Why an Open Heart is the Pathway to Our True Nature – Ryan Couples Therapy

Why an Open Heart is the Pathway to Our True Nature

Practice #3 of 6 Core Practices to Create a Healthy Marriage

My ebook, Transform Your Relationship: 6 Core Practices to Create a Healthy Marriage, details essential practices you and your partner can work on to strengthen your connection and build a better relationship.

The third practice I write about in the ebook is Managing Emotions.

How do we live with an open heart in a world full of stress and uncertainty?

How can we learn to have an open heart when our intimate relationship is a source of stress and uncertainty or feels unsatisfactory?

How do we keep an open heart when we are hurt and angry; or when we feel misunderstood, disrespected, and lonely?

When we live with an open heart, we feel much more vibrant and alive. We are at peace with ourselves and others. We stop resisting and become more generous, more kind and more understanding.

The 8 C’s of an Open-Heart

Think for a moment on the following 8 words:

  • Calmness
  • Clarity
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Curiosity
  • Connection
  • Creativity

What images or sensations come up for you as you think about the words listed above?

Do these words conjure up states of being that feel Safe? Empowered? Peaceful?

Hilary Jacobs Hendel, psychotherapist, and author of “It’s Not Always Depression….”, calls these words the 8 C’s of an open heart.

These words represent the states of being from which we all desire to live. The states of being that we want to nurture and sustain; and where we want to stay as long as we can.

They are the states of being that enable us to enjoy our lives. For many of us, however, we do not know how to access them, cultivate them, strengthen them, and sustain them.

If we do experience them, we are not always sure how we got there. How we were able to move beyond the anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, fear, and sadness to feel the states of being that are reflective of our true nature?

Our True Nature

Our heart opens and our true nature thrives in moments of clarity, calmness, confidence, courage, compassion, curiosity, connection and creativity.

In these moments all the false realities and superficial expectations fall away and we are left with our own open-hearted, human being-ness.

Daily life tends to pull us away from our true nature by imposing false realities that inform us about our self-worth and pressuring us to create infinite to-do lists. We are consumed with feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy, fears of failing and fears of not having enough.

All of these experiences trigger anxiety, guilt, shame, fear, anger or sadness; the emotions that keep us from being open-hearted and connected to our true nature.

But when we can find moments of reflection and awareness, we will discover that we are so much more than the false realities. We are more than the external events, expectations, obligations, and fears that drive us on a daily basis.

How can we do this?

Accessing and Cultivating the 8 C’s

If the 8 C’s are the gateway into experiencing our true nature, it is essential that we learn how to cultivate them, especially during times of stress and conflict.

The 8 C’s are cultivated and nourished when we begin work with our emotions as they surface, even the difficult ones; and when we begin to practice an acknowledgment and acceptance of our emotions.

We cannot access the 8 C’s if we stay stuck in anger, fear, grief, anxiety, guilt or shame. But, we can use these emotions to move us into a more aware and present state; a state in which we can begin to access the 8 c’s of being open-hearted.

So if we want to live in a place of calmness and any of the other wonderful C’s, there are no short-cuts, no secret passages, and no magic potions to get us there. They come from learning how to integrate all of our emotions into our whole human experience.

The Practice

How to use our emotions to move into a more aware, present state of being; to connect with our true nature.

Next time you are angry or sad or fearful or anxious, take a moment and become aware of and connected to your breath. Begin to take full belly breaths, slowly; deep inhales and long, slow exhales.

Then, try to name the emotion… without judgment or blame; without guilt or shaming, without becoming defensive.

Then, ask yourself where you feel the emotion in your body and continue to breathe deeply into that place.

Tara Brach suggests that while you name and breathe into the emotions, add phrases like, “Everything is welcome in my heart-space” or, “Yes” or, “I consent”.

These phrases help to remove the judgment and allow for an acceptance of our emotions just as they are without pushing them away, magnifying them, or avoiding them.

Keep breathing deeply until you begin to feel relief. As the feelings subside a bit, ask yourself some questions:

  • “What is underneath this emotion?”
  • “What else am I feeling?”
  • “When was the first time I ever felt this?”
  • “How is the first time of feeling this similar to what is happening now?”
  • “What is the message in this feeling?”
  • “Can I offer myself compassion now?”

Let the answers come to you as you continue a practice that combines the breathing, the acknowledgment and the acceptance.

No judgment, no blame, no running away or minimizing… just being with what is, as it is.

If you stay with this in quiet stillness and deep breaths you will soon begin to feel some of the 8C’s. You may feel more calm; or clear; or courageous; or confident; or curious; or compassionate toward yourself and others; or creative; or connected to yourself and others.

And when you do, you will realize that your heart is more open, less restricted and less guarded.

You will realize that you have followed the path of your emotions until you found your own true nature.

Getting to Know Your True Nature

Check in with yourself. How does it feel to be open-hearted and in your truest version of yourself, unimpeded by stress, fear, expectations and “have-tos”?

I am guessing that this is going to feel very rewarding, very comforting and very peaceful.

We all have this capacity within us, just waiting to be accessed and cultivated; nourished and strengthened and sustained.

If we are willing to be with our emotions in reflection, awareness, and acceptance we will discover that we all have the capacity to be much more alive and vibrant.

We will discover that our open-heart is just waiting to reveal our own true nature in peace and love.

Peace on the journey,


 Practice #2 in Series  |  Practice #4 in Series  

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Jane Ryan

Jane Ryan, M.A., LMFT, is a Licensed Couples and Family Therapist with twenty years of clinical experience. She specializes in intimate relationships, sexual challenges, sacred sexuality, and helping clients embrace their true erotic nature. She supports women in discovering their most radiant, vibrant and powerful feminine essence.