

  1. Will surely recommend this site to some friends! Very interesting site and articles. Really thankful for sharing. Regards,

  2. Jason Parker Johnson

    Brilliant. You are a master at communicating the meaning and importance of the fine lines and nuances in major life concepts. You communicate balance in such an effective way and make it easier to see and understand “how things work.”. Love the HEART acronym.

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