How to Find the Capacity to Open Your Heart


We have a friend who sees the world in a pessimistic light. This person is highly suspicious of people and situations, and sees, as well as experiences negativity at most turns. Why is this and what does it mean? What can be done to help?


When our experience of the outer world is primarily through the filter of negative thinking, we gradually lose the capacity to experience life with an open heart. The thinking mind, at its best, may be a competent analyst and critic, but a purified heart is needed to perceive beauty and meaning, and the greatest suffering is meaninglessness. Years of negative mental and emotional habits of perceiving the world corrode the mirror of the heart. The soul can become infected with negativity and lose the capacity to recognize the grace, beauty and generosity of what truly is. The mind then becomes a very tight prison.

Hope lies in two capacities of the soul: One is presence—a wider, meditative state of awareness that encompasses our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Presence offers a perspective on our thoughts and negative attitudes. Presence engenders a spaciousness which opens the doors and windows of the mental prison of negativity. Presence develops with meditation, inner silence and stillness, and mindful activity.

The second necessary capacity of the soul that can free us from the prison of the mind is a knowing heart, a faculty that begins to reveal itself in that state of presence. The heart perceives the simple goodness of life, the exquisite beauty of simple being, of relationships, of existence. The thinking mind cannot arrive at this perception alone. The head says, “No,” and “But…” Only the heart responds with an unconditional “Yes!” Only the heart can grasp the goodness of being, discover meaning in life and be grateful.

It’s simple, really, but the thinking mind will stubbornly argue otherwise until it is taught to be quiet and listen to the heart. Ultimately the thinking mind can be informed by the heart and translate the perceptions of the heart into language, communication and wisdom.

If we are habitually negative, suspicious and cynical about life, we are dumping garbage in and around the house of the soul. If we see with a knowing heart, keep a positive vision, encourage ourselves and others, keep the faith, we establish beautiful gardens in the soul.

–Shaikh Kabir Helminski
Kabir Helminski is Shaikh of the Mevlevi Order, Co-director of The Threshold Society (Sufism.org).