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February 25, 2011 / Man in the Mirror

Do You Have the Courage to Be Intimate?

When the heart gets hurt, we protect it by subconsciously building a wall around it.  If you imagine your heart with a wall of ice surrounding it, the ice being frozen emotions, our relationship issues, both romantic and otherwise become clearer–because every wall built to protect also divides.  In our attempt to guard our heart we subconsciously keep people that we truly want to be close to at a distance, then wonder what their problem is.  Why do they stay at arms length?  Or, why do they always leave me?
To have a life that includes meaningful intimacy, we must find the courage to melt the ice wall and expose our heart to the world.  This terrifies many of us because it seems dangerously vulnerable, and based on our past wounds, we dare not expose it again.
But mark this: Exposing your heart does not mean living without wisdom, boundaries, or discernment.  But it does mean you must take the initial first step to melt the wall.  And it is the first step that is the hardest.
This calls to mind a memory from my own childhood.
Born with congenital clubbed feet, I had two surgeries and spent many years of my early life in plaster casts.  Often I was put in a cast for a period of six weeks.  My leg-size and strength had diminished and the itching caused from the cotton wrapping beneath the plaster was nearly intolerable.  In short, I couldn’t wait for the cast to come off.
On the big day, the doctor would use a special electric saw, and after a few unpleasant minutes, I was liberated.  But I have to tell you; my initial feeling of the cast removal was very unpleasant and a little scary.  The saw sometimes hurt a little so the process itself was frightening to a small boy, and when my leg, having been heavily insulted for six weeks, was exposed to the air, it felt cold, raw, and vulnerable.   My first feeling was I wanted to cover my leg again.  I had to push past these feelings because after cleaning it, in a little while my leg, though weaker, began to feel wonderful.
So the lesson is this: the process of revealing your heart might be a little painful, and the first feelings exposure to the world may feel cold, raw, and vulnerable.  Then you are faced with a choice: Should you remain exposed, or put the wall back up? By being courageous, you allow your heart to get past the discomfort of being exposed and instead become stronger than it ever has before.
How to Melt the Ice Wall

  • Start a simple breathing regime that you do each day; for ten minutes, breathe in (mouth open) as deeply as possible and out as much as possible.  Do this standing; Lift the arms overhead as you inhale, then down to your thighs as you exhale.
  • Begin a Hatha Yoga practice four times a week and focus on postures that open the chest.
  • Practice speaking about your emotions, especially love, in a direct way, telling your loved ones how you feel, and when people say they love you, never deflect it with jokes or space-fillers.  Make eye contact, smile genuinely, and take it in.

Max Strom is a teacher, speaker, and author who teaches personal transformation and yoga. His latest book is “A Life Worth Breathing”. Please visit his website at


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