No matter what your answer is, you are (almost definitely) likely to be deceiving yourself. I will prove it to you, if you allow me

Humanity as a whole, knowingly or not, is pondering this essential question, and it seems that a great deal of happiness depends on the answer. Answers span far beyond a simple “yes” or “no.”  There are many types of “yes” and “no,” but the most common answer is: “neither one nor the other. Some claim: “sometimes, it’s yes; sometimes, it’s no”; others state “it depends on the moment and the person.” It is as if it were a question of will or a spontaneous choice. Many shades of grey exist between black and white to define the possibilities that lie in between those colours. What can we call those intermediate situations? Especially when essential and profound questions such as these define the true inner state of people.  They may be called NEUROTIC NEGOTIATIONS; our mind engages in these without being able to assume a defined position, living in a constant state of indecision. When do I open and/or close? With what type of person/relationships? What kind of circumstances activate this need to close or open up? Whether I speculate about or there are reasons to close myself, is it not the case that we sometimes deceive ourselves into believing that we are open when we are actually closed? Deep down, we know that we have never opened up and that we don’t want that to happen. I mean opening up to life, to others, to love, freedom and feelings. Opening up to feel everything that happens from our hearts.

In the field of therapy and personal growth, sometimes — though not frequently — we deal with the topic of “losing heart.” It is an attitude that we may adopt at some point in our lives, generally as a kid, when one or several situations cause us so much pain that we decide (consciously or not) to close ourselves to feel. It is a precautionary measure. We protect and defend ourselves so as not to suffer again. The fantasy offered by losing heart is that we won’t feel any more pain. At a first glance, this is a logical and reasonable conclusion: if I close and lock my door, no one can enter and steal from me or hurt me. However, this does not guarantee that I will not feel pain. Something can always slip in through a crack in the door and cause  suffering.  Closing ourselves does not guarantee we won’t suffer. On the contrary, it sets us up for continuous suffering.

What is more, we can’t “selectively” close. If we withdraw into ourselves, we do so for everything. And the same goes for opening up. When you close yourself, you leave your friends, your lover, your son or your father outside… Closing keeps us isolated, it perverts us, fills us with resentment and isolates us in a horrible place inhabited by fear. Consequently, given that we can’t experience freedom and all the feelings that give our life purpose, we seek intensity in situations and behaviours which may produce feelings that resemble those we lack in our hearts.

Currently, I am in “Semillas de Luz (Seeds of Light),” a gorgeous place in the mountains in Ibiza, a natural space run by my son Elián and his partner Débora. I came here to join them in an ayahuasca session for 20 people. When we started on this road of ancestral medicines, Taita Domingo Males from Colombia told us: “The father has to let the son in and vice-versa,” so that you will be able to work together on anything. He made us remove our clothes and bathe each other with ayahuasca. And so we entered a bathtub and did it, willing to do anything to heal and conscious of the fact that our past needed cleansing and that reconciliation was imminent.  Fifteen years later, we are celebrating and feeling thankful for all we achieved on that road of forgiveness and understanding that we walked on with courage and dedication. We celebrate with ayahuasca, with our hearts open, singing songs together, and — in my case — writing. While I was listening to my son playing the drum and the flute, I sat on a sofa and opened a message I got from Laura, a reader of the blog, in which she said:   “Alberto, Could you please write a post about the meaning of having our hearts open or closed? I don’t’ understand it and understand it even less each time.. I am very confused and I have many doubts.”   And so I got down to work. I grabbed a piece of paper and I wrote this post for the blog, with my hand directly connected to my heart. I opened up completely and sought to feel in my deepest self what this dichotomy of the heart really is.

So many people doubt and ask themselves if they have an open heart or not, and they seek proof to define their state and answer the question: Am I disheartened?  If they feel that is the case, they automatically move on to: how can I open my heart?  The truth is that very few dare to confront this situation with the appropriate depth. They don’t want to see why or when their hearts closed because it means exploring unpleasant moments that they prefer to avoid. Still, there is a group of courageous human beings that look within and try to elucidate what happened and what their state is. To them, I write these words:

It is impossible to close our hearts. However, it is possible to create a virtual seal, a wall of energy that keeps out everything connected to our sensitivity. Every human being identifies with this seal, custom-building it and turning it into a protective armour that defends them from attacks and suffering.  This substitute that is created that excludes our feeling hearts from our internal reality is a construction that takes many years to complete. It involves a great deal of dedication and is made under the orders dictated by healing engineering. The idea it implants is a fantasy: CLOSE YOURSELF! THEN, YOU WILL SEE HOW YOU OPEN UP.  It is as if life was telling us “I’m going to put you in a terrible mess, let’s see how you sort it out.” Everyone has a different mess, a specific wound or trauma. We have a number in a divine lottery, and it may be the losing one or not. The prize is a level of difficulty tailored to your soul. No human being will experience something in the same way as another. That is why people find it difficult to heal their essential problem. Because it is unique and unrepeatable. I believe that our essential problem is that we closed ourselves at some point in our lives; we lost hope, daring to dream, and the openness to feel like innocent children.

Most people would prefer to be open their whole lives. To not have experienced whatever drove them to react and close themselves. Sadly, the healing law doesn’t work like that.  Becoming ill is a necessary step in order to heal, as suffering is to being able to enjoy, being born to die, and dying to blossom. Those who accept the rules of the healing game advance quickly. Those who resist go slower, suffering more and finding it harder to resolve the situation, with so much discussion in the way. “It is what it is,” as Erik Moreno’s song says. We can either accept or reject it. We are free. That choice will open up a consequent path and a destiny. Most of us have rejected it, and in doing so we failed to understand in time how human life works.

We live in duality. Most human beings maintain both realities at the same time: their hearts are open since the beginning, but the armour keeps everything away from them. They silently cry out for love but are also perfectly organized to avoid truly experiencing it.

Living in this situation pushes us to  neurosis. By this, I mean an emotional imbalance where feelings are out of control and surface when and in whatever form they choose, not guided by our souls. We are constantly projecting this impotence and pain stemming from the unresolved trauma onto other people. In addition, we prevent anything from the outside from entering and caressing the most sensitive part of ourselves. Our hearts beat to feel, but our minds dominate all situations, controlling everything and keeping it away from the nucleus. Feeling again may be dangerous for the rebirth of love and gratitude for life. Freedom does not come easily after so many years in jail, living isolated and resentful. The programming behind this virtual closure is incompatible with exposure to the external, with being vulnerable. That is why it creates an imaginary bunker. Even though it is not real, we adapt to it and build our relationships with other people and with the environment while under the anaesthesia of that imposed reality.

We see this in thousands of people who come to our retreats and show us the cracks on the wall through which we can slip the seed of reconciliation through. The operating system that governs a life of suffering is full of inconsistencies, as all computer programs are. There’s always a way to insert a lethal virus that destroys the virtual reality where people live. That is our job, both with ourselves and with the people who come to us. We have to detect that anomaly on the virtual wall that separates me from the other, from life and feelings.

Being open and closed at the same time is nothing but neurosis itself: accepting and rejecting, hating and loving, creating and destroying, seeking and escaping, living and dying, wanting and not wanting. We wake up each day, but we also go to sleep so as not to see or feel. We sleep to close ourselves; we close ourselves to sleep. Being asleep or closed are nothing but substitute realities that inadvertently grabbed hold of us when we experienced a situation of deep pain. We turned against ourselves.

It is the insanity that is turning humanity suicidal, the duality that makes us suffer and that drains our energies to keep itself alive. If only it was possible to close ourselves off, but that is not possible, it is only self-deception.

We use this intermediate situation to speculate, manipulate and calculate around everything that appears in our lives. We are so skilful in how we sustain this virtual closure of our hearts that we even created a virtual opening to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are open and feeling. This is how we allow ourselves to experience a bit of life, a bit of love and other crude approximations to what would feel being open. But sooner or later we slip and close ourselves again, as if we were switching from one program to another while navigating virtual realities that can’t produce authentic experiences in us. We come and go from heaven to hell in a psychological torture that keeps us from accessing that original, pure, immaculate, innocent and loving state.

When I left this session with ayahuasca, I had a conversation with a woman who was talking about her father and what keeps her away from him; and I asked her: What is really keeping you from approaching your father and having a direct, loving and understanding experience?  And, what was her answer? NOTHING! So, if nothing is keeping you from it, why don’t you leave this virtual game?  It has been a test of healing. We have fallen asleep or closed ourselves, but it wasn’t real.

Welcome to the real world.

(Picture: Aniel Varela, the child who accompanied and inspired me with an open heart  throughout these two wonderful days.)

Alberto José Varela

[email protected]

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