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Heart Coach Institute

Robin Johnson, ACC • January 16, 2024 • 11 Minute Read

Awakening My Heart

By the time I was 45, there were a few things I had become really good at in my life: I learned to make buttery, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth, homemade rolls and it became my signature dish. It was the most often requested food for me to bring to family dinners, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I took up road biking and found a passion for an open road and my Christian worship playlist. Singing with wild abandon about Jesus while I pedaled helped me complete some 100-mile bike events. I was brilliant at starting a new business and had three in the works. I loved the process of creation and would stay awake into the early morning hours to co-create with God. All of these things I loved. 

I had also become an expert at something that wasn’t fulfilling, and didn’t bring any joy into my life: I learned how to disconnect from my heart. There were some deep, childhood wounds lingering and I didn’t know how to heal the pain I felt so I would disconnect from my heart instead. By my forties, I could have gone pro – I could disconnect from my heart faster than anyone I knew. One minute I was feeling life, and the next minute I was not. It was a protection. It was a trauma response. It was easier than feeling the pain.

I didn’t consciously realize I was doing it, or how often I disconnected from my heart, until I went to some training for Heart Centered Therapy. I remember watching the teacher, Alaya Chikly, speak to us and as she did I could feel that she was speaking from a completely open heart. I was completely mesmerized.

I couldn’t recall ever being around someone that stayed open-hearted like that for such a long period of time. I also realized the startling contrast to my own guarded heart. I thought it was a little careless of her – to not have her heart protected – and I assumed she probably had not felt the sting of the world. Everything she said and every problem she solved, was guided from the heart. It was both surprising and awe-inspiring to watch.

On day two of the training, she told us about her life. It was filled with trauma and unimaginable pain. Pick one of every hard circumstance a child or teenage girl could experience and it had happened to her. I was horrified at my previous judgment of her and wondered: With that much pain in her life, how did she keep her heart open? Didn’t she need to protect herself emotionally? I was in complete awe of her courage. I had been a little protective of my heart even in the class. I didn’t know anyone there and didn’t know if I felt safe to open my heart. 

She took us through a little quiz in class. She asked us three questions and told us to ask our mind and really think about the answers. The questions were: 

  1. Experience a flower – what is it like?
  2. What do you need to feel safe? 
  3. What do you need to feel happy? 

She told us to remember our answers and then she had us connect to our hearts.

We put a hand on our heart and felt the rhythm and pace of the physical heart. We took some deep breaths and slowed down to match our beating heart. We felt the physical heart, but also became aware of the spiritual heart – the heart connected to our soul or spirit. We took time to get connected to this heart. We felt the warmth and safety of our own heart. We felt the depth and compassion of the heart. We felt the peace that is held in our hearts. Once connected, she asked us the same three questions:

  1. Experience a flower – what is it like?
  2. What do you need to feel safe? 
  3. What do you need to feel happy?

As I listened for an answer from my heart, instead of thinking of or generating an answer from my mind, I received the answers from my heart. 

I was amazed at the difference in the answers. When I experienced a flower from my mind, I saw a one dimensional drawing of a daisy on graph paper and noticed the symmetry and design of each petal. My college degree was in graphic design and I saw the flower similar to an architect’s rendering of a flower. It was a very mechanical and observatory experience. 

Once we connected to our hearts and experienced a flower from the heart, I was instantly in nature walking through lush green grass. The flower was by a flowing stream and I felt the breeze brushing up against my cheeks. I could smell every contributing aroma in the fresh air. The petals on the flower felt like the most soothing, thin piece of velvet I had ever touched. The ruby red color was saturated and deep. It felt like I could see a hundred shades of red. The depth of detail and sensory experiences I was having was extraordinary. It was very much a three dimensional, experiential moment – I was feeling it, smelling it, hearing it, touching it.

I sat back in my chair and was amazed at the contrast I had just witnessed. Could connecting to my heart make that kind of a difference in my life? With my heart shut down, was I limiting my experience here in life to a one dimensional reality? Was that mechanical, non-emotional experience of the daisy representative of my life? Is that all I had been able to take in of life without being connected to my heart? I wanted to understand more. I wanted to feel that depth of perception again.

The answers to the other two questions were equally surprising. The answers from my head were so focused on the here and now while the answers from my heart felt so wise and eternal. I was perplexed at this newfound source of knowledge. Others didn’t seem to be affected by what they experienced but I was completely shocked to have received answers from my heart.

It felt so new, but it felt so natural at the same time – why hadn’t I tried this before? 

It was that same kind of feeling as when they added a fourth door to the mini-van. Are you old enough to remember that? In the beginning, mini-vans only had the driver and passenger door, with one sliding door for the back seat passengers. It seemed normal and perfect until the day the Dodge Caravan added a sliding door on the other side. Wait WHAT??? You can put four doors on a mini-van? GENIUS!… And then we were all left wondering – why did it ever only have three doors in the first place?

It was that kind of moment. For 45 years I had been going to my mind for the answers. My entire life there had been another resource within me that was completely untapped. Why didn’t I ever think of asking my heart?

I started opening my heart up more in class. Just a little at a time. I started speaking to people from my heart. I became vulnerable and shared some of my healing journey with the class. I found myself listening differently to people. I felt great compassion as I heard the stories of other people’s lives. 

I found that feeling deep compassion was worlds apart from simply thinking kind thoughts. 

I opened my heart more. I felt a great connection to the peace inside my heart and it became a stronghold within me. I quit focusing on myself and focused on giving love instead. I wanted to feel my heart wide open. I stopped listening to my mind chatter as I started listening to my heart and I loved what I was hearing. I felt closer to God. I felt more open to God. It was as if I felt more of God with me.

img src="open heart.jpg" alt="Women with open heart"

By the last day of the training, my heart was more open than I had ever remembered it to be in my entire life. There was a feeling of liberation within me. It felt more natural than not and that was the biggest surprise! It also felt like something I would call, exhilarating terror – you know that feeling when you are about to go down the big hill on a rollercoaster?? Yep. That feeling. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I wanted to live this way – with an open heart – like Alaya – but could I stay this way? Forever? I didn’t know how long this feeling would last.

I checked out of the hotel and found my little economy rental car in the parking lot. I loaded my suitcase in the back, but as I went to the driver’s door to get in, I paused. A strange question surfaced: Would I be able to fit in the car? Not my physical body, but my great, big, huge, wide open heart?? (wink) I had never let my heart expand that much in my life and as I climbed in, it felt like trying to put a whole balloon bouquet in a small vehicle. I would get most of my heart in but then it felt like more squished out the other side. 

“I should have upgraded my car!” I exclaimed to no one as I laughed out loud. Who knew I would be taking home so much more than the piece of luggage I came with?

I finally got all of me in that pint-sized car, and closed the door. I sat in the silence and soaked it all in. I was alone in the car, but it felt SO FULL! So full of my love! So full of light. Full of hope, peace, happiness and charity. It was a yummier-than-a-hot-Cinnabun kind of feeling. I never wanted to shut my heart again.

I couldn’t believe I was 45 and feeling this fully for the first time. Wow! What had I been doing with my life? Why had I been content living in this one dimensional reality?? Did everyone know this was possible? Was I the last to know? I could only give myself grace and I could only stay in gratitude. 

I learned by watching Alaya that any heart trauma can be healed. It is our natural response to shut down the heart so we don’t feel pain when something difficult happens. It may even save us in the moment as we deal with the current circumstance, but it isn’t meant to be a long-term solution. At some point, we want to heal and re-establish our heart connection again. 

How do we find the courage to reconnect? When do we know if it is safe to listen to the heart again? Where do we find the tools to open the heart? How do we get to the point that we trust the heart again?

Does it even matter?

From all that I experienced that week-end I knew that it did matter. My life would be more rich, more meaningful, more peaceful, more joyful, more connected, more perceptive and more delicious to my soul if I could hold onto this change of heart. I left the class a different person. I was surprised that four days could make such a drastic change in my life. After nearly forty years of living with my heart disconnected or on guard, I now felt what it was like to have an open heart.

My experience was not unique to me. Every person on this planet can heal their heart and learn to live with an open heart. This is the reason and purpose I created the Heart Coach Institute. Along with the powerful Life Coach training, our students are trained on the heart. They take that training out into the world and help others learn how to listen to their heart.

As you take your journey to the heart, I hope your car is big enough to fit you – and all of your beautiful heart – inside. If not, I can’t think of a better excuse to do some car shopping…

Big hugs

Robin

PS. This is an except from my upcoming book about the heart, and how necessary it is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Currently titled, “The Heart of the Gospel”, I hope to have it available the Fall of 2024.

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