How many of us walk around this planet with a closed heart—unable to feel love and connection? We say “I love you”—but don’t really know what it is.

For the fortunate a healthy, “sense of self” was nurtured in at an early age. A parent or grandparent was always there to listen and understand us, to hug, to soothe the hurts. They showed us how to open our hearts.

Yet, many people are unable to have intimate relationships—when we try, the connection is shallow. Conversations level off after the weather, work— or the latest media buzz. We’re powerless to express what’s inside—the things we need to say for wellbeing.

And family dysfunction, too many hurts—can lock our capacity to feel along the way. We put up a shield around our heart to protect from future hurts.

My heart closed in adolescence——and it worked.

No one could get-to-me! I was tough and cool. But this way of living hurt me and those who needed my love and engagement.

I was contrarily successful; with a giving partner, 3 great children—and a career that provided us more than the basics—college educations and yearly vacations...

Later I realized that everything got blocked by this shield—love, joy, a sense of belonging, empathy— even the selfless ability to care.

I copied my friends, did what I saw around me in society, what my parents modeled—I numbed.

Some people numb by being forever busy— or we use food, sex, and drugs to numb— even our cell phones help distract us from ourselves.

My choice? I outran the queasiness by drinking beer and doing what felt good—work.

I wanted to open up but didn’t know how. I was emotionless, except anger (that was easy). I needed to find a solution to my well-functioning miserable life.

A life-changing event can open us; a loss, a brush with death, surviving an illness, like cancer—priorities, and values shift.

Others return to wholeheartedness by getting in touch with our religious roots. Faith can open our hearts through prayer—belief in God gives comfort and meaning. And recently, people use mindfulness meditation to provide extra benefit.

My path started when a friend, Louise recommended a book—which led to another book and this opened me to a search—for a way out of my chaotic head!

I discovered Mindfulness Meditation. It teaches how to face the yucky feelings—by understanding our common human failings—as well as the goodness inside.

I read about it daily—the benefits kept me motivated. You can read books, take a course or work with a meditation teacher if you have the cash. Or, there are articles and opportunities online. And/or you can learn meditation in your community, including groups of like-minded friends.

Mindfulness Meditation is Zumba for the mind—a joyful mind with an open heart is the goal.

Meditation is not a panacea—the beginning is hard and boring. It takes patience—now I enjoyed daily practice and miss it when other responsibilities pop up.

The point is to bring mindfulness into your daily life—into everything you do. At work or having coffee with a friend, one gains more awareness—aliveness—opening ourselves and Life as it is—while accepting the ups and downs.

Getting to our basic goodness, gaining self-worth helps stop the compulsion to always be doing. How often do you say, “Sorry, I’m too busy!”?

The point of Mindfulness is to loosen the grip of discursive thinking. (We Think, worry and have conversations with ourselves, all day long.) We live in a stressed-out trance. With mindfulness, you start remembering where your keys are, and why you went into the next room.

Mindful Awareness is the old cliché—“living in the moment”. Mindfulness is not a blissed-out state. You know what you’re thinking and are aware of everything—inside and out. Aware of your body feelings, sights, sounds—aware of all sensations— simultaneous.

And it’s fun! Being re-connected with love and compassion—our compulsion for social media fades into the background. We function on a higher level at work and home.

Maybe you’re thinking, I can’t do it, my minds too scattered. But if you’re able to read this, you can.

And it’s not wimpy. Courage and confidence build when we’re in touch with who we are. Making friends with ourselves allows us to trust, care, and give love to others. We still mess up. But with a moral compass the fear of doing or saying the wrong thing fades. Mindfulness brings connected relationships—and we thrive. Why not try it?

It becomes the foundation of daily life. And lately, my family likes the congruence. When I say, “I love you”—they feel it.

Ray Regan is a grandfather and writer living in Chester County, Pa.

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