At my heart, I have a golden dragon. A dragon or a phoenix or a unicorn or any other magical creatures can seem distant to you if you are not one who has always readily embraced magic. If you are one of those people who says they just can not get into Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter, I feel you. I get it. However, my own personal, magical, dragon named  “Draggy” gave me his name and made himself very obvious to me right as a I began working with him. He came to me through visions during meditation but also during most moments of the day. I could actually feel him in the produce section at the grocery and curling up next to me in the passenger seat of my Volvo, it was wild. It was almost like he was saying to me, “Okay, Brennan, we don’t have time for all of this nonbeliever stuff, let’s get down to business. Here I am.”

Draggy is absolutely adorable and cuddly/puppy-like but is also a fierce air and fire dragon. For those of you who have seen How To Train Your Dragon, think Toothless. Having a dragon at my heart is important because I am a sensitive creature who feels very deeply. It is important to have a powerful creature like a dragon who can offer a force of protection. I also know Draggy needs a shout out for how *strong* my heart is as well. Dragons live in the space between heaven and earth and are omnipresent. Just as my love is expansive, so is Draggy’s protective presence over those individuals and things I love.

The first time I worked with my Heart Chakra, I planned a trip to my family’s condominium at the beach. I anticipated some deep work needing to be done and was guided to retreat. My destination was perfect, a real “happy place” for me growing up. Our little beach condo sits right in the sand in Ocean City, Maryland and you can open the balcony doors and look right over the ocean and see the sun come up over the waves in the morning; it is heavenly. Being at the ocean makes my heart sing and I wanted to connect to that sensation while doing this work. The heart connects the lower and upper chakras and is so important to your entire being. I strongly recommend taking the time to give extra attention to what is in your heart when you get to this point in your workshop.

My experience working with my heart at the beach can only be described as me getting lost (in a good way). It was right around the Spring Equinox but it was cold and it rained the entire weekend. I was there with my Chesapeake Bay Retriever and she and I would leave the condo to walk in the rain/mist on the beach or swim her in the ocean but other than that, we were holed up in the condo. I had made a little altar with sea shells and sea stars and had all of my crystals and stones out in a beautiful design. I smudged the space with Palo Santo and had rose oil (an oil related to the Heart Chakra) wafting throughout. Overall, I made the space clear, beautiful, and full of good energy so Draggy and I could get down to business. The Heart Chakra symbolizes healing your mind, body, heart and soul and we wanted to cover all  of those things! Time seemed to slip away as I spent my days and nights journaling, making collages, and having many tearful, as well as many “ah-ha” (as Oprah likes to call them) moments. Rain was perfect because rain helps you clear out the old and also because the condo felt especially cozy with the sounds of rain pouring down out on the balcony.

A lot happened at the beach that weekend within me and when I returned home, I went to house sit at a beautiful home with several sweet dogs and cats where I continued my work. Dragons symbolize transmutation and I feel like after working with my Heart Chakra through Inner Animal Magic, I have not been the same. My shift was obvious.  I will share some highlights~

~At the beach, I *remembered* that I am happiest near the ocean and feel a deep pull and connection to Mother Ocean. This relates to the area of the Heart Chakra: awakening your heart’s desires.

~When sorting through some forgiveness around my parents and growing up, I had a realization that all experiences have a purpose. My parents are like night and day and divorced when I was young. I experienced some child-of-divorce symptoms that I find to be quite typical but, in general, had felt quite grateful that my parents were apart instead of in an unhappy, volatile home together. However, when healing my heart, past pains and feelings surfaced signaling me to explore these emotions more deeply. One afternoon, I was walking out on the rocks right at the shore break and I had this beautiful moment where I saw my father as the Atlantic Ocean (he was from Maryland) and my mother as the Pacific Ocean (she is from California) and I understood everything in that moment: The reason I had two parents who were from opposite ends of the country and were on opposite ends of the spectrum of personalities, my father being strong and powerful and my mother being gentle and kind, was so that I could know perfect balance. Past frustrations and identity crisis, remembering my parents scornfully relating me to the other, suddenly slipped away as I noticed the gift and perfect synchronicity of me being born from this duo so that I could achieve balance and comfortability around all types of people and so that I could become the person I was meant to become and reach a larger scope of people. This relates to the area of the Heart Chakra: overcoming past hurt.

~I created one of my favorite art pieces to date [above]. I cut out countless images of flowers from magazines and cut all of the different varieties of blossoms into small slivers and then pasted them to create a giant blossom. At the bottom I added the quote by Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”. This quote was very symbolic of the work I was doing. I was healing, and expressing more love to myself than I had ever given before. This month was about me turning a new page and letting go of patterns of treating myself in a way that I would never consider treating another being. It was time to blossom and embrace who I was, with kindness. Self love, baby.

~While working with my Heart Chakra, each and every time I found myself passing judgement on myself or others, I changed the word *judgement* or the judgmental thoughts to *forgiveness*. Try it! Honestly, try it. It is an amazing exercise. Each time you think a judgmental thought, forgive that person or forgive yourself for having those thoughts, or both, whatever feels the most powerful. I promise you, the entire climate of your thought patterns will change and it will create an overflow of positivity all over your community.

~I began my 6 Month Follow Your Heart Challenge with Earthstar18 during this time, which was perfect because you have to connect to what is in your heart before you can start following it!

The most recent time working with Draggy, at first glance, seems slightly less profound to me but I gained a lot and made many observations. I will share a few of my experiences with you here:

The best part about working with my Heart Chakra this winter was that I had many moments, instances, and even days of feeling genuinely happy/whole/complete/blissful. I became very present to these moments and felt as though I had passed over a threshold (another shift). I understood that I would feel pain and sadness again but I was able to become more present to what it felt like to be sincerely-wholeheartedly-happy so that I could create more of those moments in my life.

One area your animal at your Heart Chakra can help with is balancing giving and receiving. I took time while working with Draggy to give back to my mother. I spent several hours a week doing energy work sessions with hospice patients as well as a woman battling bone cancer. While this volunteer work is very important, I realized it was also important to share some of that love with my mother who gives so much to my life without expecting anything in return. In fact, she was almost skeptical when I told her I wanted to gift her a session. I think she was wondering what the catch was? :) Her response is a good indicator that our giving and receiving was a bit out of balance!

I had some fun activities that overlapped with dragons and the Heart Chakra, although I would be dishonest to say they were intentional. For instance, I went on an all-day hike and climbed to high altitudes. Being on the mountain top was like visiting the habitat of my Draggy. Valentine’s Day fell while I was working with the heart and love was in the air. On Valentine’s Day I saw the Body Worlds: Animals Inside Out exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and actually saw many actual animal hearts that day. We even were able to walk through a giant replica of a heart, another exhibit at the Franklin Institute.

The sense associated with the Heart Chakra is touch and I explored this sense through an Acro Yoga class with one of my girlfriends and through Thai Massage with another gf.

When I started working with my Heart Chakra, I began 8 week sessions for ballet and hip hop classes. It was perfectly timed because just as when I was at the beach the first time I worked with Draggy and remembered that the ocean makes my heart sing, when I started dancing, I *remembered* how much bliss dancing brings to my life. Connecting to your heart is quite simple yet many of us become disconnected (spending a little too much time in our heads). All you need to do to connect to your heart is think back to childhood and remember, what made you happy back then? The Heart Chakra reminds you to connect to the child within because that is where you will find your true heart’s desires without needing to sift through all of the riff-raff you’ve put into your day to day life as an adult. My mother actually found a letter she had written me when I was a little girl while I was working with Draggy (she did not know I was working with the concept of connecting to my child within) and it was so perfect. In the letter, she wrote about me as a child--the girl with the creative sense of fashion, who was always trying to rescue and learn about every animal, strong minded and willed, and always a bit of an entrepreneur starting lemonade stands and yard sales along with creating countless inventions. In one letter she basically summed up who I STILL AM today.  The essence of who we are is like the theme of your life. To get back on track, just think about childhood--what did you want to be when you “grew up”? Chances are, your heart’s wishes today are a similar match.

Many of my messages during the month were about daring to be different and going beyond the ordinary. Part of connecting to what is in my heart and my true self is about being a little different and claiming all of that greatness. Sometimes we dull ourselves down so that we can make others feel more comfortable in situations or comfortable about themselves but you should never dull yourself. In fact, if you are expressive and radiant, it will allow others to shine as well. “Just be yourself” was the message I was getting over and over. Let me tell you, when I give myself permission to be myself (even if that means wearing leopard print Teeki leggings and sky blue high-top Converse in the same outfit), I feel so much more secure than when I am trying to be someone else. Part of the challenge is identifying or remembering who you actually are in the first place because we spend so much time pretending (a result of conditioning in current society). One of the exercises we had while working with the Heart Chakra was writing down 22 things we love about ourselves. Once you connect with who you are, and allow yourself to be just that, it will be difficult to limit the list to only 22 items!

I have talked about the perfect timing of rainy weather, receiving my mother’s letter, or the synchronicity of being at an establishment that actually has a giant heart I could walk through while working on the Heart Chakra. While it is easy to mention these things as coincidence or good timing, I want to point out that there are no coincidences and that the Universe and Spirit send hints and clues to us every day to keep us on our path. We are small pieces in a larger flow of Oneness. The more you work with your animals, the more you will ride the flow of all of this and you will recognize the hints being sent your way.

I will close with one last story from working with Draggy this winter. Just as the work I was doing in my Inner Animal Magic workbook paralleled with experiences I was having in the dance studio or at the Franklin Institute, there were also larger parallels happening. For instance, parallels between the lessons in my workbook and the way the moon was orbiting the earth. Allow me to explain...I was inspired to do some reading about the Full Moon that was taking place while I was working with my Heart Chakra. When I started reading, I saw that this moon was about “being in your heart”.  There were many other parallels but one especially happy example was that the moon connected Leo and Aquarius and signified “new relationships”. Right at that time, I (a Leo woman) had connected with a new friend (an Aquarian man) and started a really beautiful relationship. Reading about the moon that was guiding our path was a great validation that I was connected to and following my true inner compass, my heart and in the flow.

Working with your heart can be a happy time but also an emotional time as you open up to forgiveness and healing old wounds so just remember to be sweet to yourself as you work with the animal at your Heart Chakra.