This week’s earlier post was about a lot of things. It was about making decisions, finding professional fulfillment and personal happiness, and surviving disappointment. It was about dreams realized and hopes dashed. It was about the role your mind plays in framing the lens through which you see and experience the world. But at the center of all of this, it was really about your heart, and the challenge of keeping it open, receptive, and yes, vulnerable, when your reflex is to keep it protected. It has a lot of valuable info to share with you, but only if you’re listening.
Yes, it’s a (mindfulness) challenge, but that’s why you show up here every Friday, isn’t it?
The first step to being able to hear what your heart is trying to tell you is to listen to it. I know that sounds like the most obvious sentence you’ve ever read, but a lot of us don’t pay our hearts much mind. We prioritize what we think we need over what we believe is its opposite: what we want. Things that make sense are more important than things that feel right. Data doesn’t lie. Intuition is just about feelings, and who knows what those are about. In other words, that very part of you that is responsible for some of life’s greatest joys really, truly, can’t be trusted. I mean…what kind of sense does that make?
This weekend’s “no-fail” mindfulness challenge is going to try to help you reframe that logic – and you might be surprised with how we do it.
Keeping your heart open means first believing what it has to say matters, and not just in a “fine, I’m listening…(eye roll)” kind of way. As in, you really need to believe that the unseen, sometimes apparently illogical messages your heart (aka, intuition, or “gut”) is sending you – that you’re sending yourself – are valuable. And for that to be the case, you have to love yourself. Not like Bieber meant it last year, but in a real, meaningful way. You have to believe that the little flickers of recognition (or warning) you feel in your body are as valuable “data points” as the bottom line on the color-coded spreadsheet you’ve been creating and expecting to provide all the answers for you.
So let’s get started:
- Find a comfortable seat. For a meditation like this, I like to sit either in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. You want to avoid physical discomfort or pain, but not be so cozy that you just roll over and pass out. Sleep is good (great, actually), it’s just not the same as meditating.
- Find your breath. Notice the rise and fall of your chest for a few normal breaths at your own pace. Take note of any particular sensations your body may pick up on (temperature of the air, pace of your breathing, etc.) as you bring your focus inward, and out of the rhythms and distractions of your day until this point.
- Next, turn your focus towards your heart. As you’ve been noticing your breath, your attention has probably been on your chest anyway. Begin to actually picture your heart in your chest. You can imagine it however you’d like to – how it actually (probably) looks anatomically, like a pretty perfect red paper heart, or like a cartoon character’s about to leap out of your chest. Whatever you need – this is your meditation party.
- Send good vibes. Now that you’re focused on your heart, send it some love. Yup, you read me right. Use your heart to talk to your heart. Picture your heart, beating in your chest, keeping you alive all these moments, and say thank you. Thanks for the life, thanks for the feelings, thanks for keeping me connected to myself. Thanks for balancing out my brilliant mind, and for occasionally finding a moment to sync up with it and actually want the same thing. (Those moments are THE BEST, right?) Thanks for looking out for me, for taking a beating so well, and for coming back stronger every time. Thanks for always being game to open up, even if I’ve kept you locked away or silent for a while. I’m listening now. I’m open to letting you be open, and I’m grateful for what you have to say.
- Be an observer. This simple little exercise can actually have some big effects. It might feel really good, or it might be really tough. It can be surprisingly difficult to give ourselves real, straight to the heart love. You might feel resistance – surprisingly or not – to opening your heart up. That’s called vulnerability, and as Brené Brown will tell you, it’s a world unto itself. It’s also where a universe of growth awaits you.
- Seal the deal. Whether the exercise felt good, bad, weird, or awesome, collect your notes. Observe, without judging. It is what it is; it might be something different tomorrow. Give your heart one final thank you, and come back to your breath.
- Take 3 deep breaths. Inhale fully, exhale completely, letting it all go. Stay seated for as long as you like, eyes opened or closed, until you’re ready to return to your day.
This meditation is a deep one – or it can be – depending on what’s going on with you today, this week, or you know, this lifetime. Our hearts hold a lot, which is why we are so protective of them. We instinctively know that they matter, and that what they have to tell us is valuable, but sometimes we’re afraid of that truth. Logic seems safer, and it’s certainly more externally validated.
And of course, open hearts are more likely to get hurt. Or at least, that’s what we think, right? A heart that’s being ignored still speaks to you, though, you’ve just sharpened your tools of deflection and are more prepared to attempt to ignore it. You can get really good at doing that, until eventually, one day, you will find you can’t ignore it anymore, or that the cost of doing so has ultimately left you with less joy, happiness and fulfillment than was rightly yours for the taking all along.
So take a seat, catch your breath, and listen. You don’t need your ears for this one, though. You need your attention, your intention, and your breath. You may also need some courage, because the heart can reveal some bumpy terrain. It’s all you, though, so it’s all good, and because it’s all your journey, there’s no way you can fail at it.
“Vulnerability is not about fear and grit and disappointment. It’s the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.” – Brené Brown
Photo credit: Brigitte Tohm