Opening Your Heart to the Love Inside

a key opening a heart

I recently read an analogy about love written by Don Luis Miguel called the magical kitchen. I want to share and also expand on his analogy in my post today. It’s about opening your heart to the love inside.

The Magical Kitchen

Imagine that you have a magical kitchen. You have any food you want from any place in the world and in any quantity. You never have to worry about what to eat because whatever you wish for will always be at your table. You have enough for yourself and others. People come from all around to enjoy meals from your magical kitchen. You share with them expecting nothing in return.

And then one day someone knocks on your door and offers you pizza. “Hey, I have this delicious pizza and I’ll share it with you if you’ll just let me control your life, if you do whatever I want you to do. You’re never going to starve because I can bring you pizza every day. You just have to be good to me.”

How would you react? In your kitchen, you can make the same pizza and even better. You’re going to laugh and say, “No thank you. I don’t need your pizza. I have plenty of food. If you want, you can come into my house and eat my food and you don’t have to do anything. But I’m not going to do whatever you want me to do. Nobody can manipulate me with food.”

Imagine You’re Starving

Now imagine the opposite. Several weeks have gone by and you haven’t eaten. You’re starving and have no money in your pocket to buy food. Someone comes to your door with pizza and says, “Hey, I have pizza here. You can have some if you just do what I want.” You get a whiff of the pizza and it smells so good. You decide to accept the pizza and do whatever this person asks. He says, “You can have more. You can have as much odelicious pizzaf my pizza as you like. You just have to keep doing what I ask.”

You don’t know what tomorrow may bring and so you agree. Before long, you’ve given up control over your life to this person to be sure you have your pizza. You believe, “I can’t live without this pizza. What would I do without my pizza? What if my partner decides to give my pizza to someone else–my pizza?”

Let’s talk about Love

Now imagine that instead of talking about food, we’re talking about love. You have an abundance of love in your heart, not just for yourself but for the whole world. You love so much that you don’t need anyone else’s love. You share your love without conditions. You’re a millionaire in love and someone knocks at your door and says, “Hey, I have love for you here. And you can have my love if you just do whatever I want.”

What would be your reaction? You’re going to laugh and say, “Thank you, but I don’t need your love. I have the same love right here in my heart, in fact, even bigger and better and without your conditions.”

But suppose you don’t feel the love in your heart and someone comes by and says, “Do you want some love? You can have my love. You just have to do what I want.” If you’re starving for love, and you taste a bit of love, you’ll do what you can for more. In fact, you may go so far as to give your whole soul for a little attention.

A Faulty Premise

And then, of course, when things don’t go as you want in this relationship, you can blame this person. “No wonder I don’t feel love. They didn’t keep their end of the bargain.” Unfortunately, this sets you up to manipulate others to give you the love you want. There are so many ways to manipulate—blaming, criticizing, punishing, pouting, withholding, distancing, building a case, etc.

The motive is not bad. You just want to feel love. It’s just that you’ve chosen flawed strategies to get that love. And all based on a faulty premise that the primary source of love is “out there” rather than in your own heart.

Love from Without

Don’t get me wrong about this. I’m not saying you don’t need love from others. You do. There are plenty of studies that show what happens if infants and young children don’t receive affection in the form of physical touch and nurturing. They grow up seriously emotionally wounded. And this is true as you grow from childhood into adulthood as well. One of your greatest needs is to feel nourished by the goodwill, friendship, and love of others.

However, my message is that the world becomes an unsafe place if you believe that the primary source of love is from without. You’ve shifted responsibility for your well-being onto others, which leaves you incredibly vulnerable, all because you’ve forgotten that you have a magical kitchen in your own heart.

Opening Your Heart

man feeling rejected

What you have to realize is that all the love you need is already within and around you, although you may not have eyes to see because your emotions are no longer attuned to see love but rather a lack of love.  If you care too much about being accepted by others you won’t accept yourself. The problem is not that others reject you, but rather that you have rejected yourself. You’ve decided you’re not enough. You’ve lost touch with the magical kitchen, the love inside yourself.

So how do you open (or reopen) the magical kitchen in your own heart? How do you make yourself the primary source of love rather than seeking it in so many ways from without? Let me offer some thoughts.

  1. Decide

This may sound simple but it’s your most important starting point. Wake up to the ways in which you’ve allowed others’ perceived opinions become more important than your own. Become conscious of how easy it is to give your power away and compromise your own authenticity because you care more about what they think than what you think. Deciding is making a conscious decision to become the source of how you feel about yourself. It’s taking responsibility for how you feel about yourself rather than leaving it to the opinions of others or making it conditional upon external symbols of success—money, fame, possessions, etc. It is recognizing that opening your heart and feeling love for yourself is ultimately a choice, a place you come from, not a destination once you become more, better or different.

  1. Be grateful

I awoke this morning lying on my side and could feel the beat of my heart. I had a moment of appreciation for this organ that has served me so well for so many years. My heart beats about 100,000 times every day (not that I’ve counted), some 3.5 million times per year. I took a few minutes to offer thanks for my heart…and for my sight…and my brain. What an incredible instrument and one I so often take for granted. I knew, as I lay there, that I would soon go on a run. It may sound funny but I had to thank my legs for their faithful service, transporting me from here to there, always doing my bidding.

Gratitude and love are inextricably linked. Gratitude is a form of love, perhaps close to its essence. As you slow down and take time to be grateful, not only for your body but so much of the goodness and abundance surrounding your life, you’re filling the wellspring of love inside your heart.

  1. Embrace imperfection

I love a poem by Werner Erhard (which I’ve shared before). “If you could really accept that you weren’t okay, you could stop proving that you were okay. And if you could stop proving that you were okay, you could get it that it’s okay to not be okay. And if you could get it that it’s okay to not be okay, you could get it that you’re okay just the way you are. You’re okay, get it?”

The opposite of embracing imperfection is self-criticism and judgement. I don’t care who you are, that’s a hard way to live. The truth is you are sooo imperfect in sooo many ways (me two). Oh well. The sooner you can accept your imperfections, the sooner you’ll start enjoying life because the truth is that you’re never going to be perfect in this life. Maybe perfect is more about opening your heart to love rather than some behavioral (or even characterological) checklist.  Perhaps your goal should be opening your heart to love by learning compassion and wisdom rather than expecting yourself to be perfect.

  1. Do a strength inventory

You grow, not so much by overcoming weaknesses, but by recognizing and building upon your strengths and successes. So, another way to open up to the love inside your heart is to appreciate the good things about you.  I want to invite you to do an inventory of your strengths. There are lots of ways to do this. I’d encourage you to take out a sheet of paper (or open a new document) and make a list of what you consider to be your strengths or those qualities that you love most about yourself. “I love my smile. I love that I’m outgoing and friendly. I love my discipline and hard work. I love my beautiful tan. I love that I want to learn and grow.” And so on. Just keep writing and add to this list. It doesn’t matter whether a quality is big or little, write it down and read it to yourself, slowly.

In addition to writing down the qualities you admire in yourself, think about successes in your life. Recall a time when you achieved a success. You made something happen and realized a good outcome. Go back as far in life as you like. Where were you? What was going on? Who else was involved? What was your part in achieving this success? Then think of another and another.

Give yourself permission to come up with as many of these experiences as possible. It’s so easy to minimize, forget, and lose track of them. The only way you remember is to spend time thinking about them. No doubt, you did some cool things that would qualify as successes as a preschooler, in primary school, high school, in your young adulthood, and so on. Maybe some of these experiences have been physical, mental, social, or spiritual. Maybe private, maybe public. By going back through your history, you acknowledge not only important events in your life, but your resourcefulness and capability.

It is okay to feel proud of things you’ve done in the past. It’s appropriate to think about these experiences and not only enjoy but learn from them. What are the patterns? How do they indicate that you are a good, capable, or resourceful person?

  1. Be your own best friend

I’m thinking of a song by Ray Stevens, something we used to play in a personal development course. A few of the lyrics go, “…And there’s no place you can hide. You’re up against the wall. Can’t nobody hear you cry. You got to help yourself, yourself…. Be your own best friend.”

Our most cherished friends are people who know us and like us for who we are. They are there for us in good times and bad. They extend kindness and support to us through the tough times of life. So, what if you could treat yourself like a good friend when times are tough for you—when facing pain or stress, or things haven’t gone as you’d like, or you’ve failed in some way? What would you say to a friend who opens up and shares their need? Could you care for and comfort yourself in the same way?

An attuned friend would ask two questions when you’re going through a difficult time. What do you need right now? How can I support you? How about if you imagine yourself as that friend and ask yourself those questions and then give yourself what you need at this time. It would be nice if it came from someone else. But I’m going to suggest that it is even nicer if it comes from you.

man looking in mirror

Then how about if you go another step of making an oath to yourself. “I’ll treat you with kindness and compassion. I’ll be there for you in good times and bad. I’ll not abandon you when things get tough. I’ll not let others harm you. I’ll listen to your feelings and needs and be loyal to your well-being.” I’d encourage you to come up with your own words. And then choose a symbol that represents this message and find a way to say these words to yourself, perhaps by looking in a mirror, perhaps by repeating them regularly, like every morning. Figure out a way to do it that would make the message most meaningful for you. You’re opening your heart to love as you commit to being your own best friend.

  1. Practice loving-kindness each day

A final strategy that I want to recommend for opening your heart to love is practicing loving-kindness daily. Life brings lots of challenges and so you’re going to slip into anxiety, insecurity, agitation, or anger from time to time. But reminding yourself that the essence of your nature and heart is loving-kindness will soften these experiences and help you return to a more serene and empowered state.

You may have heard of loving-kindness meditation. It’s a meditation you can do for other people… but also for yourself. It’s something you do when agitated but also a great way to begin your day. You do so by taking a few minutes of time to be by yourself and quiet your mind. Then pay attention to your breathing. Take in a deep breath through the nose and exhale completely through the mouth. Do this three times and then let your breath return to normal and simply notice as you breathe in and out for just a minute or so.

And now you can repeat these words to yourself a number of times. “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.” If you like, imagine yourself being bathed by a golden light from above as you repeat this phrase. Notice how repeating this phrase, or something like it, may soften your experience and restore you to a grounded state of loving-kindness.

Summary

In truth, your heart is like a magical kitchen. When you open your heart, you discover that you already have all the love you need. There’s no need to feel inadequate or go around the world begging for love. You have so much love inside of you. Are you ready to see it? Are you ready to access it and allow it to shine from you to bless yourself and others? My hope is that you can use a few of these strategies to accomplish this most important outcome.


About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

6 responses to “Opening Your Heart to the Love Inside”

  1. Ann Hull says:

    Dr. Allen thank you for another beautiful lesson. You are a great teacher. Be your own best friend, be loving to self and others, practice gratitude and be always aware with gratitude, give love.
    Great lesson and advice.
    Thank you,
    Ann Hull

  2. Kathleen Mc Kenna-Healy says:

    Thank you so much for this fabulous message of self love and self empowerment

  3. Connie Anderson says:

    I sat down and did the exercises, and it was empowering. Thanks your your wisdom that helps us navigate this life. Your wisdom touches my life.

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"Thank you does not express the emotion I feel when I think of you! You have taught me so much and I live you and thank you for all you have done for me and my family. Thanks for the love and guidance when I thought I was lost. Thanks for validating my feelings and supporting me in my life."

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