Heart centered – what does it mean?

How we each find the best ways to live a heart centered life

Language can be problematic when speaking about spiritual and healing work. Someone recently said to me (paraphrasing), “I understand that being heart centered is important, but some people have bigger fish to fry on a day to day basis.” I have thought about that statement a lot over the past few days. It prompted so many questions that, because of numerous factors, didn’t get asked. The biggest reason I didn’t try to start a dialogue was because the initial exchange was on social media which, for me, is a problematic platform for experiencing deep, mutually respectful, truly clarifying dialogue. Still, that quick exchange prompted a lot of self-reflection (“Am I missing something?” “Do I need to do better, be clearer, be more….something?”) and provided important clarification for me about how I move forward.

What do I mean when I use the phrase, “heart centeredness”? What does healing and living through the heart mean to me?

I talk a lot about heart-centeredness because when my teacher explained the role of the heart to me, my life turned upside down. I walked in a terrified, insecure, people-pleasing, anxiety-ridden person and left with a key to something life changing. Ever since, my life continues to be changed through the explorations and lessons of the Heart. The whole of the subtle anatomy is an important teacher to be sure, and all aspects work together. The Heart is the Leader of the pack – or it can be, when we understand it and its role and how to access and live through it. When we learn to trust everything to it. 

The heart, when known experientially, and when deferred to in all areas, changes everything: perception and perspective, judgment, reactions and responses, emotions, thought forms, actions, beliefs, attitude. It changes our relationship to our own responses and internal experiences, as well as to external events and how we respond to them. It changes the way we engage in relationships with other people, how we view our individual places in the world, and how we see ourselves in relationship to each other – it creates a cohesiveness in a shocking, humbling, faith-filled way. The heart can be a diffuser of escalation and a doorway into honest inner examination.

Heart centeredness has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day imagery, or any aspect of a faux spirituality. It is not about always maintaining an attitude of love and light and positivity. It is not about feeling good or happy. In fact, it is often disturbing the waters to show us how we might get out of our own way and experience more peace, able to be more compassionate. It is not all or only about learning to receive and give unconditional love. There is so much to explore before we could ever claim to have experienced that kind of love, that kind of Grace. The heart is about humility, trust, compassion, faith and surrender – experiencing these energies in a tangible, multi-dimensional, knock-us-on-our-ass way and then finding ourselves surprised because we realize we didn’t understand what humility, trust, compassion, faith, and surrender really were either. And this realization happens over and over again. It isn’t theoretical, it is demanding – compassionately demanding.

A person who makes an agreement to engage in the ongoing work of healing their heart by learning about those energies through direct experience of calmness, compassion, faith, surrender, trust, and humility, is doing extremely challenging, illusion-busting work. There is nowhere to hide from the self and all the stories we have created. There is no room for bullshit or lies, denial or blame. There is no room for pride or excuses. There is absolutely no room to hide from our shadows – that which we are embarrassed by or ashamed of or “unaware” of. This healing work is a deep excavation and involves being willing to see our own bullshit and the illusions we playact within our lives. It’s where everything is called into question.

It is also where we find our power and not some mealy mouthed, self aggrandizing faux power.

Seeing true that we are stronger together.

This isn’t about power over someone or something, this is about a power experienced as a humble warrior that can’t help but empower others to find that same energy within themselves. It breeds freedom within the self and for others. It’s the kind of power that makes it possible to “pick up our cross” and follow Love to the ends of the earth and beyond. This power is limitless and there is enough for all. No one person or entity is doling this out. It is always there, coming from within, and when realized and accessed, is like a battery that never dies. And every time that power is accessed and wielded, it is the most humbling experience. This power is the kind that when accessed and wielded, scares the shit out of the “powers that be.” We have seen heart centered leaders murdered for coming into this self awareness and deigning to spread it far and wide. Why? Because it is truly empowering and who can the ego-maniacal manipulators control if everyone is grounded in their power? Who do they become?

For me, heart-centeredness has to be the underpinning of every aspect of my life. If an area of my life is unhealthy, challenging, scary…. it means I have allowed the underpinning to become weak, or I have not yet examined that aspect of my life through the lens of the heart. This is the kind of work I want to do with others who are also seeking this kind of bone-deep, expansive knowing and power, compassion and grace, peace and surrender.

I don’t know how to stop the mental and emotional barrage, get grounded, and tap into calmness, compassion, faith, surrender and trust, without filtering everything (especially the most challenging experiences life throws at me) through the lens of my heart. In other words, I don’t know how to turn to another person and say, “What’s next? I’ve got your back, let’s go make this world better together.” Or, “What do you have to teach me? Show me what you want me to know,” without being centered in the truth of the heart. Because when the heart is not the leader, (when the ego through the brain/mental field is large and in charge), I’m a confused, angry, fearful, frustrated, self-victimizing weakling of a mess. When the known and experienced heart is handed the reigns – healing, flourishing, expansiveness is experienced.

So changes are coming and I look forward to experiencing what blooms together should you feel drawn to it. If you want to talk more about the heart and healing – if you have questions about anything I’ve written here – feel free to email me. Maybe we can set up a time to chat too.

In peace, through Grace,
Tana

*(The Private, Closed CTSEW FB group page will remain alive and active. Our mutually respectful dialogue and intentional work together is an important aspect of the Program).

Chaos and anxiety having its way with us…

Social media, egos, and the missed opportunity.  

 

The following may not have been your experience over the past few days. I hope it hasn’t been, even though that means this article will be confusing and meaningless to you. For those who can relate, you aren’t alone and this can change for us.

You know, I haven’t had much time to contemplate lately how I might engage with people who identify as nazis or white nationalists. I also haven’t had a lot of time to investigate how I might help to dismantle racist (overt and covert) public policies or institutions. And that’s really a shame (and shameful) because that’s exactly what I ought to have been focusing on these past couple days after racists took to the streets with confidence and thought nothing of inflicting violence and death. I believe that we have the opportunity to influence each other when we engage with each other with calm hearts.  Unfortunately, I’ve (my ego) been very busy worrying about not doing enough according to how other people view me and the way I conduct my business, and defending myself to people who have the same ideologies as I do – instead of engaging with those I fear, or with what I fear in myself. Instead, we turned on each other and wasted time and energy with infighting and judgment. This is a fantastic example of spiritual bypassing.

Taking to social media is not the same as taking to the streets (or whatever productivity looks like to people). And yet that’s the first thing we do when something happens – state something about it on social media and anxiously await validation. Then we get trapped, reading and re-reading, clicking and commenting over and over, thinking that this will somehow do good or help us feel better, safer, calmer. Oh how we have allowed ourselves to be trained….

I read many articles and memes and Facebook wall postings this week (instead of being productive and grounded) battling insecurity when a member of my choir would step out and shame the rest of the choir for not singing loudly enough, not singing the right songs, not singing to the right people, not singing in the right venues. And then I watched myself and others waste precious energy being concerned about being perceived as “good” people doing “good” in the world instead of actually tending to ourselves and others in meaningful ways.

And then we look at each other and wonder why we’re exhausted, why we feel paralyzed and inept, and why we can’t see one proactive task checked off our to-do list over the last week. I’ve been reacting to reactions rather than responding to the inner call of my Heart.  I talk a lot about the Heart – a lot of people do. I talk a lot about the heart because it brooks no bullshit. It is the center of truth. It is the access to the All. Had I drawn all this energy into my Heart space sooner, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration and confusion.

Make no mistake – what is happening right now in the world is a wake up call. But here’s the thing – we don’t get to decide what kind of wake up call it’s going to be for other people. Hell, we don’t even get to demand that other people notice the alarm bells, let alone care about them. Despite the way social media has engineered it to appear, we are not all the same, going through the same lessons, experiencing the same life. So from person to person – different things are being integrated and learned. And other people don’t get to dictate what kind of wake up call this event is for others. We don’t get to control the narrative or the way events are perceived by others, nor how they are influenced by said events. Never before has the phrase, “Keep your eyes on your own yoga mat” been more applicable.

And if I am allowing the judgment of others to pull me out of my Heart space, I’m not keeping my eyes on my own yoga mat. I’m going to give social media (and my ego) less time and stop giving away my energy to judgment. It’s time to stop worrying about responding in a way that pleases everyone (impossible). I know who I am and I know what I stand for. Now is the time to actually BE that and allow my actions to communicate that. Not everyone is going to be pleased  – I am going to make mistakes. I’m happy to learn from those who desire to show me a better way of being and moving in the world. I’m listening, paying attention, and moving forward.

Recommended:

Brene Brown’s Facebook Live “We have to keep talking about Charlottesville” from 8-15-17

Heart-centered, courageous inspiration in action: KKK members leave Klan after befriending black musician

Identification with thoughts – more on mindfulness

Identification with thoughts – more on mindfulness

I’ve been talking a lot about mindfulness and meditation practices in my blog and just in general because finding, learning, and integrating these practices helped me learn how to be with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks differently.

I know people want to hear how they can ERADICATE or banish depression and anxiety from their lives. In my experience, there is no way to minimize the effects without first learning to be in relationship with these energies. In the same way we talk about being anti-something politically…that is until we meet and get to know someone who happens to be that something. You know what I mean? There is no boogieman but coming to this realization is having the courage to come face-to-face with that which we fear. You have that courage. And you don’t have to do it alone. Find a coach, a spiritual counselor, a healer, a good counselor.

So the question is always “how?” How do I meditate? How do I have a mindfulness practice? What is the point? It seems hard. I can’t do it. Etc etc Here, Teal Swan provides a step by step process and explains the role judgment plays AND explains about that ever important gap that begins to form between the identity and the thoughts. Give it a listen. You can choose to cut to the chase at 29:30

Mindrolling with Raghu Markus, ep 113

 

If I hear “meditate!” one more time….Mindfulness in our healing work

If I hear “meditate!” one more time….Mindfulness in our healing work

Two interesting messages came through over the past week. The first was a criticism that in recent posts, I have been too critical of the metaphysical community without providing much in the way of alternative options.

I used to detest criticism. I was once a perfectionist who got a lot of gold stars and extra credit points. I was lauded by my teachers and bosses. When I would receive correction of any kind, I received it like a blow to the chest. I would cry, worry, and overanalyze. I would ping-pong between defending myself and berating myself. I do not doubt that I missed a lot of excellent feedback that would have helped me be or do better because I was too busy having an emotional and mental meltdown.

Now I welcome criticism, in the end. Oh don’t get me wrong, my gut still drops and I get light-headed and can’t take a deep breath for fear that I have been caught out. (At what? Depends on the situation. It’s insecurity, plain and simple). What I welcome is the result. After setting aside the complaint/suggestion/edit so that I can get back into my body, I pick it back up, refocus, and consider it. Sometimes, after consideration of the critique, I make changes. Sometimes I do not. Regardless, the critiques gives me a chance to consider something from someone else’s perspective which is an expansive exercise. It’s nice to see through someone else’s viewfinder once in awhile – to remember that when I see red, sometimes others see green or yellow or blue.

I’m sharing this with you because I believe that they way people choose to react or respond to criticism can inform them about their ability to do honest self-inquiry. If external criticism destroys a person, it is highly unlikely they are going to be able to critique themselves in an honest way. What if everything they feared they might be (loser, failure, bad spouse, bad daughter, bad student, bad anything, idiot, narcissist, ignorant) is actually true? When that fear lingers, the ego is running the show which only means that it becomes more difficult to get out of our own way so that we can find ourselves seated back in the heart.

So what might be a first step toward honest self-inquiry for the purpose of healing? Consider your reaction to criticism. Just think about it without judging it. How do you react when someone tells you that, from their perspective, you are either doing it wrong or could be doing it better? How does your body react? Your gut, your limbs, your facial expression, your brain, your lungs and chest? Observe it as a scientist would observe an experiment. A secondary exercise is to do this without judging yourself.

The second comment received was from someone who was frustrated because they would like to do self-inquiry and begin digging into their healing work, but they are tired of being encouraged to meditate or start a mindfulness practice to do that. When I received this feedback, I silenced my environment and meditated on it. (Which makes me giggle a little bit because I have a semi-warped sense of humor).

mindfulness

The reason why many teachers recommend a mindfulness practice, or meditation, is because learning how to be still helps us become better discerners. It teaches us to recognize thoughts for what they are (potential tools) and how to distinguish between helpful and unhelpful beliefs and stories. Self-inquiry requires the ability to be with the self so that we might know the self. When we become more acutely in tune with our physical bodies and get to know the different ways it communicates with us, over time we are less surprised by our reactions as they turn into responses.

Mindfulness or meditation practices help us get out of our minds and into our bodies, connecting with the breath. They help us slow down and access different parts of the brain. And there are many different ways to have a mindfulness practice. There are many different ways to meditate. Sure, some will insist that there are rules – do’s and don’t’s when meditating. Some will insist that their meditation practice is the only true meditation practice. Well, lots of people say lots of thing. Saying or insisting something is true doesn’t make it so. You get to decide. The payoff of a practice like this is that we learn how to train our brains to be tools of our Hearts. In a meditation or mindfulness practice, thoughts are merely observed: they are not go-commands or absolutes. Through simple observation, we can allow the thought to drop into our heart space where the Heart guides our awareness toward what to act on and what to lovingly set aside.

When I first started meditating I was very frustrated. I couldn’t do it. I would dim the lights, minimize distraction, light a candle, sit on a special pillow, and close my eyes in a sandalwood-infused space and just get frustrated. Time and again, I gave it honest effort for over 10 months, if memory serves, only to end up feeling weak-willed and spiritually lazy. I shared this with my spiritual counselor who asked me, “Tana, how do you spend your time on a day-to-day basis? What do you do and how do you do it?” I told her that I worked from home and that I spent my days researching or writing. She clarified, “So your day-to-day activity is generally done in quiet solitude and it is a very internal, mindful and disciplined experience?” I said that yes, it was. Then she recommended that I stop trying to meditate in quiet solitude because that was my usual way of being to do my job. She encouraged me instead to begin treating other day-to-day activities like doing the dishes, folding laundry, mopping the floor, mowing the yard, cutting vegetables as opportunities to learn how to still the mind. Watch thoughts come, detach, and let them go. Try giving all of your attention to the thing you are doing. Feel the water on your hands, the grass under your feet, the cloth against your fingertips, the knife cut against the board. Notice those physical sensations and get really inside your body. And you know what? It worked.

Before long, I found myself looking forward to chores because I knew it was going to be a chance to take a break from thinking and experience my reality through my physical body. I learned a lot about my physical body which began to teach me a lot about my subtle anatomy in time as well. The connections were starting to form because I was making space for them. Thoughts would come and I would breathe them out and come back to the carrot I was peeling. Thoughts would come and I would fall back into my legs and arms pushing the mower across the front yard. Thoughts would come and I would notice my body’s reaction. In time I was so fully inhabiting my body during these activities that the mind learned, “Oh, this is my time off. Catch ya later.” Once I had learned to fully inhabit my body, connected to my surroundings, connected through my breath, I was able to fall into that Oneness space I had heard so much about.

Something to keep in the back of your mind: the way you access this spaciousness may change over time. After a while, chores didn’t do it for me anymore. My life changed, I changed, my routine changed. I now access that space through another practice. Some people can start a practice and follow it everyday for the rest of their lives. Other people will pick up a ritual and put it down to pick up another one as needed. It’s all good.

We can experience a lot of judgment from others who are only looking to find validation for their own choices and practices. There is no one right way to do most anything. If this were true we would never see new inventions or innovative advancements.  When we talk about meditation, we’re not really talking about meditation. We’re really talking about learning to be with ourselves fully: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Oftentimes this involves quieting the mind so that we can clearly see how we’ve constructed our realities through a neutral perspective. However you get from point A to point B – I don’t really care and frankly, neither should anyone else. The important thing is that you figure out a way that works for you. If you’re tired of hearing that the answer to every question is to meditate, and you’ve tried to meditate repeatedly with no success, that’s okay. Figure out what meditation is supposed to provide and then figure out another way you can get there.

There are numerous rituals and practices to choose from. Journaling, attending a drum circle, taking a walk in the woods or a hike up a mountain – can you find your true self in these places where you can’t hide? Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong – can you drop into your center and detach and access the expansive all? Gardening, washing the dishes, pooper scooping the yard (no lie) – do these activities help you assess yourself through your body? What do you do that enables you to observe your thoughts from a non-judgmental space? To access the collective consciousness? To drop into your Heart center? Go. Do. That.


You might be asking why I keep bringing up self-inquiry as a part of the personal healing experience. That’s because the only person who can heal you is you. The only person who can honestly access and assess your actions, thoughts, motivations, reactions, responses, emotions, etc., is you. I can have my perspective about you and your experiences, but I can’t fully understand them because my perspective – based on my personal experiences – will inevitably cloud the view. If you desire to experience healing in your life, you have to be able to know in what way and in what capacity. And then you have to be able to consider what you’ve done, thought, believed, emoted, etc., and how these actions (or inactions as the case may be) have contributed to your perception of imbalance. That’s self-inquiry.

I believe we need community – healers, friends, coaches, counselors, teachers – to walk alongside this sometimes difficult terrain. Other people’s experiences and perspectives can shed light on our own in unique and deeply expansive ways. In the end I am responsible for my own healing work. I am responsible for making the choice to heal and for taking the steps. No one can cajole another person into healing. No one can control another person’s healing and force it. But we can come alongside each other and support each other’s work. Sometimes we need to hear each other’s stories to experience a breakthrough. Sometimes we need someone to be fully honest about how they perceive us because we have blinders when it comes to ourselves. Our self-preservation instinct is strong. But we have to make the agreement.

If you have reached the point where you’re feeling able to dive in and begin a new stage in your healing journey that includes self inquiry – good for you.  It seems that in just about every life scenario, there is an easy-out option that is not only available, but encouraged. And here you are, deciding to let your guard down and peer into the uncomfortable aspects of your life: your reactions, your feelings, your thoughts and beliefs, your routines, your everything. You’ve agreed to honest self-inquiry. As Pema Chodron and every great teacher has said:

Ram Dass’ Facebook Page

Embedded within every complaint I have about an aspect of my life is a choice to stop pushing back and truly be with what I fear, hate, dislike, or am discomfited by. We can’t learn from that which we continue to try to shove into corners or closets. We can’t learn from that which we continue to reject out of hand. Life is inviting us, through each and every experience, to engage with it and learn from it and explore ourselves through it. It is the entire spectrum of experiences and their correlating emotional and physical responses that we’re being invited to engage with, which means not every exploration is going to feel good or safe or comfortable or pleasant. Because all means all. When we try to avoid the less pleasant experiences, we are choosing to only partially engage with Life which means we are choosing to evolve only partially. And this affects not only us, but our families and communities. The complaints or concerns we carry around with us about our experiences, our emotions, our world, our family, our friends, our country, ourselves will only continue to bubble up until we’re willing to fully engage with them.

So it must be asked and only you can both ask and answer the question: do you find that you cannot meditate or find a mindfulness practice because you’ve been too limiting in defining what that might look like for you? Or….Or, do you stop meditating when you become uncomfortable with what arises in your consciousness?

But how do I not become paralyzed when I first start to see my stuff? 

I think one of the biggest lessons of all can come right at the beginning of this excavation process. The first time we choose to sit with an issue and be with it, our egos can really freak out and they try to distract us through judgment and guilt (more concepts/thoughts). This is particularly easy for the ego to do because people new to healing and self inquiry are usually still giving deference to their brains. And the brain usually hasn’t been trained yet to see situations multidimensionally. The brain, a terrific categorization and organizational tool, tends to live in Flatland where only 2 categories exist: good or bad.

The Heart is the place where everything can be held simultaneously. But we have to learn to recognize our Hearts and how to hand over the reigns to the Heart and that can take some time and practice of questioning our thoughts and beliefs and habits and perspectives.

Your “stuff” – whatever you’re seeing that you want or need to change – is not an enemy. It is not out to get you.

And you are not a horrible/bad/stupid/weak person.

You are worthy. You are loved more deeply than you know.

It’s just a rope. It’s just a rope. And we’re all hanging on it together.

 

So much grace and peace,
with gratitude,
Tana

PS: f you work with crystals in your healing practice, some excellent mineral allies include sedimentary carbonates. Calcite, Rhodochrosite, Magnesite (great for Heart work), Stichtite, Serpentine, Aragonite, Azurite, Eilat Stone, Malachite.

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