Sorry I have been M.I.A. for most of the summer… always think things will slow down, but alas they get busier and busier. In times like that it is easy for me to become angst ridden, impatient, cranky. I have been working on this by meditating on my heart and trying to soften it and my outlook.
Here is a great article I found with ways to do that. I hope you enjoy and maybe find something useful to help you see your world thru your softened heart in a much more peaceful way today!
There are several red flags that my heart has moved from loving and soft to harsh and hard. For me a hardened heart manifests itself in critical thoughts, quick judgements of myself or others, negative perspective on the day ahead, strong reactions, cursing and impatience. There is just an overall quality of edginess that arises to let me know that the edges of my heart have become defined, rigid and confining. Not that I can always know this when navigating the days with a tough heart but it really is not very fun to feel this way…nor productive. Plus, I don’t want others to be on the receiving end of my hard heart.
Keeping a soft, compassionate, subtle heart is a skill that has to be cultivated and practiced. I have been exploring ways to soften my heart and I have a few tips (many not so new; just good old fashion wisdom that has been around forever!) that can help train our hearts in this way:
- Gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude — continually reminding ourselves of what we have to be grateful for promotes a quality of compassion and softness. It helps keep our woes in perspective and keeps the good and bad in life in better balance. Taking this a step deeper, it is important to not only mentally think about what we have to be grateful for but to also take that into our hearts and pause to feel the emotion of gratitude; pause to notice what emotions float through our bodies when we consider that for which we are grateful. Ask yourself: What sensations am I experiencing when I think about this? I was recently given the assignment to make a list of 500 things I am grateful for and it has been a beautiful exercise on cultivating awareness and a loving heart.
- Metta (Loving Kindness) meditation — This meditation fosters compassion for self and others. It begins by inviting kind thoughts toward yourself and gradually shifts the focus of the kind thoughts to others and the larger community.
- Just breathe — I mention this is so much of my writing but if only we each truly knew the power of this ever present tool. Close your eyes and take several deep, intentional breathes in, hold for a few seconds and then slowly, deliberately, release…all possible breath. After several cycles of this, imagine the breath as a gentle, comforting blanket that will travel into the chest cavity and wrap itself around the heart. Sometimes, I even take it a little further and imagine that this blanket is gently hugging the hard edges of my heart — creating softness and gently brushing away the saturated negative energy. This imagery can be very powerful first step in cultivating compassion or working with forgiveness. And, just the intention of breathing in comforting breath begins the process of softening and releasing a hardened heart.
- Float up — many of my clients will attest that I often use this tool in coaching work and I have also found it greatly helpful in softening the heart. Simply shifting our perspective (or floating up above the trees so we view the forest of life) to look at our lives from a broader or higher place can often help us be more gentle with whatever is in our lives and release some of the intensity or negativing making our hearts hard. It puts things in their place and gives us some space to invite in more of a loving heart.
- Laugh or Cry — a great belly laugh or a release of tears can be very serving to remove blockage or walls around our heart. So putting ourselves in the position to do either and being willing to release can open us up some…and have you paused enough recently to really feel how good either of these experiences actually feels in the body? A good laugh or a hard cry are both just good for the soul!
I could go on and on about ways to work with softening the heart and I continue to explore this for myself. I know that putting into practice some of these wise, old tips can be challenging when we are struggling with a hard heart but without a doubt, I can say that life is much more meaningful and fun when led from a warm, soft heart. So, I encourage you to muster up the *umph* when needed and practice being a softy!