Opening the Heart to Your Natural Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence

We are born bringing our full, expansive self to each moment. We are masters at feeling our many emotions and letting them pass through us easily. We constantly let go of the past and roll with change. We’re clear about what we want and go unwaveringly toward it. Best of all, we connect easily with others and love fully, without holding back.

This is what it’s like when the heart is open. It feels really good.

As we all know, we don’t stay that way for long. We grow up. We get hurt by life. We’re taught that it’s wrong to feel what we’re feeling. Sometimes we’re not accepted for who we are. At times, we have to pretend to be something we’re not in order to feel loved. And we have to contract in order to keep the sadness or anger inside. Too often, we have trouble letting go of the past, or feel afraid of the future. We feel stuck, or confused about what we really want. Worst of all, we may feel isolated and alone, cut off not only from ourselves, but from other people and from life itself.

This is what it’s like when the heart is closed. It feels really bad.

The opportunity presented to us when we’re feeling bad, or don’t know which way to go, is to get back in touch with our “positive core.” When we access our positive core, our natural emotional and spiritual intelligence arises. Stuck feelings can flow in a healing way. Old and current emotional pain or traumas can be worked with and let go. Genuine self-compassion and compassion for others can take their place.

It doesn’t matter how emotionally unintelligent you think you are in your daily life. Your natural emotional intelligence is exquisitely wise. It is not something you have to learn. It is something you only have to rediscover. And it’s in every one of us.

When natural spiritual intelligence arises, confusing things can become much clearer. It’s easier to know how to move ahead. Your inner compass is activated. Some obstacles dissolve; others you can start to see a way around; others help us learn how to gain strength and make meaning out of what we’re going through. Everyone possesses natural spiritual intelligence.

At Opening the Heart (OTH) workshops, there is a practice of strict confidentiality within the group, both during and after the weekend, so everyone can feel comfortable sharing parts of their personal stories. Therefore, the hypothetical examples that follow are not based on any one person, but do illustrate two of the common types of issues that might bring someone to an OTH workshop, and how accessing the natural and spiritual intelligence in one’s positive core can help resolve them. 

Luz: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

Luz has worked in an urban environment for 20 years. She didn’t have children in order to pursue a high-powered career. Now the luster of her job has long worn off and she feels bored and unfulfilled. She’s been in a relationship for almost as long. While it’s “okay,” it lacks vitality and true connection. It makes Luz smile to dream about buying a small farm in the country and running a B&B. Her partner is happy in the city and not really interested.

At the OTH workshop, Luz is surprised to learn that she had buried feelings about not having children. As she works with them and lets them go, she sees that her career has been her “baby,”  and she feels it’s time to create a situation where—as with a child entering young adulthood—her moment-by-moment attention is no longer needed for it to succeed. She wants to do something else. She knows she needs to explore this, so begins to brainstorm ways she could, with compromise between her and her partner, fulfill her dream. 

She remembers that while her partner has no interest in the upstate New York countryside, they both have a strong interest in the Caribbean. The creative juices start to flow. Could they instead purchase property somewhere in the Caribbean and live there part of the year? A part-time Airbnb would be far less demanding than a year-round bed-and-breakfast. As she thinks about this possibility, Luz is energized. She realizes this could be not only a way to fulfill her own dream, but also to bring her and her partner closer together.   

Rob: “If I Don’t Get in Touch with My Feelings, My Wife Will Leave Me”

When Rob was growing up, no one talked about feelings, especially the men in his family. Feelings were not welcome, so he learned to “shake things off.” Recently, Rob’s wife told him that, because he never seems to have any feelings, her needs for intimacy are not being met. She says that if he doesn’t change, she wants a divorce. 

Rob loves his wife. He feels inadequacy and shame about not being able to meet her needs. At the same time, he really doesn’t seem to have many feelings, and is at a loss as to how to save his marriage.

At OTH, Rob extends kindness and respect to himself, begins to listen inside, and hears the quiet voice of his heart. He deepens into his positive core. It turns out that he does have feelings. He is simply really skillful at shutting them off in order to function. His natural emotional intelligence arises, and he begins to cry for the first time since childhood. He feels his deep love for his wife and his fear of losing her. His natural spiritual intelligence arises, and he realizes that, to save his marriage, something must shift. He sees that he can get in touch with his heart, but will never do it exactly the way his wife does. He also realizes that what she is really saying is that she’s lonely. He remembers that he does know how to reach out to her. Perhaps blending some of the ways they’ve been good together in the past with his new insights and skills, they can move forward. Rob commits to having a heart-to-heart with his wife when he gets home. He wants to make a plan to strengthen his connection to his own feelings and also to spend more meaningful time with his wife. 

Every participant who comes to Opening the Heart is grappling with difficult issues of one kind or another. And, in spite of the variety of life circumstances that they bring, perhaps everyone comes to the workshop for the same reasons: to rediscover their positive core, to access their natural emotional and spiritual intelligence, and to feel better and more whole again. It’s from this place of wholeness that we understand how to move forward in our lives.

Find out about upcoming programs with Linda Aranda-Belliveau.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail editor@kripalu.org.