This week’s theme is HEARTMIND. When we begin to wake up to our lives, to truly know who is living our lives, we awaken the heartmind. The heartmind is our essence, our true nature, our innate goodness. It manifests as our ability to show up as our authentic selves in a conditional world. As we awaken and live from the heartmind, we begin to relate to our human condition with compassion, freedom, openness, and courage. So to wake up, we must forge the interconnection of the mind and heart. A Lakota saying is, “The longest journey you will make in your life is from the head to the heart.” Each day when you sit to meditate, you are on this journey. Each day you are mindful of your experience, you are on this journey. I encourage you to commit some time this week to engage with these practices. This journey is worth the effort!
As we move through the world, we learn and integrate messages of what being human means, should look and feel like. Consequently, our hearts and minds become disconnected, in contradiction, or limited. Many of us live with the nagging question “what is wrong with me?” Have you ever asked yourself this? I have. Has anyone asked you this? Ah, yes! In what tone was the question posed? What was the intention of asking this? Sit with these questions. Then ask: Who or what would I be if I did not live with the nagging belief that something is wrong with me?
This inquiry is not about understanding a health issue, but a heartmind issue. We are all diagnosed with the human condition. We all experience hopes, fears, uncomfortable and joyful experiences. No one is exempt from either pain or happiness. And yet, when we experience a challenge, we tend to see this as a personal flaw. What if there was nothing wrong with you? How then would you respond to this challenge?
Try this today – purposefully pay attention to when something difficult, unpleasant or challenging happens (can be small & ordinary), notice if you personalize it. Then, try and approach it from the angle that this experience is not because you are flawed. Notice what changes. “do not limit yourself to a static understanding of who you are. release your conditional boundaries and be free”, writes yung pueblo in his amazing book Clarity & Connection.
“It is never too late to turn on the light. Your ability to break an unhealthy habit or turn off an old tape doesn’t depend on how long it has been running; a shift in perspective doesn’t depend on how long you’ve held on to the old view. When you flip the switch in that attic, it doesn’t matter whether it’s been dark for ten minutes, ten years or ten decades. The light still illuminates the room and banishes the murkiness, letting you see the things you couldn’t see before. It’s never too late to take a moment to look.” ~ Sharon Salzberg
I love this analogy from Sharon Salzberg. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE! I love this because this means we are not static, fixed, stuck. We have agency, the ability to change – neuroplasticity research even says so. So turn on the light! Sit with yourself and take a look – this is nourishing the heartmind – this is the journey to freedom from habitual and conditional thinking and reacting.
Sure, taking a look can be uncomfortable. We have to take responsibility for ourselves. We may have to process past hurt and pain. You do not have to take a look alone, and you certainly can use a dimmer switch. What I mean is that you can go at your own pace and comfort level. I have been practicing for six years. I am still finding new boxes in the closet or unpacking what seems to be a bottomless box. Each time I sit and spend time looking with loving compassionate awareness, I let go of the unwanted crap saved and carried from place to place. I can see what I have neglected and take care of it. I am able to discern what is worth saving. I am waking up.
We all have limiting beliefs and we all have at least one unhealthy habit. And we all can turn on the light. It takes a willingness to pull down the attic ladder, climb the stairs and find the switch. In other words, find a seat, take some deep breaths, place a hand on your heart, and feel the body breathing, feel the sensations in the body. Soon you will notice the mind’s activity, perhaps get caught up in it. Return gently to the body breathing, allowing the thoughts to pass through. They are just mental sensations, ephemeral phenomena. After a while, the mind settles and you can hear your heart speak. What is it telling you? What does it want you to see? And sit for as long or as little as you want. There is no expectation, just a willingness to turn on the light.
This poem is your practice for today!
“Sit wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins…
I absolutely adore the Buddha Doodles by artist Molly Hahn. This illustration is from her 2020-2021 calendar. And how perfectly this weekend’s illustration fits with this week’s theme of heartmind and the analogy of light. The mindful, heart awakening practices for this week are about connecting to your authentic self, your inner light. When we connect with ourselves in a deep and loving way, we become more content and thus find ourselves experiencing happiness and joy more often. And this inner light shines outwardly and others get to benefit from it too.
So share your happiness, share your gifts, share your love, share your kindness, share your inner light with the world. What is one way you have or can light another person’s candle today?
Mindfulness practice is the practice of equanimity. Life is never certain, never fixed, never constant. Life is ever-changing, impermanent, filled with varying emotions, feelings and thoughts. As we tune in, turn on the light, we begin to cease fighting being human. We bring genuine care, kindness, love and compassion to our inner experience. When then gradually stop fighting life and gain inner stability. We find ourselves better able to handle the ups and downs of life. And thus, we become better able to step up and be of service to those in need without (the fear of) losing ourselves.
Kristin Neff writes in her book Fierce Self-Compassion, “Equanimity is not cold detachment or a lack of caring, but rather a deep insight into the illusion of control. Although we want to be able to make pain go away, we can’t change the reality of the present moment. But we can set our intention to try to help and hope the future takes a turn for the better.”
When we take our seat to meditate, we are in essence engaging in this intention to help, to help ourselves and others through the awakening of our heartmind. So find a few minutes today and take your seat. Picture yourself as a strong, solid oak tree withstanding the winds of your current life situation. As emotions and thoughts arise, know that you can handle them. Acknowledge them, allow them to be just as they are, anchoring yourself in your oak tree stability.
Notice what happens to these emotions and thoughts as you hold them with tenderness and care. Notice what you need in this moment to support your roots, your stability should you feel that the winds are simply too much. Remember that trees need the nourishment of soil, sun and water. Part of cultivating equanimity is calling upon inner and outer resources for nourishment, for support. This is part of awakening the heartmind, being true to our humanness.
So sit in this moment and awaken to your life. This is why we practice.
Today’s practice helps awaken the heart mind through cultivating compassion for ourselves. Bringing a kind and friendly attention to ourselves may feel unfamiliar, uncomfortable or awkward. Overtime, the benefits are many, such as equanimity, inner comfort, self-trust, agency, strength, courage, etc.
The phrases offered are examples to try out. Feel free to change them to fit you. These are offerings or wishes for well-being. What supportive, encouraging or inspiring message(s) do you want or need? It can be helpful to pretend you are saying this to a friend or a friend is saying it to you. Let your heart speak!
Place your hands on your heart and silently repeat:
- May I value the gifts I offer the world.
- May I see my smile as kindness.
- May I be a friend to myself.
- May I embrace myself as I am right now.
Tune-In Tuesday post coming soon.
To end this Week of Awakening, I share 6 mindfulness reminders. Each time we purposeful pay attention to our present moment experience, we are awake. When we find ourselves paying attention to the past, we are not awake; we are dreaming. When we find ourselves paying attention to the future, we are dreaming. These ways of paying attention are so common that it feels strange and challenging to stay present at first. This is why we practice. Overtime, the strangeness fades and the relationship to the challenge changes. So why practice mindfulness? Why meditate? Why awaken to the heartmind?
Only you can answer these questions. For me, I first chose to learn to meditate to be more mindful because I was desperate for a new way of relating to life. I wanted to let go of the past that always seemed to be my shadow. I wanted to let go of my unmet expectations for the future because it kept shouting “failure.” I wanted to feel contentment with my life. I simply wanted to feel better about myself and comfortable being in my skin. I had no idea when I first started this exploration that it would lead me back to myself. And I am grateful for these practices, for my stubbornness in wanting to explore another way to be in the world.
Practicing mindfulness meditation helped me to cultivate the inner resources to care for myself, to be able to truly care for others. It started with taking a seat and following my in and out breath. It was not comfortable at first because I saw the chaos in my mind and heart, and felt it in my body. As I kept with it, learning to let go of judgment and bringing a gentle curiosity, I began to cultivate compassion. Slowly, I was awakening my heartmind. I was waking up to my life.
Again and again, each time I take my seat, I practice being present with what lives within so that I can gain clarity of how I show up in the world, in relationship with others and myself, so I can be honest with my present experience. This honesty helps me live from an authentic place, to respond more wisely and skillfully to situations, and to simply appreciate the moment. “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” ~ Thich Nhat Hahn
May these 6 reminders inspire you to find your reason to practice, to take your seat, and practice.