Strength that Comes from the Heart

Action of the heart. How to love yourself, love others, and step into your power.

If you are on a journey of self-discovery, self-development, or self-improvement you’ve probably heard advice like, “Stop acting small,” “Step into your power” or “Do not be afraid of your strength!” Maybe it’s great advice, but what exactly does it mean? Think about the words power and strength- what comes to mind? Perhaps someone standing their ground. Voicing an opinion loudly. Being big and not backing down. Steadfastness. Rigidity. Sturdiness. Perhaps a strong mind and strong will. A muscled body that can CRUSH!   

Power and Strength are not usually synonymous with states of the heart like tenderness, flexibility and vulnerability. Or words of love like compassion, kindness, and grace.

But guess what? Actions that arise from the heart, out of true love, are the strongest and most powerful. Actions will change the world for the better. Actions that do not come from this space are violent and destructive, not strong and powerful. We must connect to our hearts to solve the vital needs of ourselves, humanity, and the planet.  

Who has impacted society and humanity in powerful ways? Where did their actions come from?  Nelson Mandela. Mother Teresa. Dr. Martin Luther King. Rosa Parks. Mahatma Gandhi. They acted with great strength. And their actions arose from the heart. 

They also acted with great Courage because they allowed themselves to be vulnerable. As Brene Brown says in her Ted Talk on Vulnerability, “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.’  We think of courage as doing an act fearlessly. But it is not to act without fear. It is to recognize our fear and still act. Not out of recklessness. Out of love.”

In order to come into our power we must first connect to our heart. It can be very scary. It will be vulnerable, tender, and perhaps fragile. We have many walls up around our hearts. They have calcified over the years with defensive and protective layers. We defend with judgment, blame, and resentment. We protect with self-righteousness, busyness, and false humility. And it’s OK! It’s ok that you have defense mechanisms that try to protect you. Perhaps at one time they did. It is evidence you want to love yourself. The tender and undefended heart feels raw. It is vulnerable.

Try this: Close your eyes and imagine your heart. You may want to put your hand on your chest and feel your heartbeat. Take some deep breaths. Imagine your heart, any image or colors that feel full of life.  Now breath into your heart and ask: “What is keeping me from loving fully? Loving myself fully? Loving others fully? Loving this moment fully?” Wait for the answers to arise.  You don’t have to think. See what shields or armor have been created. Don’t judge whatever you find, just be interested. And kind.

Some answers that may surface about not loving yourself: trying to control, hiding, fear of being seen, fear of rejection, striving, not good enough, not there yet, worthlessness, fear of loss, unforgiveness, anger, frustration, regret, I am a fraud, who could love this, fear of wasted life, fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of death. 

Some defensive beliefs that may keep you from fully loving others: they should be different, people take and take until there is nothing left of me, people are manipulative, people want to control me, people don’t care, people only care about themselves, people might hurt me, people might leave me, when I lose them it will hurt too much. Any defence against others that comes up is natural  We don’t allow depth of love of because we fear we may lose it or it will betray us. Be curious and tender with what you find.

It will take practice. Slowly start to soften the defenses. You don’t have to get rid of them. But slowly take them from your heart and put them in a toolshed beside it. You have access to this toolshed at any time. If you feel like it’s too risky to be undefended, you have many tools to defend. But don’t let them be your heart’s default state. It’s not your heart’s natural state. It’s what you have constructed over all these years.

Khalil Gilbran, in The Prophet, writes on love:

“But if in your fear you would seek only
love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh,
but not all of your laughter, 
and weep, but not all of your tears."

The tender and undefended heart feels a lot more than most of us are used to. It’s easier to feel surface feelings like anxiety, judgement, and blame. We may get excited or feel some joy, but it is often attached to an outcome or circumstance. The undefended heart will feel the extremes--the highs and the lows--viscerally. You will laugh, all of your laughter. You will weep, all of your tears. But trust. The channels that you will open when you are feeling that deeply will show you such beauty. There have been times when I experience overwhelming sadness. Defenses down, I cry with abandon. Incredibly, by letting go of defenses, the sobs of sorrow become howls of laughter. The field of love that exists within and around us can be trusted. It does not mean we will not be hurt or that we won’t make mistakes. But it can be trusted.

From your heart, truly powerful action arises. You won’t just know how to care for yourself, you will act. You will care. You will be compassionate and kind with people in your life, even in conflict. You will stand in your power and speak your truth. 

The gifts you bring to the world will be born out of strength because they will be sincere. Honesty is your power. And your courage. Be courageous in love. Surrender to it. Surrender to the seeming paradox that letting yourself be raw and vulnerable is actually strength. Trust that strength and fear are not the same thing. Live with an open heart.