Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Simpson
There has been a lot of recent discussion in psychology around ‘connecting’ which encourages us to connect with ourselves, our values, friends, family, community, nature and so on. While this has much value it doesn’t address the problem which I often encounter in my practice which is that many clients’ experience a diminished capacity or ability to connect.
My clients often speak of their inability to love or be loved. They talk about their experience of being lonely and isolated. They feel that their hearts and minds shrink and contract under these emotionally deprived circumstances.
I would like to explore connecting up in terms of growing our capacity for connection. How do we move towards being more available, gracious, patient, generous, warm, affectionate and kind? How might we grow our heart’s ability to love and to be loved?
An old alchemical saying that goes ‘as below so above’ points in the right direction. We generally find that by cultivating a fertile inner life that our outer life begins to flourish. Growing our interiority is enhanced through acquainting ourselves with silence and stillness.
Every gardener knows that we don’t water the leaves of the plant but we tend to the roots of the plant to aid its flourishing. A saying that expresses this notion well is ‘water the roots to enjoy the fruits’.
Growing from the inside out usually involves being more and doing less. By increasing our ability to be, to abide, to be here and now in this moment we slowly cultivate inner peace, integration, interconnectedness and harmony. Greater inner peace flows outwards to generate greater social harmony and improved interpersonal relations.
What are some of the ways that our hearts, our capacity for connection, gets tended, fertilised and boosted? How might we expand our consciousness?
Some possibilities may include:
- Spiritual companionship and accompaniment
- Having people in our lives who love and affirm us
- Involvement in community that can grow and challenge us
- Relationships which hold a mirror up to us so that we get to know ourselves, including our better natures and shadow sides
- Retreats and quiet times
- Reflective reading
- Enhancing our contact with nature
- Turning aside from being overscheduled and caught up with incessant activity
- Respite from the barrage of social media and mass media
- Mind fasting: reducing any other sensory input that speeds up, clutters our minds with the trivial, superficial and the banal
- Prayer, meditation, mindfulness and contemplation.
- Developing a rhythm of contemplation and action
- Having opportunities to share the fruits of contemplation through service
A theme that runs through many of the above suggestions is that ‘emptiness begets fullness’.
What are your ways to expand your heart?