In this column I hope to offer some inspiration in coming back to this moment, to your heart.
True confession tho'-I totally flunked at staying in my heart and in the moment numerous times this weekend as I got triggered left and right. I wrote most of this column on Friday so it was fresh in my mind, but not yet in my body! In a way the principle of connecting to our hearts and being in the moment seems so simple, yet can be so difficult to embody.
Yes, this very moment has the potential to be an invitation to open our hearts. Even if in this moment or any future moment, as you feel scattered, tense, upset, anxious or whatever distressing experience you might be having...you are at the cusp of a transformation that involves deep acceptance.
So, back to my confession for a brief moment...This example falls in the category of what Pema Chodron calls bourgeois suffering. I believe she got this term from her teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. So here is one example from a few trips and falls this weekend that involved playing golf.
Yesterday I'm on the course playing with a friend and hitting awfully. I've actually tried to invent a new game called metta golf, so that no matter what the quality of my game, I hold myself in lovingkindness. That worked for the first two holes. The next 6 holes I "sucked." I know, I threw lovingkindness out the window on the 3rd hole.
Sucking at something opens this wound inside me called "failure." Finally on the last hole of the day however, I hit a magnificent first shot, followed by one after the other. However this last hole didn't erase the sense of failure I felt as I drove home in frustration.
Over this past weekend, I was dancing with the feeling of failure and "not good enough," triggered from a few different events that occurred. Opening my heart to the feeling of failure from something as innocuous as golf would seem easy, no? NO, at least not for this human!
I felt a hurried-ness and a close heartedness during this leisure activity, an activity designed for humans in order to relax and have fun. Actually, I've enclosed a hilarious link to a Robin Williams interview talking about the creation of this game. Here it is...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okkhgZim5Ig
The dilemma for so many of us is that we frequently are mindlessly and heartlessly speeding past this moment in search of something better. As we do this, we are actually rejecting our experience of whatever is happening now. We are not connected to our hearts as we experience our lives, in fact we are often not feeling or connecting to our bodies at all as we are live our lives.
I believe that this tendency of rejecting our experience and not even being present in our experience becomes the foundation for feeling unhappy.
To say this in a different way, if we cultivate presence, acceptance and even love for our experience, whatever it might be, we create the foundation for feeling happier in our lives, regardless of circumstances. That's a big proposition! Not one I've personally attained, but one that inspires me nonetheless!
This is a quality of mindfulness of the present experience that is truly transformative and not particularly easy to do...it takes intention and some effort!
When the Chinese translated the Buddhist term for mindfulness, sati, into Chinese the character the Chinese Buddhists created was comprised of two halves: the top half is the symbol for the present moment and the bottom half is the symbol for heart! So, mindfulness is not just the brains capacity to be aware of this moment but awareness that actually emerges from or is connected to our hearts.
In a previous e-news column, I shared a definition of mindfulness that has been so very useful to me that I heard from a favorite dharma teacher I listen to from California, Gil Fronsdal: to know what is happening while it's happening.
Think about that for just a moment, the value of knowing what is happening while it's happening-to be fully present to what's happening now. I would add engaging the presence of heart, of kindness and compassion, as we are in the knowing of what's happening while it's happening.
In fact, I believe if we do connect to the palpable experience of our heart's presence, this collects the often scattered experience of our minds into a more coherent and integrated state! There is actually a fair amount of research that has demonstrated this phenomenon-that in focusing on the heart we actually create a positive change in our mind state.
How many of us are speeding into the next moment hardly aware of this one with our minds hungering for something more or different and our hearts closed?
"Now"' is not enough, or so it seems. There is some subtle or not so subtle rejection of this moment, of what we are feeling or doing right now! In this rejection of "now," we then go in search of what's next. This rejection of now is due to the lack of heart connection in that moment.
Even as you read this, you may be in the experience of "now isn't enough" and your mind (if it's like mine) is subtly speeding ahead to get to something better from this article.
I've noticed that happen for me as I write this article and find myself at times rejecting/judging what I've written and additionally, I feel the pressure to search for something next that is better than this subject or than what I've just written. These are moments of me disconnecting from the consciousness or presence of my heart.
Accepting our experience as it is, is a mind retraining and a heart opening practice- particularly when our experience feels difficult, uncomfortable or painful.
So here are some offerings to support your heart in being part of this moment and part of your life:
The kinesthetic approach-Touch your heart and invite your inhalation to open, lighten and expand your heart. On your exhalation, allow your heart to settle, soften and relax. Do this for a minute and notice if there is more energy or presence in your heart and if that influences your state of mind.
The auditory approach-Say to yourself, "I welcome whatever is present within me," or "I bring love and kindness to whatever feeling or experience is present within me now."
The visual approach-Invite and visualize a being or energy of love and kindness. This could be a person, animal or from the "spirit" world to emerge that is an embodiment of kindness and love. See this being or presence and take in their kindness and love.
Awakening our hearts in any of the above ways allows us to bring acceptance to whatever is felt or experienced in this now moment. Through the heart, we fully arrive in now. We can only truly be present when we accept our experience as it is.
It is through this heartfelt acceptance of what we are feeling and doing that helps us actually know what is happening while it's happening and be the doorway to living wisely with heart and soul.
May we find our hearts and bring them into our lives!