The Path to Heartfulness
This week’s intention is to awaken the forgotten truth of our heart – that we are lovable, we are loving, and we are love. Heartfulness is simply being full of heart, being full of tenderness, warmth, kindness, care, LOVE. To walk the path of heartfulness is to walk the path back into our own hearts. We see our conditioning, our limiting beliefs, our stories that have trapped or buried the truth of our heart. We begin removing these weeds, nourish the soil, and let the sun’s light radiate onto the seeds that have always been there, just dormant, awaiting for this time to grow and bloom.
As these seeds begin to sprout, they inevitably spread reaching beyond our perceived limitations and our often inaccurate projections we have of others. As we cultivate heartfulness, we begin to see that others have forgotten the truth of their heart. We see that in this we are the same; this is a shared humanity. My path crosses your path. Perhaps we just nod and continue on, or walk alongside each other for a ways, or carry each other. We become open to give and receive love from ourselves, to ourselves, from others, and to others.
“Love Your Own Heart – What is love? Love is treating your beating heart with a great deal of tenderness, with understanding, love, and compassion. If you cannot treat your own heart this way, how can you treat your partner [child, friend, neighbor, co-worker, stranger] with understanding and love?” ~ Thich Nhat Hahn
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A Heartfulness Practice: Sit with this quote for a moment. Place a hand(s) on your heart. Take a few full deep breaths and notice the heart expanding with the in-breath and releasing with the out-breath.
Now, as you follow your in-breath visualize your heart filling with love – a tenderness, a softness, a warmth. And on the out-breath repeat (silently or out loud) the quote, “Everything starts with love.” Continue this for a few breath cycles. Notice with kind curiosity any sensations, emotions, and/or thoughts that arise. Try to allow them to be just as they are without pushing away or judging, simply allowing.
Now drop this visualization and take a deep breath in and out. Now repeat silently, “I see you. I see you. I see you.” And notice what happens within your body, your mind, and your heart. Taking another deep breath in and out. End your practice with a consideration of how you can move through the day in this spirit of love.
This week I am inviting us to explore heartfulness. In other words, living with the fullness of heart. Imagine your heart being full of so much love, tenderness, care, kindness, and compassion that it bursts open and spreads its contents over the entire world. For some of us feeling this full of heart is challenging, uncomfortable and even scary. Our past experiences have misled us away from our hearts; we’ve become disconnected. Yet, we yearn for this. Mindfulness and heart-opening practices guide us gently into recognizing our departure from ourselves and back into the fullness of our heart. It is there! We simply need to begin communing with it.
On several occasions, I have heard Jack Kornfield remind people to listen to their hearts because it will know what to do. I always nodded and felt an enthusiastic “YES!” arise in my chest. I would tell myself, listen to your heart. And when my heart would reveal it’s wisdom, I questioned it, I pushed it aside, I was hesitant to listen. Why? TRUST! I did not trust my heart. I did not trust myself. This is still an area of deep growth and healing for me. Nonetheless, I have begun to cultivate this trust, thus experiencing the fullness of heart. This flowering is spreading into every area of my life.
In the sentiment of poet Galway Kinnell’s beautiful poem “Saint Francis and the Sow” – I am reteaching myself my loveliness. You can do this, too! Yesterday’s practice was the beginning of touching your loveliness. Today’s practice invites you to speak directly to your heart, to listen to what it reveals even if it is uncomfortable because listening may be unfamiliar. The heart will not be cruel or judgmental. It is the caring hand on your back or shoulder. It is the wise sage that awaits your question only to reveal back to you that which you always knew. The heart’s intention is to help you “flower again from within.”
Heartfulness Practice & Intention
- Find a quite, safe and comfortable space to spend for a few minutes attuning to your heart.
- Take a few deep breaths to help yourself settle into your posture, knowing that all that is required is to be willing to open to yourself.
- Allow yourself to place a hand on your heart center. Feel the rise and fall of your chest without any effort. Your breath is life breathing you.
- Take a moment to acknowledge this. Your body gifts your life every day through your breath. There’s no judgment of worthiness of breath.
- Now spend some time with each question (in image below) – allowing it to penetrate the heart. The intention is to ask the heart each question and listen. See what sensations arise in the body, what emotions show up, and even thoughts of aversion or delight. Holding all of this with curiosity NOT judgment.
- Let your heart speak without limitations.
I find this wisdom attributed to the Buddha to be intriguing. The word dearer means to regard with deep affection or heartfulness. We all want to feel cherished, to feel loved. What the Buddha says is that we can search and search but we will always come back to ourselves. How we relate to our experience is through our heart, through HOW we love ourselves, through the quality of our loving awareness. There is so much inner exploration that we can do to uncover this truth of our heart, to love ourselves back into our hearts. To let this love guide our connections with others.
Pema Chodron writes in her recent book, Welcoming the Unwelcome, “Learning to speak from the heart is a long journey, but it’s a journey well worth undertaking, for it brings us to a place where we can truly bring out the best in one another.”
Let us begin this journey of speaking from the heart by taking an open, non-judgmental, curious look at how we speak to ourselves, how we think about ourselves, how we see ourselves. While we bring into awareness our relationship to ourselves, we can also know that others are on this journey, too. “Just like me this person wants to be happy, wants to feel loved, wants to _______.” Try out this brief practice below and then ask yourself: How does this knowing shift how I relate to myself or someone else today?
Common Humanity Practice
- Find a comfortable posture and take a few deep breaths.
- Think of someone within whom you’ve interacted with recently.
- Notice how you feel when you think about this person.
- Now consider the fact that this person experiences ups and downs in his/her/their life.
- Just like you this person has goals and dreams.
- Just like you this person knows what pain, sadness, anger and fear feel like.
- Just like you this person wants to love and be loved.
- With this in mind, silently repeat: Just like me, this person wishes to be happy and to be free from suffering.
- Notice how it feels when you says this. Just like me, this person wishes to be happy and free from suffering.
- Now imagine redoing your interaction with them, what do you notice about them now? What do you notice about yourself? How do you feel?
Heart Dialogue Practice:
- Sit quietly and place your hands on your heart center.
- Allow your body to relax and your heart to soften through this tender touch.
- Read slowly and aloud Khalil Gibran’s poem “Fear”. Let these poetic words penetrate your heart, enter even the smallest opening.
- Then ask these questions, pausing after each one to allow your heart to speak it’s truth, “What am I holding onto? What about myself am I unwilling to let go of? Who am I afraid of becoming or not becoming? What would change if I let go of this belief, this thought, this story, this feeling, this emotion?
- Let your heart speak back to you. Let your heart guide you into the ocean, into the you of now.
- Later in the day, take note of how this practice affects the way you engage with others or show up for yourself.
Mindfulness meditation gives rise to compassion which opens the heart to healing. Mindfulness meditation is not only about concentration. It is about bringing that which lies below our field of awareness above the line through the practice of concentration – the returning to the present moment (via an anchor like the breath) again and again when our minds wander off into the past or the future. The wandering is the way of the untrained mind. Berating ourselves for wandering is counterproductive. Thus, we bring a gentle, kind and non-judgmental attitude to our untrained mind. When it wanders, which it will, we notice with curiosity, with kindness, and gently guide it back to the present moment. This relationship with our untrained mind gives rise to compassion.
As we continue to cultivate mindfulness and compassion, we begin to train the mind to stay more often in the present moment, to notice our relationship to our experience, and to develop wise discernment. In this way, we become more comfortable with our vulnerability and open our hearts to healing. Healing is the freedom from suffering. Often our suffering has been carried on our backs and added onto since childhood. We begin to release it because we shift our relationship to it through loving awareness.
Another way to describe this practice is to say we are both the holder of our hearts (the compassionate one) and the held (the suffering heart). And, when we forget we become the seeker and then we remember and become the guide. “Healing is in the return, not in never having wandered to begin with.”
Here is the guided meditation from this week’s Sunday Morning Meditation group, which brings together the practice from Tuesday and Wednesday. To listen to previous Sunday meditations, please go here.
In bringing all the practices and teachings from this week to a close, I wish for you to breathe yourself new. This is all you can do everyday, in every moment, to breathe yourself new. Nothing stays the same even when you think it does. Just spend a moment with your breath. You never breathe the same breath twice. It comes and it goes. This is true of feelings, thoughts, emotions, sensations, experiences, etc. What makes them seem to stick around or show back up is your attachment to them. You may not even be aware of how you have not processed certain experiences or that you cling to certain feelings or thoughts. The experience itself does not even matter. Your relationship to it matters. This is what keeps you stuck or sets you free. I hope the practices of this week have helped deepen your awareness and begun to shift your relationship with your experiences.
The path to heartfulness moves you closer in to your glorious glow, helps you to breathe yourself new. Please read this beautiful poem slowly, allowing it to guide you further into your heart. Here are 3 guiding reflection questions: How are you breathing yourself new? How can you begin breathing yourself new? In what ways can you see and reveal your glorious glow?
Breathe Yourself New - Julia Fehrenbacher
Maybe today is the day
to tip it all upside down, to shake out
what is stale and small
and suffocatingly too sure
maybe today, rather than being tossed about
expectations, rather than grabbing
for another word, another way, another now-
you could step outside and watch sky
make a new day. Maybe today
is the day to let go
of doubt’s smothering hand, to stop hunting
for worthiness, to choose to follow only
what feels like tail-wagging enthusiasm, like firefly’s
warm, sure glow. Like love sprouting roots
from the bottom of bare feet.
Maybe today is the day to remember
that if it doesn’t grow the flame
warmer, truer, nrighter, if it doesn’t
feel like a deep diving breath
into all that is here and now
it’s not meant for you.
Then lean close in
to your own glorious glow
and breathe yourself new