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Episode 12 - Opening the Heart: Meditation as a Doorway to Emotional Freedom
In this episode, Craig dives into one of the most beautiful aspects of awakened consciousness—the wide-open heart. As we awaken to our true nature, we often find our hearts opening in ways we've never experienced, revealing both the splendor and the struggles of the world. But embracing this level of sensitivity can feel daunting, often stirring up feelings of vulnerability and overwhelm. Join Craig as he explores how meditation practice can create a safe space to cultivate radical empathy, allowing us to embrace the full spectrum of our human experience with courage and compassion.


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In This Episode…

“Meditation offers us a rare opportunity to practice having an open heart in a truly safe environment where there’s nothing we need to protect ourselves from. In meditation, we can practice letting down our guard, allowing ourselves to feel life fully and completely in each moment. This opens the door to deep and profound experiences that were previously inaccessible to us.” —Craig Hamilton

Welcome to Episode 12 of our podcast series! In this episode, Craig takes us on a journey into the depths of awakened consciousness, exploring the profound transformation of the heart.

In “Opening the Heart: Meditation as a Doorway to Emotional Freedom,” Craig delves into the beauty of an open heart, a hallmark of awakened awareness. As we awaken to our true nature, we often find our hearts opening in ways we’ve never experienced, touching us with both the splendor and the struggles of the world.

Many of us on the spiritual path yearn for the expansiveness of an open heart, along with the deeper sense of connection and boundless compassion it brings with it. But embracing this level of sensitivity can feel daunting, stirring up feelings of vulnerability and overwhelm.

In this episode, Craig explores how meditation can serve as a sanctuary for our hearts to open. Through meditation practice, we can create a safe space to cultivate radical empathy, embracing the full spectrum of the human experience with courage and compassion.

Join us as Craig uncovers the transformative power of meditation for nurturing an open heart, allowing us to embrace life’s joys and sorrows with empathy and grace.

If you’re interested in exploring more of Craig’s approach to meditation, you’re invited to tune in to a 90-minute online workshop Craig will be hosting called Meditation 2.0 – The Miracle of Direct Awakening. Register for free at: FreeMeditationWorkshop.com


Episode 12 Opening the Heart: Meditation as a Doorway to Emotional Freedom

As you may know, I teach a unique, contemporary approach to meditation I call “The Practice of Direct Awakening.” What distinguishes this particular approach to meditation from other approaches is that we’re sourcing it from the natural qualities of awakened consciousness, of our true nature.

We’re exploring how an awakened human being naturally shows up, what the natural experience of enlightenment or awakening is, and then we’re practicing those qualities directly. We practice the natural attitudes, dispositions, characteristics, and qualities of awakening. Essentially, we turn them into practices. That’s what I mean by direct awakening as a meditation practice.

Awakened Consciousness & the Opening of the Heart

When we contemplate awakened consciousness, one of the beautiful things about it, one of its very sublime and touching qualities, is the profound opening of the heart it brings about. When any of us experience the depth of our true nature, when any of us step into awakened consciousness – that part of us that is already awake – one of the things we discover is that our heart has been flung wide open in a way that we had never experienced before.

We didn’t consciously strive for this opening of the heart, nor were we doing practices to try to become more open, but through this awakening, we find that our heart feels vast and open. Suddenly, we’re moved by things we barely noticed before.

We find we’re deeply empathic toward others, sensing their emotions and their inner world. We also become profoundly open to our own inner life, embracing the complexities of our own psyche, our experiences, conditioning and reactions. We’re open to a depth of being and life experience far beyond anything that we could have imagined or known before. All of this seems to flow naturally from this new consciousness that we’ve discovered.

Those of you who have had some experience of awakening, whether through a glimpse of your true nature, or through more sustained awakenings, I’m sure you will recognize what I’m describing. We suddenly discover, “Wow, this is what it truly means to feel. This is what it means to feel fully alive. I didn’t realize I was missing out on so much. I didn’t realize I was shielded, or sheltered, or cut off in so many ways.”

Discovering A Cosmic Sensitivity

One way to describe this concept is as a heightened sensitivity. And in this sense, there is a big difference between reactivity and sensitivity. In a conventional sense, we often equate the two. If someone reacts very intensely to something we say or do, we might say, “You’re being too sensitive. I just made a small comment and you overreacted completely.”

However, what I’m talking about here is a very different kind of sensitivity. It’s a very deep, full-being sensitivity that does not equate to any form of reactivity. We become a space capable of feeling for the whole, for the heart of the cosmos and the heart of life.

We feel it all, allowing it all in, but we’re containing it all. It’s not a conscious effort; it just naturally fits because we now have room for everything. Our consciousness is so wide open that there is space for every experience to arise and move within us without necessarily propelling us into a reaction.

I’m using the heart as a metaphor for our ability to feel, not just emotionally but also subtle feelings, subtle energies, and even raw emotion. Essentially, it’s about our center of feeling, and our receptivity to feel powerful deep feelings.

Attuning To The Full Spectrum of Being Alive

When I talk about having an open heart, I’m referring to being open to the full spectrum of the intensity of being alive – to be someone who’s open to feeling and experiencing all of that.

Often, when I’ve spoken about presence or being present, I’m using it in a narrower way because I’m focusing on the quality of your attention and where you place it. Is your attention here? Is your awareness here? Being present and attentive. But here I’m pointing to something that includes attention but goes much deeper – a complete whole-being presence. It’s a presence that is deeply felt, sensitive and aware, feeling and knowing, receptive and available.

So, this opening of the heart enables us to stay connected to others, deeply connected to ourselves, to our feelings and experiences, and to reality and life itself. While we can be connected at the level of mind or attention, you can sense how that’s a fairly thin layer compared to the much deeper attunement, receptivity, and sensitivity of this deeper level of presence.

The Source of Radical Empathy

This open heart serves as the source of radical empathy – the profound ability to deeply resonate with others, to feel someone else’s experience and to truly understand what it means to feel what they’re feeling, letting it all in.

It’s what enables us to broadly feel the pain and suffering in the world. Many of us on the spiritual path struggle with this dilemma: we feel compelled to want to feel the pain of the world, to be in touch with our human community and all life on the planet, yet when we do, we tend to feel overwhelmed by it, and inclined to shut it out and say, “No, that’s too much.”

However, it’s this very openness of heart that also enables us to experience the beauty and glory of this world and life itself. By cutting ourselves off and pushing away the discomfort, pain and suffering, we shield ourselves from life’s experiences across the board.

Why Are We So Defended?

So by shielding ourselves from discomfort, we inadvertently shield ourselves from the beauty, the profundity, and the sacredness of life. It’s like we’ve created a tight filter, that only allows in a fairly narrow spectrum of experience – filtering out both the highs and lows.

How does this differ from the common human condition at large? That unenlightened state in which we find ourselves? If we observe how most people experience the world, you can see that we’re incredibly defended. We have a very powerful defense system that blocks a lot of our potential experiences right at the gate.

There are a few broad reasons for this. Life inevitably brings pain and trauma and some of us have endured more than others. It’s understandable that we grow defended against further pain. If our heart has been hurt in the past, we may close it off, “I’m not going to let things in.” Perhaps we let another person in very deeply, only to be hurt, and vowed never to let anyone else in again.

For some, a very painful, traumatic childhood can lead to a lot of deep defenses. This kind of partial shutdown is a very human response to the difficulties, suffering, and trauma of life.

I’m obviously speaking here about the opening of the heart that occurs during spiritual awakening, but I also want to acknowledge that we’re all on a spectrum of open-heartedness. It isn’t a binary situation. It’s not black and white. Some of us have been through a journey of opening our hearts, and they may be more open now than a decade ago. Yet, we might still have areas that are a bit closed off, but we’re unaware of them.

You might have encountered people in life who seem completely shut off. They’re unwilling to let anybody in and don’t let themselves feel. We probably all know people like that. We may have been that person at one point and have since transformed.

So, it’s a spectrum, but here we’re considering its ultimate potential – as to when we’re truly awakened and all the defenses have been relinquished. What’s that possibility, and how could we practice that, ultimately?

Healing and Growth vs Awakening

It’s important to recognize that those of us who have done a lot of spiritual and psychological work can sometimes adopt an overly trauma-centric worldview, or a healing-centric perspective. We might perceive everyone as constantly healing and recovering from past traumas, and believe that’s the essence of the journey.

However, that’s not really what the spiritual journey is. Healing is part of the human journey of maturation and growth and part of life. And spirituality organically brings about a lot of healing, but there’s much more to it than that.

The opening of the heart is about much more than healing from our past wounds. It’s not only trauma that causes our hearts to close, or partially close. We can also close our hearts in defense against the sheer intensity of life. And by intensity, I’m not just referring to negativity. There certainly is a lot of negative intensity – violence, cruelty, and fear – and it’s understandable that we would be defended against that as an adaptive response.

However, as our life begins to touch upon the beautiful possibilities that life has to offer, and we start to glimpse the glorious, sacred depth of what’s possible for a human being to encounter and live from, we discover an intensity of positive feeling and experience that can be equally overwhelming and disorienting. This positive intensity feels like it could turn our world upside down, and leave our life unrecognizable. We might forget who we thought we were and not know who we are anymore. Others around us might not recognize the person we’re becoming.

Afraid of the Light and the Dark

The fear that we might struggle to function sometimes arises from sensing the immense shift in consciousness that spiritual experiences and spiritual awakenings can bring. We discover that we are deeply defended against Spirit, and shielded against spiritual awakening. We realize we’re just as afraid, just as boundaried, against the glorious heights of spiritual illumination as we are against the frightening, dangerous or negative parts of life. It’s very interesting.

We tend to come onto the path, believing we want nothing but love and light, God and Spirit, or enlightenment. We might think, “If I get over the parts of myself that are in the way and find that glorious possibility in myself, I will naturally embrace it wholeheartedly.”

Or we think, “I would happily live a holy, spiritual life and surrender my life to the divine, if only I could find it.” That’s often how we start on the path. “If only I could find that, then I would give myself to it completely.” But once we do find it, we’re often faced with a surprising ambivalence. We realize that we’re not entirely sure if we’re ready to fully surrender to this profound experience.

That surprises us, and it’s often hard to face. We wonder, “Why would I be defended against the very thing I want the most? Why would I be shielded and protected? Why would I close my heart down to the very source of my heart, to the very deepest longing of my heart?”

Confronting and facing that ambivalence, being willing to see it and work to move beyond it, is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of spiritual life. It requires us to see the ways in which we’re defended against the very thing we want the most.

Not because of our past traumas, but because we aren’t sure we’re ready to be overwhelmed, swept off our feet, give up control and be taken somewhere. Even if that place is magical, beautiful, and glorious, if it’s not a space we can control, we’re not sure we’re ready for that experience.

Feeling The Full Spectrum of Sensitivity

When I speak about the opening of the heart, I’m referring to a heart that’s open to all of it, because it’s the same movement. What I’m pointing to involves a kind of vulnerability, a receptivity, an openness that we can’t control. We can’t simply say, “Okay, I’m going to have tight control over the aperture here, and I’m going to filter out all the unwanted uncomfortable things, and I’m going to allow in all the beautiful, lovely, pleasant things. I’ll be the gatekeeper for what I’m going to let in.”

To really allow the big open-heartedness of spiritual awakening, of our spiritual self, of our true nature, we have to relinquish control to truly allow all that to become our life. We have to let go of control of that gate or that aperture. We need to discover within ourselves a way to let it all in without getting blown off course by it – feeling the full spectrum of sensitivity and receptivity.

The Opening of the Heart Is a Practice of Awakening

Like any of the natural qualities of awakening, the opening of the heart is something that we can directly practice. We can practice bringing an open heart to every aspect of our lives. We can practice trying to meet everything life brings our way with an open heart. However, this is a lot easier to say than it is to do in daily life.

Imagine if I were to say, “Let’s practice opening our hearts. So, in situations where you’re defended and closed, go out into life and open your heart. Good luck. See you next time.” Sure, it might have an effect, but it wouldn’t be that profound. We would all try our best, then we would share our results and say, “Well, I tried today to have an open heart at work, but I don’t know what it even means to have an open heart in relation to this one person who really triggers me. I don’t really want to let them in, because they’re a jerk.” Or, something else like, “I wanted to be open hearted to the movements of spirit, but when I sat down to meditate and tried to have an open heart, I just found myself in my same old pattern.”

So, telling someone to go have an open heart is a bit like saying, “Be undefended.” You’re quickly going to discover that you’re too defended to be undefended. These defense systems operate unconsciously, deep in the psyche. They’ve been built up over time, layer upon layer, and they kick in automatically, prior to any conscious thought.

There’s a valid reason you’re defended, as we just discussed. It’s a protection mechanism. it’s a way to protect ourselves from toxic interactions, hostile individuals, and various threats. This is where the opportunity for meditation proves to be invaluable for spiritual awakening. In meditation, we have a safe environment in which to practice the opening of the heart, free from external threats, with nothing you need to protect yourself from. In meditation, we have the opportunity to practice letting down our guard, allowing ourselves to feel life fully and completely, without fear.

During meditation, many kinds of feelings and experiences may arise. As we practice being open-hearted, even in the stillness of meditation, internal shifts can occur. We may start to have feelings we don’t want to experience. We become open to deep and profound experiences that we were previously cut off from. We then have the opportunity to practice meeting everything that arises within us during meditation – every thought, sensation, and emotion – with an open heart, turning toward it, welcoming it, and being vulnerable to it. And that is a profound spiritual practice.

An Open Heart Requires An Open Mind

As we begin practicing having an open heart in meditation, one of the things we discover is that having an open heart also requires us to have an open mind – meaning, having a lot of space around and within our mind.

When we examine how we defend ourselves with the inner posture of being closed and defended, we find that it’s not just about energy and emotions; a significant aspect is tied to how we assign meaning to our experiences. To simplify it, imagine you’re sitting in meditation and a very strong feeling of anxiety comes up in your meditation. Almost immediately your thought structure says, “This shouldn’t be here. I’m meditating. I’m not supposed to feel anxious. I’m supposed to feel relaxed and at peace. Clearly this isn’t it and this feels bad and I need to make it go away.”

In this scenario, we’re imposing conclusions and meanings onto our feelings, reinforcing them and fueling the desire to push them away. However, if we simply allow ourselves to experience whatever arises without drawing any conclusions or making any meaning about the experience, we can remain open. We don’t know if it’s good or bad. We don’t know if it should be here or not. We’re just wide open.

For your heart to remain open, your mind also has to remain open and spacious. By the metaphor of a spacious mind, I mean a mind that’s not judging, not making meaning, not drawing conclusions. In other words, we have space in our mind for every thought, feeling and experience to arise without drawing conclusions about it, judging it or critiquing it. Instead, we’re just going to allow it, embrace it, and include it.


Meditation was invented when humans still believed the world was flat. Is it time for an update to this ancient practice? In this free 90-minute workshop, you’ll experience a revolutionary new meditation process that gives you direct access to awakened consciousness.


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