John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Whole Foods has a quote I love: “It’s time we brought our hearts out of the closet.” Being raised Greek, our hearts were never in the closet to begin with. It’s wasn’t until I went to study in London that I had to relearn how to trust my heart as a young adult. (The Brits are known for many wonderful things, but they’re also known for censoring their emotions — unless it’s at the theater!) The Greeks live by giving themselves permission to feel the range of their feelings. If you’re upset, be upset. If you’re jealous, say it. If you’re sad, cry. When you feel lonely, call someone and tell them. And when you’re happy, share it with those around you — spread your joy!
The great comedian Mel Brooks has a great saying that is so relevant when we talk about leading with our heartfelt expressions. He said, “If you’re alive, make some noise.” It’s imperative that we encourage one another to feel our feelings — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and find ways to communicate them. In the Greek culture, we don’t have the habit of going to therapists — we have one another. We share just about everything with our friends and relatives unconditionally. It’s very cathartic to put it all out there. Tapping into the intelligence, resilience, and mightiness of our hearts, is the best remedy for stress. I’m not talking about the emotional heart that has its own range and ups and downs. I’m talking about the essence of who we are — the spiritual heart that’s connected to the source of our being.
If you’ve ever done yoga, you know that when you enter the savasana pose, the teacher tells us to open and soften our hearts. I always encourage people, when they come out of savasana, to hug someone. It’s easy to roll up your mat and go about your day, forgetting to connect with someone else, but yoga means oneness — and as much as you can have oneness with yourself, we also need to reinforce our oneness with one another.
It’s funny how we often feel ashamed to be completely open with our hearts, so we put up barriers so that we’re not seen — but this actually creates a separation and loneliness. We need to remind one another that we can reach a sense of oneness so effortlessly just by listening to each other. We need to create a safe place for compassion, and need to embrace each other without judgement, both physically and metaphorically. It’s said that when we hug, we release oxytocin, which makes you feel better. It’s very therapeutic and healing. You can be as healthy as you want, and eat only organic foods and green juices, meditate, and stick to a fitness regimen — but if your heart is not open, you’re still going to feel that something is missing. What might be missing is YOU. That’s why it’s important to bring yourself to the table as you are going about your day. Connect with your heart. Find it. Let it have its own voice.
Why then, do we hold back from one of the most powerful assets we’ve been invested with? By simply being present with our hearts, we have the ability to comfort and heal one another. Most people do not know that the heart has 40,000 neurons that are highly intelligent and intuitive, and they connect us to our wisdom, our intuition and our intelligence. So, if you have a judgment sitting there under your heart, telling you you’re not good enough, let me just remind you that you are amazing — as Bruno Mars says, “just the way you are!”
It’s up to you to give yourself permission to be who you are, and then surround yourself with people who make you feel safe — those who can allow you to be your vulnerable self, and share all of the things that make us human. Only then will we find the calm within the storm. It is the most beautiful journey you will ever embark on, and it will leave you feeling that you matter, and that no matter what, you’re enough.
If you’re struggling to bring your heart to the table, start with these two small Microsteps:
Make one meaningful connection
Today, when you ask someone how they are, truly listen, even beneath the “I’m fine.” Go a little deeper, and find out what might be concerning them or exciting them that day. What might they share with a little more encouragement?
Express your truth
If you’re in a meeting, or in a conversation while out to dinner, and there’s something you’d like to express, give yourself permission to express what’s on your heart. Express your truth without fear, and notice how liberating that feels.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. How can we help support one another be more open with our hearts? What areas do you need support? Share with me how you bring your own heart to the table.
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