"When you live with an open heart, joyful things happen."
Sounds nice doesn't it? But what exactly does it mean?
Ever been in love? Or really smitten with someone? You know - those juicy feelings coursing through your body and mind that make you feel like anything is possible? That feeling like the whole world is lighting up around you and you're filled with so much energy and excitement. Everything feels 'right'. You're inspired and life is gonna be allll goooood....you just know it. Like - somehow you are so connected to, and enamored with, your beloved that you can't even imagine where the heck they've been all this time or how you ever lived without them!?....... That is what living with an open heart feels like. Being in love gives us a palpable experience of what it feels like to have that deeply spiritual experience of an open, untainted, heart. It's the only thing other than hours of meditation, deep prayer and devotional service that can bring us instantly to that place of total connectedness with our Divine Nature. It's said that the endorphins released when we are in love, particularly those early stages of infatuation and desire, mimick the same chemicals released during and after intense spiritual practices. It really is the holiest of human experiences.
But - what happens after infatuation fades? Or when your beloved turns out to be a deeply disappointing BigHugeJerk? Or that beautiful baby of yours grows up to be an unruly disrespectful teenager? Or when you've settled into a couple decades of marriage and those early days of starry eyed lusciousness have been replaced with mountains of laundry and the tedious tasks of maintaining a household?
Jack Kornfield speaks wisely of this in his book "After the Laundry, The Ecstasy." I enjoy his insight into the fluid nature of 'enlightenment'. Many people are seeking some sort of Big Bang experience whereby they will magically be delivered out of stress/illness/ dis satisfaction and into the land of Nirvana and "enlightenment" where everything and everyone is always happy and perfect. Pffffft! WRONG. Enlightenment is an energy, a reality that is sometimes fleeting. As humans I believe we move in and out of enlightened awareness all the time. Sometimes it happens when we're washing the dishes - that moment when the warm soapy water mixes with the satisfaction of the meal just eaten as you stand there, relaxed with your breath and body, feeling completley satisfied and un hurried. And you find yourself flooded with feelings of gratitude, supreme wealth and deep profound appreciation for the simple pleasures in your life. Only to be jarred back to reality when the phone rings and your best friend is on the other end ranting about what a horrible day it is and how annoyingly inappropriate her boyfriend is being! Aaaaand.....we're back.
It may be weeks, months, until you're able to return to that state. But, always, when it happens - however fleeting- the sweetness of those moments keep you wanting more. The utter peace and deep understanding that everything, truly, is exactly as it should be is a glimpse into the profound magic of this great mystery called Life. Which is why our focus should be on always reaching for something better. Love, deeply, the people in your life. Notice a dark mood before it turns into the abyss and - reach for something better. Call a friend, move your body, power clean your house. Anything that helps you to reach for something higher. Train yourself to focus on what it is that you truly want, not what you see before you in this moment. And, please, don't fool yourself into believing or wishing for something silly like being in a perfectly enlightened state while you coast along in your stress-free life. It simply won't happen. And that kind of desire only leads to disappointment, depression and habitual self judgement. Which really is not only unproductive, but may cause you to miss those tiny miracles placed carefully in your path to help encourage you to keep moving forward into even greater levels of joy than you could possibly imagine.