The Practice of Universal Open-Heartedness

Georgia Pettit
February 20, 2024
people standing with arms over shoulders

Unconditional love comes from the heart with huge abundance and no limitations as to who should receive it.” - Nanette V. Hucknall, from her book, How to Live from Your Heart

The season of Valentine’s Day is precious to some, inconsequential to others, and for many, a holiday to be avoided at all costs. The latter is a perfectly natural reaction. Modern media depicts falling in love as the greatest part of anyone’s life, leading anyone who hasn’t found that kind of Hollywood love to feel like they are missing out, or worse, that something must be wrong with them. 

But this idea of “love” is a fairly new invention. Prior to the Romantic period of the early 1800s, the focus of the heart encompassed more general sentiments of family, community, church, and society at large. Life didn't require a rom-com storyline to feel a sense of joy and inclusion. With an expanded view of the heart, we have the chance to open ourselves to the possibilities of what is actually a very broad, very expansive virtue. 


What does it mean to live from the heart?

“Opening your heart to your intuition will help you make good decisions based on kindness, empathy, and love.” - Nanette V. Hucknall, from her book, How to Live from Your Heart

It may be helpful as spiritual practitioners to de-empathize the importance of romantic or emotional love and instead, work towards living life through an overarching lens of open-heartedness. But what is truly meant by open-heartedness? 

To live from the heart is to live the highest expression of life. We start by experiencing the heart as an organ of awareness and perception; when we see something, we let the heart see it; when we hear something we listen with the “ear” of the heart  When we allow the heart to take a greater scope in our lives, we embark on a journey of spiritual growth that opens the door to every possibility.

The powers of the heart are quite vast.  Using the heart expands the space between what we perceive – within ourselves and in our relationships --  and how we respond to those perceptions.  The heart informs our willingness to accept change, learn, expand our viewpoint, and explore the unknown. The ability to share, give, receive, and cooperate are all tools of the heart. With constant use and practice, the heart becomes a vehicle for learning the most worthwhile aspects of life. For many of us, the greatest possibilities of life lie within the heart, like a seed, waiting to be awakened. 


Changing Your Perception of Love

“Loving and accepting yourself is very important for spiritual growth. It helps you to become open to others and it gives you the ability to develop unconditional love.” - Nanette V. Hucknall, from her book, How to Live from Your Heart

The process of shifting to open-hearted living takes time, dedication, and most importantly an inner desire for change. The resulting change is a life of love and compassion, and access to a yet unknown realm of knowledge and self-understanding.  Let’s pause and reflect on a practice that will strengthen the heart. 

In the Higher Self tradition, to live from a place of open-heartedness is to take the leap from prioritizing our ever-changing, sometimes volatile, ego-driven emotions, and instead shift our focus to a more refined energy that rests in a place of reception, acceptance, and care. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but to live from the heart, we must change our relationship to emotions and instead focus on the wisdom of a constant, consistent, nurturing heart.  

An Exercise for Practicing Open-Heartedness

“Dedication, devotion, love, a warm heart, a strong will, and a deep sense of beauty will help you overcome obstacles.” -  Nanette V. Hucknall, from her book, How to Live from Your Heart

Try to follow this exercise the next time you sit down to meditate. Begin with finding a quiet spot that is comfortable. 

Close your eyes and breathe deeply, and with each breath let go of any thoughts or emotions. 

Then, when you feel you are in a peaceful place within, focus all your attention on your heart center until you experience it. 

How does it feel? Do you feel warmth in the heart center or do you experience a shift of energy? Describe and write down your experience.

In addition to the energy work above, we can consider the following statements on open-hearted living. Reflect on them and observe your response and feelings: 

~ Without an open heart, you are functioning at a level far below your potential.  

~ Without an open heart, you only live in the shadow of who you can become.  

~ Without an open heart, you are still a child lost in a world of harsh reality, a reality that keeps you always confined to the mundane. 

~ With an open heart, you are full of joy and inner wisdom.  

~ With an open heart, you see others with true understanding and compassion.  

~ With an open heart, your spirit can soar into unknown worlds and feel the beauty of those realms.  

~ With an open heart, you find who you are and what your purpose is in life. 

~ With an open heart, you are becoming one with nature and Source. 

To live from the heart means to feel into and listen for the energy of the heart, to access knowledge with the heart, to inspire and be inspired through the heart, and to trust in the heart’s ability to recognize right from wrong.  It means being open to any possibility, any unexplored dimension of your life.

Take time to process the observations from the heart we simply lean into what we love and be aware of where we feel resistance. We may be surprised to see how even the lightest touch of loving attention can bring new energy and strength to the aspects of our world that are meaningful to us. Don’t be afraid to turn the spirit of Valentine’s Day into an opportunity to bring energy and attention to whatever it is you love. 


Georgia Pettit
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