Opening our heart to all living beings

By | Compassion, Happiness, Loving Kindness

Open heart person loves everyone

Learning to be a more open hearted person is probably something all of us aspire to. Not only does it make us feel relaxed and happy, it means we’re always available to connect with other living beings in meaningful ways. How wonderful would it be if we could be totally present whenever another living being needed help? We would quickly become a friend of the world, positively influencing everyone we met

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of keeping an open heart. As mentioned in the last article, I’m currently visiting Morocco and it’s a real mix of people here. In general I would say the people are beautiful and kind. But at the same time there are also many opportunists and those whose motivations appear not to be entirely pure

All of this has made me super-aware of how important it is to stay open. To everyone. If I don’t then I’ll potentially miss out on connecting with someone truly kind-hearted. One example was a baker who gave me and my companion free treats. We only had a large note and he said he was happy to give them to us, that we were his brothers. Aaaawwww

In fact I’d say it’s important for all of us to try and stay open, wherever we may be. If we allow ourself to be closed off to other living beings by not keeping our mind present and positive, we will inevitably miss out on many meaningful opportunities. And we may not even notice that another being actually needs our help which, for me anyway, would most certainly be a great loss

Being present helps us feel more connected

Staying present helps us to be an open hearted person

Being present depends on being able to generate and maintain a light-hearted attitude. If we’re able to remain light and happy, then it’s much less likely our mind will will get lost in a myriad of distracting stories

As soon as we start focusing on something negative, whether something that happened in the past or something we’re projecting into the future, we are no longer present. We are caught in the day-dreams of ordinary life, which only cause to increase our distraction and tendency to feel unhappy

For me, I wonder how will I ever be able to connect with or benefit anyone when my mind is in this state? And maybe it’s the same for you. What if someone needed our help? How likely are we even to be aware of their predicament when our mind is uncontrolled, wandering here and there?

And then even if we do become aware, how likely is it that we will be able to respond in truly positive and helpful ways? It’s for these reasons that it’s important for us to be mindful to apply a light and joyful effort to be present. Because it’s only by being in the moment that we will be able to deeply connect with others and therefore truly benefit them

Then, whenever we notice they are suffering or need our help, we’ll be ready and able to reach out. Or if that’s not appropriate based on the circumstances, then at the very least we can generate a mind of love wishing them to be happy

Whenever we notice our mind has wandered to distraction or whenever we feel negative, all we need to do is bring to mind the love we have for others and we’ll once again feel more present and at peace. Building on our experience of love, we can recognise and understand the relationship it has with the immensely powerful mid of compassion

Because love is the foundation of compassion, if in dependence on that love we observe the suffering of living beings, this mind of compassion will naturally arise. This in turn, will spontaneously give rise to the wish to help them in whatever ways we can

Compassion protects our mind and opens our heart

Open hearted person with baby rabbit

As well as contemplating the importance of maintaining an open heart, I’ve also come to recognise the importance of developing a compassionate mind towards living beings

Whilst visiting Morocco you can see a lot of people who are suffering and need help, as well as many animals. In the midst of this suffering, I can see from my own experience that whenever I’m able to generate compassion it causes my heart to open. However I can recognise that when there’s no love in my heart, then when I observe suffering it will simply leads me to feeling awkward or upset

It’s also quite possible that we can recognise similar types of responses in both ourself and others. One example of this is when you read about people’s experiences when visiting places where there is a lot of poverty. Maybe seeing animals mistreated or not taken care of, they may experience unpleasant feelings. This in turn can lead to blame and anger

Although these types of responses are quite natural, we need to ask ourself how they actually help the individual or any other being. It’s not like getting angry about the way an animal is treated actually improves the situation for them. But presumably this way of thinking appears to have some logic, otherwise why would so many of us find ourself responding in these ways?

However all we need to do to remain positive in the face of such circumstances is to develop a loving mind. Then compassion will naturally arise. And so we will feel close to that living being and wish to help them. With this space in our mind it will become much easier to see the best course of action to take to improve the situation

In this way we learn to use the suffering we see around us in the most beneficial ways. Rather than responding negatively without thinking, we take the opportunity to increase our love. Then we can enjoy the peace and inter-connectedness of the mind of the beautiful mind of compassion

Generating compassion for living beings

Kitten make you feel like an open hearted person

I was walking in the markets in Fes a few days ago, and found myself gravitating towards the numerous cats and kittens dotted around the place. It’s funny cause you don’t really see locals engaging with them much, and most of them can’t get enough of being patted and cuddled

Unfortunately many of these feline friends have foot or leg injuries, and so it’s not uncommon to see them limping around. Being a developing country, then it seems here in Morocco there aren’t the same support mechanisms in place to control either the number of cats or to adequately address their health issues

One kitten we saw was limping and it’s foot was actually black, with some dark red on the end of it. In that moment I experienced some painful feelings and could feel my mind going towards negativity, but I caught myself. After all I thought ‘how does my generating negativity help improve the situation for this kitten?’

Instead I took the opportunity to increase my love and as a result compassion naturally arose. It made me feel a fondness for the kitten and wish for its happiness. Although I wished to help it there was nothing I could practically do. Then rather than feeling separation and pain, as was my initial reaction, I felt close to another living being and this made me happy

It was a good reminder for me of the power of compassion. In fact the fundamental basis of compassion and how it functions is something that came up in a public talk given by Gen-la Khyenrab in Sydney a couple of years ago

Somebody asked why it hurt so much when they were exposed to the pain and suffering of animals. Gen-la’s response was very simple. Because at those times the mind of love we have for those beings is not strong enough. He went on to explain this in more detail, essentially revealing the formula for compassion. Love + suffering = compassion

I think this is really important for everybody to know. Why? Because it means we no longer need to fear being exposed to the suffering of others (something which causes many a lot of pain). All we need to do is increase our love. When we understand that compassion is actually fundamental to the path to enlightenment, then we may even find we’re happy to be exposed to suffering rather than shying away from it

Opening our heart to all living beings

Being an open hearted person feels wonderful

For me now, being in Morocco, I’ve been making a special effort to keep an open heart. It’s so rewarding to be able to connect with different people and animals, and it’s easy to do when you are open and present

In fact just eating lunch today we were sitting opposite a little boy. He was watching everyone go by in the medina and we started to smile at each. I may have started pulling a few faces as I invariably do to spark a connection. And it felt really good. We didn’t speak the same language, but we didn’t need to

This is the power of a loving mind. It transcends all other forms of communication and helps us overcome the barriers that can so often prevent us from connecting to another living being

In summary

By learning to stay present through maintaining virtuous or positive states of mind, we’ll find it much easier to genuinely connect with others. And in particular, through maintaining a loving mind, whenever we see the suffering of others we will naturally be protected by the mind of compassion

And so this is where we want our mind to be at. Wherever we are. By remaining present and open in daily life, our entire experience will transform and we will truly learn how to be an open hearted person that easily and naturally connects with others

Our loving heart will protect us, and from this wisdom will naturally arise. With this wisdom we will understand how to respond in the ways that are most beneficial for others. We will gradually find true happiness within and gain the ability to share that happiness with everyone we meet

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