Lesson 1 of 7
HeartHealth Exercise # 1 Becoming Vulnerable to Yourself
This HeartHealth exercise is a method of opening to the vulnerability of our beings; opening up to what is really going on in our inner self. It is an exercise in opening up repressed unconscious memories and feelings. It is analogous to cleaning a dirty closet. We need to open it up and let some fresh air circulate. We need to open all the draws and take a look at the mess if that is what is really there. We can do this alone or with the help of a counselor, pastor, or anyone with love and a desire to help. It is therapeutically useful and can be used by all healing arts professionals either in face-to-face therapy or suggested during virtual counseling.
The first step is to decide you want to air out the closet. We have to approach the heart using the power of our will and our awareness.
After getting comfortable and relaxing your body a little and taking some deep breaths, (There are many yogic breathing techniques one can use but the most simple is to count to the count of ten or fifteen, hold the breath for the same count, and then exhale to the same count. Do this for a while until you calm down.) bring your attention down into your heart or emotional center. Concentrate your awareness in your chest. Put your hand there if it helps but go down into your heart center and stay there. Do not let your thoughts pull you back up into the clouds of your mind.
The second step is to look and see what is there…….
Become vigilant as to what is happening inside of you. What is going on deep inside your heart and being. Tune into the vibration of your vulnerable self. Let your feelings well up and overtake you.
This second step can be difficult for people who are really shut off and out of their heart or emotional center. For many to move off the high-speed train rail of their thoughts and into the slow lane of their feelings is arduous. If the feelings do not come of their own or if you (or your patient) reports just a tightness or blackness that is there, and you are not able to penetrate into the feelings themselves, ask your self these questions. Is my mind spinning round and round? How does that feel to me? Am I tired of it? Am I happy with my life or spiritual condition? When was the last time I was really angry or upset? Remember that incident, bring your imagination to it and re-experience the situation and your reaction to it.....How do I feel being alone, do I feel empty or full of life? Any or all of these questions normally will stimulate some deeper feelings, which will help you enter the totality of step two.
Step 2 B
Penetrate through your defenses, any resistance or hardness of the heart. Your deeper feelings are there and you must reach for them. Your imagination might open before your feeling center. Images of situations long past or recent might come into your visual field even with your eyes closed. Lock onto the first image that comes and try to get in touch with how you felt about the situation. You will know when you penetrate the heart when you feel a welling up inside, this feeling of something bursting within. A mist might fill your eyes and you could feel some tears coming. Let them come.
You are now on your own and there really is no step three, no formal guidance or rule or technique. You are now inside your inner self and you are free to just be even if that means free to suffer. To wallow in our suffering is not the best idea but too many people are really wallowing in their self-obsessions with their minds and thoughts and not really with their feelings at all. But we are not looking for the tears of self-pity but the tears of the melting heart.
Step four is to realize that you do not have to get stuck in step three. There are many things you can do to help yourself to release these feelings and leave them behind. Many things you can do alone with discipline and self care. There are always some things that we need help with and either really good friends, a lover, spouse, minister, or professional healer or therapist can help. Sharing and communicating ones feeling is always therapeutic if there is real listening and caring present. HeartHealth technique #1 represents the first part of a magic formula. "I am in touch with my feelings and I express them to others easily." This technique covers the first half, getting in touch. It is our feelings we must resolve, our thoughts are only reflections of them. Like clouds they wisp across the screens of our awareness and if we try to put our hands out to grab or understand them our minds go right through them, because the mind cannot really understand the mind; it cannot understand itself. It is one of the primary reasons many forms of therapy are so ineffective or take so long and are so expensive.
Remember when doing this exercise that your thoughts and your images are not your feelings. They might represent the feelings and describe the feelings and rationalize away the feelings but they are not the feelings. And your emotions are mostly a result of what you are thinking about.
Variations on HeartHealth Technique # 1
The above technique is obviously designed for you to do alone when you have the time to set aside everything else and take a deep cave dive into your heart. But with the demands and rhythm of modern day life we often do not have the time nor the space to go deeply into this yet the need is often there. Even while driving our car we often get upset and overreact when we drift too far way from the heart. So in traffic we often get caught up in the head that can so easily get into making other people wrong when we encounter people and their behaviors that we either do not like or do not understand. If someone pulls out in front of us in traffic cutting us off a 'normal' reaction is to shout "You idiot!" In this reaction our focus moves way from the heart and into the head that gets really busy analyzing, classifying and determining the wrongness of that person. This makes our blood boil and it is not pleasant in any sense of the word.
In such a situation it would be beneficial if we could move down into our heart center for a moment. The most obvious and easy way to accomplish this while driving is to put one of our hands over our heart. The first thing we might encounter is our emotional pain. We could then 'use' our mind here to gently remember or probe to the real cause of the feelings and emotional reactions. Down to the root of the heart with its needs. In this case our anger is not really the other guys wrongness and reckless driving it is our own need to get home safe to our children and our own fear of losing our life perhaps. Or it can be our need for consideration. Whatever the need getting in touch in the moment with the need and its relationship to our reactions will serve our life much better then in lashing out at the other with our judgments and mental attacks.
Putting our hand over our heart acts like an anchor, the more we do that the more we will automatically tune into the deeper currents of our being when we move our hand there. Neuro Linguistic Programming talks much about the use of anchors and how that helps focus our consciousness.
Getting in touch with our needs is one way to move through the reactions. There are other ways also. Deeper mediation traditions teach breathing and imagination techniques which use the breath to clean the emotional body. Thus for instance we can imagine taking in clean fresh energy on each breath and breathing out the darker heavy feelings.
The HeartMath organization has its own variation of this called Freeze-Frame. Its called that for it can be used anywhere and quickly. Here we simply stop for a few seconds, move down into the heart center, feel the feelings, then shift quickly out of them by using the imagination to call up a pleasant image of some kind from our memory and then when the emotions become balanced wait for an intuitive understanding to come through. There is some controversy around the use of such a emotional management techniques that so quickly leads away from the feelings but as all techniques, each has its use and function and attractiveness to certain kinds of people.
Christopher Hills called this creating opposite counter waves which meant using the imagination in an active not passive way. Thus we can get very creative with this because the imagination is the creative power of the mind. So if we are having disturbing thoughts we can 'create' counter waves and become really precise in our use of our own consciousness. When we put our hand on our heart for instance we can program in new thoughts meaning we tune into our being that wants to do this and has the will to do this. So we can remember for instance that our hearts are connected to all other hearts and that we are dealing with our mind that is making separations from 'that other driver' because we are thinking of ourselves as a separate object. Through this entire book I hope it will sink in that the true heart is not separate from anything. So maybe after getting in touch with our needs and feelings around those needs we could send our consciousness out to the other person (driver) and get in touch with their possible feelings and needs. Maybe they are racing to the hospital because their wife is giving birth. Maybe its an older person who just does not have the best driving reflexes anymore but are totally dependent on their car for transportation. We can always imagine something that leads us back to our hearts compassion.
But no matter what we do to move through our reactions the key to this first HeartHealth technique is to get in touch with the feelings and be with them. As you will see in the following chapter this means to get past the emotional reaction to the feeling itself. Feelings are more vulnerable than our emotional reactions. We could be in a rage because of our 'separational' judgments that act like red-hot pokers. In this each thought kind of burns our soul with hate and blame. When we touch on the feeling in the heart we will feel something softer, and probably a tear might hit our cheek. That tear marks our movement into the heart.
These movements away from blame and into the heart of understanding through identification with our own needs or the possible needs of the other helps us approach the opposite of the egos normal state of separation. It leads us closer to the egolessness (non-separate) state of the heart. The mind is always leading our consciousness into separation by saying what is self and what is not and thus the ego mind is putting limits on our consciousness. Most of us have a hard time when we are facing the actions of other people's egos (senses of separation) for it triggers our own ego (sense of separation). The problem is that we are rooted in our minds that are thinking we are someone separate. In the heart is the knowledge; feeling, understanding and actual experience that shows us that the person we are seeing "out there" is actually part of our own consciousness. The heart can grok this through the universality
of needs that are common to all hearts.