A Five-Step Plan to Set Your Heart Free

By: Lisa Kent

Feeling stuck? Deadlocked, hemmed in, blocked, or controlled by circumstance? Are you living the life you were meant to live or the one that’s expected of you? Life coach and best-selling author, Martha Beck says if you feel stuck, it isn’t because you don’t have the option of charting a meaningful journey through life—the options are there. It’s because you’re at an impasse. You may have been trained not to seize, or even recognize, the opportunities that lead to the fulfillment of your dreams. Your body is free, but your heart is in prison. Not recognizing your options is different from not having any. It may be time to get the advice of an expert—your heart. “Our hearts are imprisoned for just one reason: The only language they can speak is truth. Unlike the mind, which can be persuaded to accept the most bizarre ideas, your heart tells it like it is. But, free hearts rock boats, break rules, and do things that disrupt the system—whether that system is a dysfunctional family, a bloated bureaucracy, or the whole wide world. As a result, few of us speak the truth out loud.” She claims that social expectation impacts how we perceive our situation. “All our lives we’ve been hearing that what we are thinking/feeling/saying/doing/becoming/choosing, etc. is stupid/rude/sinful/depressing/unoriginal, forbidden, etc. All the infinite variations on this theme convey just one message: Silence your heart or you will be rejected, and rejection hurts our little social-mammal heart so much that just the threat of it convinces most of us to cooperate with our enemies. First we go dumb, learning never to speak our deepest truths. Then we go deaf, refusing to hear our own souls.” Martha, who holds Masters and PhD degrees in sociology from Harvard says, if you’re a normal human, your life’s journey has probably been steered by social expectation, slowed by fear and stymied by conflicting demands. The good news is, as your own jailer, you—and only you—can free your heart whenever you want. To release your heart, simply reverse the process by which you locked it up. Begin to listen for messages from your heart, then express that in the outside world.”

Step 1: TUNE IN People with captive hearts often spend years thinking about reawakening their passion or discovering their destiny. This never works because such information is stored in the heart, not the brain, and is expressed by feelings, not thoughts. Paying attention to any feeling unlocks the heart. Try writing a detailed description of everything you’re feeling in your body. You’ll start describing your emotions if you do this for more than a few minutes.

Step 2: THINK OF THIS AS “SHOCK” THERAPY Once you being listening to your heart, you’ll hear things that shock you—otherwise you wouldn’t have locked them away in the first place. You may discover your heart expresses tantrums, revenge fantasies and pity parties. Don’t get stuck in them. Be kind to yourself and you’ll find when you acknowledge your forbidden feelings calmly, you actually have more control over your actions. It’s when feelings are repressed that they burst out in dangerous, unhealthy ways. The more you tune in, the deeper the truths your heart will tell and the more intense your emotions will become.

Step 3: DEFY YOUR INNER JAILER At this point you’ll begin to realize your heart is telling you to steer your own life. You’ll know the next step because you will begin to long for anything that connects you to it. When desire comes from your heart, deciding to act on it will bring extraordinary clarity, the sense that something inside you has clicked into place. Of course, your inner jailer might not agree. You may be flooded with reminders that your heart’s instructions are stupid or boring or rude. Don’t listen.

Step 4: RUN FOR THE JUNGLE Acting on your heart’s instructions means abandoning all those careful strategies for avoiding rejection and bolting toward the fertile, gorgeous jungle of human imagination and possibility. As a 13th-century Zen master said, “The place is here: The way leads everywhere.” Once you are present in your own heart, you’ll find your life going places your mind has never even dreamed of.

Step 5: SPREAD THE WORD Toni Morrison said “the function of freedom is to free someone else.” This is the final step necessary for keeping your heart at liberty, and you do it in just one way: by telling your story. However you do it—a journal, an artistic creation, a carefully prepared meal, or for group fitness instructors, the way you teach your classes, telling your story demolishes the barriers between your heart and the outside world. This means that your heart will be exposed and yes, sometimes broken. But it’s important to remember that a heart is imprisoned not by being broken, but by being silenced. As you learn to live by heart, every choice you make will become another way of telling your story and liberating not only your heart, but the hearts of others as well. It will chart you a life’s journey as unique and authentic as your fingerprint; send you out, full of hope and breathtaking exhilaration onto paths you never thought you could travel. It is the way you were meant to exist. If you stop to listen, you’ll realize that your heart has been telling you so all along. From

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