A Heart-Opening Practice

“Keep a green bough in your heart, and a singing bird will come.”

-Lao Tzu

I love this gorgeous quote, and as a bird lover, it blasts my heart right open.

I’m reminded to keep my heart open (the green bough), inviting something magical to cross my path, calling me to see it.

But it’s hard sometimes to have an open heart, isn’t it? It’s a challenge to stay in gratitude and appreciation for what we have when times are rough, or the suffering is intense.

What I’ve learned? It’s way harder to stay shut down. When there’s no way to invite the singing bird or hear her when she arrives.

Suffering takes energy we may not have. It makes it hard to see the future in a positive way. It makes us feel stuck and alone and without hope.

But even in our suffering we can choose to open our hearts. We can practice openheartedness even when we feel hopeless or stuck in survival mode.

Here’s how:

Heart Opening Practice

Gently place your hands over your heart. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply. Fill your heart with breath. Close your eyes and be there. Be in your heart. Not in the past. Not in the future. Not in your pain and suffering. Just there in your heart. Feel it soften. Imagine it expanding and opening with each breath. Then think of something or someone you are profoundly grateful for—a child, spouse, friend, pet, or a place that fills you with awe. Bring them to mind and place them in your heart. With hands, attention, and loving grateful memory held within your heart, say: “I am grateful.” “I am love.” “I receive love.” “I am open-hearted.”

Stay with this practice for at least 10 minutes or until you feel finished. Repeat it every day.

You Become a Love Magnet

Energy moves where you put your attention. By tending to your heart—touching it, breathing into it, placing your loved one there—energy has to flow there. Your energized open heart becomes a magnet. For a singing bird. For help. For hope. For love.

p.s. Want to learn more about the healing power of love? Check out my new book: Heal–A Nine-Stage Roadmap to Recover Energy, Reverse Chronic Illness, and Claim the Potential of a Vibrant New You. 2019.

Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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