Guest Writer for Wake Up World
“Love is misunderstood to be an emotion; actually, it is a state of awareness, how we see ourselves and how we see our relationships with others” ~ David R. Hawkins
When we speak of love, we often speak of the heart. We say we are heart-broken or that our hearts have been wounded. We say that our heart was stolen or captured. We claim to have given our heart away. We say that she wears her heart on her sleeve. We tell him to put his heart into it. We give the heart characteristics like light or dark, soft or hardened, big or small.
We do not make these comparisons simply to sound poetic. Our heart-centred expressions are actually metaphors for our feelings. When we feel intense emotions, we often feel them in our chests. Our hearts beat faster and our cheeks flush. Everything from shame to undying affection appears to hit us straight in the heart. For this reason, people often speak of opening their hearts to love. In a relationship, they’ll symbolically offer each other their hearts. This sort of gift represents devotion and commitment. To give your heart to someone appears to be the highest privilege that you can bestow upon a person.
While talk of the heart whispers of romance, it is largely inaccurate. Obviously, you cannot literally give someone your heart, nor can you open it. That would mean death. However, you can’t do it symbolically or metaphorically either. If the heart represents your emotions, you can’t give someone your emotions. Nor can you promise anyone that you will continue to feel the same emotions in five years. That would be as ludicrous as saying that you’ll always enjoy your friend’s cooking, regardless of what dish she makes or which ingredients she uses. You could predict your enjoyment, but you could never promise it with certainty. You may think you can, but your taste buds will not follow your orders so easily. Your emotions, like your tastes, are not under your conscious control.
You already know that you can’t make yourself feel what you want to feel by trying to force your emotions. Perhaps you’ve tried, over and over, to make yourself feel happy, but the miserable thoughts sunk their teeth into every tiny glimmer of hope. You’ve tried to make yourself feel peaceful, telling yourself to let go, to no avail. No matter how much you tried to feel calm and relaxed, your stubborn heart followed only the directions of your anxious thoughts. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in front of someone who was generous and kind to you. You then tried to make yourself feel passionate for them, but this did nothing. No matter how much you tried to rouse your feelings, they did not come. Or maybe you’ve found yourself in front of a crowd or an object of affection and, no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t make yourself feel cool, confident, or light-hearted. You couldn’t feel like a winner, while thinking yourself a failure.
As well as not being able to force your emotions, you cannot suppress them either. For example, you’ve been in love with a person you didn’t want to be in love with. Your heart beat quickly for him or her, but you could no more slow your heart than you could rip it out of your chest. Maybe you’ve been stuck in situations where you felt rejection, embarrassment, or shame. In these situations, especially those that have happened in public, you’ve tried to silence those feelings, but your heart persisted. The sickly waves of disgrace poured out of the centre of your chest and into every muscle in your body. You couldn’t stop it from happening once it started. You know because you, like me, have tried. Perhaps you’ve been angry at someone who you know didn’t mean to anger you. Though you tried your hardest, you just couldn’t remove that rage. Then, there were those moments when your heart filled with doom and your muscles screamed for self-destruction. In those moments of helplessness and self-pity, the heart won’t be told to stop. You, like everyone else, cannot control your heart.
You are like a tree. Your emotions are like the fruits on this tree. You cannot summon them into being, nor keep them from flourishing simply by doing something to the fruits themselves. The difference between rotten apples and sweet apples cannot be made by altering the apples. In order to change the quality of the fruit, you must change the way that you care for the rest of the tree. The fruit will change accordingly, as a by-product. A tree that is fed sunlight and water regularly will be solid, healthy, and flowing with nutrients. Thus, it will produce sweet and supple fruit. Likewise, a person who is open to love will naturally feel positive, loving emotions. This happens naturally and predictably.
An ‘open heart’ is a metaphor for the feeling of receiving sustenance. Opening the heart, however, is not done through the heart. The heart is a muscle. Like other muscles, it changes only when you do other things. The muscles on your body get bigger when you exercise and smaller when you don’t. The heart is the same with love. Your heart gives you pleasant emotions when you’re open to love and unpleasant ones when you are not. Your body works like this as well. Your muscles look great when you engage in fitness regularly; this is your body’s way of telling you that you’re doing something good and you should continue. Likewise, your heart feels great when you’re open to love. These are adaptive mechanisms that link the fulfilment of the potential of your mind, body, and spirit with positive bodily experiences. This sort of linkage makes it more rewarding for us to do things that are good for us. Remember, however, that the muscles are only by-products. The heart is simply a signal mechanism that is not under our conscious control. In order to sway the heart, to open it to love, we must look elsewhere.
If we want to feed a tree the nutrients it requires, we must feed those parts of it that accept nutrients. If we pour water onto the trunk or we cover up the leaves from sunlight, only allowing the rays to hit the ground, this will not make a plant healthy. We must feed life energy into the places where it can be absorbed. On a tree, water first comes in through the roots and sunlight first comes in through the leaves. In a human being, love first comes in through the mind.
‘The Love Mindset’ Giveaway!
This article is an excerpt from Vironika Tugaleva’s latest book, The Love Mindset: an Unconventional Guide to Healing and Happiness, which she selected especially for Wake Up World.
Released in paperback and kindle editions in December 2013, The Love Mindset is a book for “the part of you that’s dying to discover that you’re not broken, people are wonderful after all, life is beautiful, and every moment can be an exciting burst of magic.”
Coming out of a decade-long mental health crisis, Vironika Tugaleva’s spiritual awakening transformed her into one of today’s youngest spiritual teachers. What she has to say in this important and timely book isn’t fanciful fluff or indoctrinating dogma. Her inspiring approach to spirituality is unconventional, deep, and refreshingly real.
Vironika believes the reason so many of us are suffering is because we’re deprived of love. The reason that we continue to suffer is because we don’t know what love is, how to get it, or how to make it last.
In our dark age of broken relationships, mental health problems, low self-esteem, violence, and isolating fear, The Love Mindset offers a surprisingly simple look at how we can manifest lifelong love, peace of mind, and enduring happiness in our lives.
Updated September 2014
About the author:
Vironika Tugaleva is an author, speaker, reformed cynic, people lover, and a different kind of spiritual teacher. Her understanding of life and love did not come from any university, organization, or church; it flowered out of her recovery from a decade-long struggle with abuse, addiction, and self-loathing. After a mental breakdown at the age of 23, at the bottom of a deep, dark hole, she found the true meaning of Love. Today, she teaches ways to transform our minds, our relationships, and the world by simply changing the way that we think about ourselves.