3 Chakra-Healing Practices For A More Compassionate Heart

Naturopathic Doctor & Nurse Practitioner By Erica Matluck, N.D., N.P.
Naturopathic Doctor & Nurse Practitioner
Erica Matluck, N.D., N.P. is an NYC-based naturopathic doctor, nurse practitioner, and holistic coach.
Shadow Chakra: The Heart Chakra

Image by mbg Creative x Ilyas Bolatov / Unsplash

The seven main chakras are potent energetic centers that yogis and Eastern traditions have been referring to for thousands of years. In my holistic practice, I use the themes of the chakras to explore the spiritual dimension of health. Understanding these themes can reveal unconscious wound patterns that negatively affect our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Most of us are quite familiar with the concept of physical and emotional wounds. We know when we are physically wounded because the associated sensation is uncomfortable. We know when we are emotionally wounded because we don't like the way we feel. Many of us are less familiar with the concept of chakra wounding because it's energetic and subtle. These are often the wounds we are not conscious of because they exist as frequencies in the quantum field. Until we become conscious of them, they affect our physical, mental, and emotional health, and it feels as though we are not in control of our fate. But once we become aware of these subtle patterns and understand their origins, we move into the gift state of the associated chakra and we reclaim the ability to transcend the personal and collective beliefs that limit our potential.  

The first step of healing each chakra is to become aware of the wounds so we can shift out of the shadow frequency of that chakra and into its gift. Once you've worked through the shadow of your root chakra, sacral chakra, and solar plexus chakra, you can move on to the fourth chakra, the heart.

The shadow of the heart chakra is rejection.

The primary wound of the heart chakra is rejection. Most of us have had the experience of making ourselves vulnerable to another and feeling like it was not reciprocated. This is the nature of rejection—there is no exchange of energy, so we keep giving and giving in hopes that reciprocation will follow. If it doesn't, we feel rejected, alone, and sometimes foolish. This is a painful wound, and most of us respond to it by cloaking our hearts with armor to protect ourselves from future rejection.

However, in addition to preventing further rejection, the walls we build around the heart also prevent love from getting in. This drives the isolation deeper, and exchange becomes impossible.

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Physical signs of the heart chakra's shadow.

Ultimately, those with this wound forget how to receive love and support. They give and give and give until they are exhausted yet they don't understand why. If you are the type of person who can't receive a compliment without instantly offering one back, you probably have some work to do here. The heart chakra is not a one-way street—so in the absence of reciprocation, the more we give, the more alone and isolated we feel. Just like the physical heart can only supply fresh oxygenated blood to the body if that blood is returned to the heart, the heart chakra can only continue to give love and vulnerability if it is reciprocated.

The gift of the heart chakra is compassion.

The healing path of the heart chakra moves from isolation to compassion. Compassion is essential to the survival of our species. It binds us to one another, making isolation an impossibility—but it requires that we reveal our pain, our suffering, and our wounding to each other. We have to be courageous enough to risk rejection over and over again to experience the gift of the heart. We must remember that the heart has nothing to fear because either it is generating compassion for others or it is wounded, in which case it inspires others to generate compassion. Either way, the heart is always responsible for radiating the highest form of love into the world.   

The heart is capable of transmuting all human pain and suffering into love. But this is no ordinary love (aka lust and dysfunctional attachment). This is compassion: The highest expression of love and the genuine desire to relieve the suffering of others. In other words, human suffering is essential for compassion to exist. So if we are not vulnerable and we don't reveal our pain to others because we're too afraid or too cloaked in post-rejection armor, compassion cannot exist.

The heart chakra thrives on the transformation of suffering into compassion, and it is through witnessing the suffering of others (a mirror image of our own) that the armor begins to melt and the doors of receptivity open. Here are three exercises to support heart chakra healing:

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 1. Practice receiving.

From now on, when someone compliments you, pause, take a deep breath, and receive their words before responding. Visualize their words coming in through your inhale and spreading throughout your body. Then, you can say thank you. If you have an urge to change the subject or complement them back, try to refrain and notice how that feels. 

2. Try a breath practice.

On your inhale, imagine breathing in all the pain and suffering of those around you. Feel it enter your heart, and on your exhale, send love and compassion to all those who are suffering. Do this for 10 to 20 breath cycles.  

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3. Create coherence.

When we generate positive emotions of the heart (gratitude, love, compassion, appreciation, care), our heart rate variability (a measure of resilience) increases. When we do this in a group, it creates a powerful collective field. So gather a group of at least four people and sit in a circle with one person in the center. Those on the outside of the circle should close their eyes and generate positive emotions while the person in the center simply bathes in the harmonious field and receives for 5 to 10 minutes. Take turns so each person has a chance to sit in the center.

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