I think a lot of people have learned to close their heart in order to protect themselves from all of the negative news in our world and from getting hurt in relationships. Closing our hearts certainly can be one way to cope with difficult and sad events. Putting up your walls of protection can keep you from a broken heart. The downside is that when you close your heart, you miss out on the joy and pleasure that you get from an open heart that allows you to connect with others in a deep and meaningful way. You aren't really living life to the fullest unless your heart is open.
If you find that you have closed your heart and put up walls around you, start by opening your heart a little at a time. This holiday season is a great time to start. Try opening your heart and giving love to those around you AND allow others to give love to you. It may feel scary at first. You may feel vulnerable and fear rejection, but give it a try anyway. The rewards are tremendous.
Pay attention to the feelings and sensations as you open your heart. Imagine sending love from your heart to your family, your neighbors, everyone in your city, then to the world. Then imagine receiving love from others in the same order. Practice this imagery daily. As you continue with this modified version of the Buddhist loving-kindness meditation, you might want to start focusing on people with whom you have conflict and send them love. As you get the hang of opening your heart, share your experiences with us by leaving a comment here.