Teachings to Awaken the Heart
To begin this month’s week of awakening, I guided my first Instagram live meditation. It pushed me to my edge of comfort, especially when I accidently invited my mother to join and it took me almost 2 minutes to figure out how to remove her. Imperfection is inevitable, a lesson I learn every day:) The practices of mindfulness and compassion have supported my growth in accepting this truth of being human with patience and kindness (most of the time). You can view this meditation on IGTV or go to my Instagram profile page, or you can listen to it (tech issue edited out) by clicking here.
If we are committed to living our lives fully, we must cultivate loving awareness. In other words, to be present with our experience as it is right now with tenderness and kindness, whether or not we like what’s happening.
This is easier said than done because we are used to planning ahead or reviewing the past. While those mental activities have there place, we must not forget that all we truly have is right now. And if we begin to deepen our awareness of the present moment, we can begin to free ourselves from unhelpful habits of mind (some we may not even be aware of).
Meditation is an effective way to train our mind and awaken our heart. For those into brain science, Dr. Rick Hanson states that “you can use your mind to change your brain to change your mind for the better” (aka neuroplasticity).
Tune -In Tuesday
This is where we practice mindfulness of the body, where we grow our awareness of the sensations in the body as a means to waking up.
To quote Tara Brach again, “Sensations are our most immediate way of experiencing and relating to life.” I invite you to add another minute to your daily practice started yesterday or begin today by pausing and turn inward.
With gentle curiosity (aka no judgement or expectation of what should or should not be), inquire –
💡What sensations grab my attention?
💡Where in the body do I experience these sensations?
💡What is my reaction to these sensations?
💡Can I be with these sensations without changing it?
💡Can I be gentle with what is happening right now?
This micro-meditation practice can be done anywhere at anytime. It brings us into presence: it expands our awareness of our experience and how we are relating to it. Insight and agency grow from this place. Give it a try. It’s only a minute or two.
Today, I invite you to explore the power of intention, a living aspiration. We cannot change the past, but fortunately we can plant seeds for the future by acknowledging our potential to awaken. We can begin by exploring our intentions for any aspect of our lives by asking ourselves, “What are my motivations for X? What is my true intention here?”
Sometimes our intentions lay beneath our field of awareness. And we need to take time to purposefully bring them into awareness. When we explore them, we may notice they no longer align with our heart’s will or is now understood and can finally be manifested. This is our potential to awaken, to grow our voice!
To turn this into a meditation practice, we begin with deepening our attention so that we can come into presence, so we can take the time to listen and look deeply. In a sense, we create a clearing so that our intention, our living aspiration, can be known. We access the wisdom of the heart. Remember, you are “the true teacher in you,” says Thich Nhat Hahn.
💡What do I really care about?
💡What do I want to grow in my life?
💡How do I want to show up in my day today?
When this aspiration arises, feel it in the body. Experience it right now. Get to know it, savor it so to integrate into your being. Write it down and return to it whenever you need a reminder or a call back to your heart’s will.
Today we explore mindfulness of thought or thinking. Each time I listen to this song, I’m always struck by the phrase “‘Don’t drift into suspicious corners of your mind.'” It’s so easy to get lost in thought, esp. those that keep us from loving ourselves or living authentically.
Thich Nhat Hahn shares that “In daily life, we are often lost in thought. We get lost in regrets about the past and fears about the future. We get lost in our plans, our anger, and our anxiety. At such moments, we cannot really be here for ourselves… for life. Practice makes it possible for us to be free — to rid ourselves of these obstacles and establish ourselves firmly in the present moment…to help us live fully in the present.”
Just this morning as I meditated, my mind latched onto concern for how my kids will react to a future event. My body felt anxious as my mind busied itself with fear. I recognized, “Ah, I’m obsessing about an unknown that I have no control of.” This was a moment of mindfulness. I took a deep breath in and out to release the anxious constriction in my body. I then visualized this thought floating away as I brought my attention back to my body. I placed a hand on my heart and silently said, “May I know that whatever unfolds I can meet it with courage, compassion and presence.” I continued this process until my meditation ended. I not only felt more stable and ready for the day, but I gained insight into what was initially occurring below my field of awareness.
Now the work becomes bringing this practice, this awareness, into daily life. I have to consciously practice being present whether that be while listening to my kids, writing this post, answering an email, emptying the dishwasher, etc. Each time I notice the mind drifting, I take a deep breath & reorient myself. I tune into the body to inquire about from where and why I may be reacting. Over and over again. Each time feeling more awake and connected.
We can all relate to the caged bird in some way. Who hasn’t felt trapped, wings clipped and feet tied? There have been times in my life when I tried to make my “tune heard on the distant hill” and to my dismay only received back my echo. I know I am not alone in this experience. Many of us have learned to ignore, silence and dismiss our song and sometimes that of others. The good news is that this can change! We can grow our wings. We can unclip our feet. We can hear our trill and answer our song of freedom. And we can help others do the same!
Mindfulness meditation is a useful training ground to uncovering the caged bird that nests within, to cultivating skillful means to set it free, and to grow our compassion so that we can be of service to others in freeing themselves.
Here is a brief inquiry practice. It is important to bring a gentle curiosity to this inquiry. Acknowledge your experience without judgment & with compassion. If the inquiry feels too much, stop. Return when you are ready. Take it slow. Growth is never a one moment experience. Tend to your heart. You are the expert of you. If you prefer to engage in this practice with guidance, click here for a recorded version of this meditation.
- Allow yourself to get quiet and still.
- Follow the breath in & out allowing it to become a guide into the body.
- Place a hand(s) on your heart center to create a sense of safety, stability & loving support.
- Scan your life.
- Notice your response to what comes up – the sensations, thoughts, emotions.
- Notice how you relate to what arises. Can you bear witness to them tenderly as if you were holding the injured bird in your hand?
- Do you hear the trill? What is it revealing
- What is the bird asking of you?
- What would naming the sky your own be like for you?
May you experience a moment of freedom today, whatever that may look like or feel like to you.
Today’s practice is to NOURISH your soul (whatever that word represents for you).
Questions posed this morning – What do I need to be resilient? How do I actually develop resilience?
These questions can guide today’s practice of nourishing. To be resilient, to have a “fierce heart in challenging times” (the subtitle of the retreat), we must care for ourselves in ways that nourish us, that restore our energy so we can take compassionate action, to turn toward our own and others’ need for help. It is not selfish to have enjoyment, to rest, to play, etc even when so many are hurting. We cannot be of service to others if we are exhausted, overwhelmed, distressed, and so on.
So how have you or will you nourish your soul, yourself, today?
May you find a moment or more where you can be silent. And in this silence, hear the will of your heart, the wisdom of your body, the kind voice in your mind.
I hope you’ve got something meaningful or inspiring out of this week’s posts. Please reach to let me know how these practices are supporting you.