When you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or burned out, how does your heart feel?
This is more than just a rhetorical question: physically, how does your heart feel? One of the big insights of HeartMath® research is that the body and the heart don’t lie. So when you’re dealing with stress and burnout, your heart might really feel heavy and sluggish. Or, it may feel ramped-up and on edge. When things get really overwhelming, you may even find yourself cycling back and forth between heaviness and frenetic activity.
Now, let’s flip that. Think of a joyful moment in your life. It could be a major life event like a wedding or the birth of a child, but it could also be a simple, everyday moment of connection and happiness. How does your heart feel now? Usually, when we’re feeling joyful and connected, our hearts feel light: illuminated, buoyant, no longer weighed down.
When our hearts are heavy, we tend to close ourselves off to life, other people, and the opportunities around us. When our hearts are light, we are able to open ourselves to possibilities. And usually, this feeling of lightness brings with it a sense of gratitude, a feeling of connection to our true Selves, to others, and to God or a higher power.
How can you cultivate this kind of lightness?
I like to think of it like taking care of your car. A regular centering prayer or meditation practice is the deep work—like taking your car to the mechanic for major repairs. But instead of fixing a car, this is about healing you—your body, mind, brain, emotions, and soul.
Contemplative prayer or meditation teaches you to gently—emphasis on gently!—return to your sacred word when you feel yourself getting caught up in thoughts, emotions, memories, anxieties, or events happening around you.
When you surrender to the Divine Presence repeatedly, you let go of a little piece of your ego and attachments, of what I call your “separate self” or “socially constructed” self. This is your self with a small “s,” the self that feels separate from others, the self that you’d describe on your resume. This isn’t a bad thing: we need this self in order to function in the world!
But the small self is also where we tend to store permanent stress, or the trauma we may have experienced in life. It’s where we hold onto those nagging little doubts, the self-criticisms that keep repeating, the things Thomas Keating calls “the emotional wounds of a lifetime.”
This stress can keep coming up, over and over, no matter how much inner work you’ve done. Maybe you’ve tried all sorts of things: therapy, journaling, The Artist’s Way, all of that. But these kinds of stress can keep on hanging on because they’re stored so deep in the body and the non-conscious mind.
Through centering prayer or meditation, it’s possible to let go of your ego, and of all the anxiety and stress that it holds. When you begin to let go of the separate self, this is where the grace and light can come into your heart and soul.
This is where the Deep Healing really takes place. As you do your contemplative prayer or meditation practice consistently, you begin to take down the walls around your heart. Your true Self, that Divine Presence and Divine Wisdom within, just starts to emerge effortlessly in daily life. And simultaneously, grace can get in from the outside, because our true Self is light and ready for it.
If that’s the big picture, what about the everyday stuff?
If Centering Prayer Meditation is like taking your car to the mechanic for a major overhaul, then HeartMath® techniques are like the simple daily maintenance routines that you do on your car—cleaning it, checking the oil, filling up the gas tank. Not things you need a mechanic for, just the small tasks you do to make sure your car keeps functioning at optimal levels.
In other words, these are little adjustments you can make throughout your day that allow you to keep your heart, brain, mind, and soul running at optimal efficiency, and to ensure that they’re in alignment with each other.
HeartMath has a scientific word for this kind of inner alignment: coherence. And it’s possible to maintain and even boost your coherence throughout the day using HeartMath® techniques.
These are in-the-moment practices that you can do with your eyes open: in a stressful meeting, for instance, or in a conversation where you find yourself getting triggered or reactive.
These techniques include:
- Heart-Focused Breathing™. As simple as it sounds!
- Quick Coherence™. Heart focused breathing, plus adding in a bit of emotional gratitude practice to make it easier to maintain that coherent state.
- Attitude Breathing™. Using the Depletion to Renewal Grid—a tool for tracking your emotions—you can recognize where you are in the moment, and breathe your way into new, healthier, lighter emotions.
- Freeze Frame™. This short, simple practice helps you to make sure that you’re making decisions from that coherent heart state.
- Heart Mapping™. This bigger-picture practice takes something called “brain mapping” and adds in a heart component. It’s a powerful way to align your rational, thinking brain with your heart and your emotional mind for when you need to make big-picture, strategic decisions and plans.
When you take care of your entire Being in this way—by bringing yourself the divine mechanic on a regular basis and by tending to small maintenance issues using HeartMath® techniques—you begin to break up the patterns that have caused you to hold that heavy heart for so long.
Other patterns that people notice when they consistently integrate these in-the-moment HeartMath® techniques with a daily centering practice:
- You become less reactive to things that used to set you off. (For me, money was always a big stressor; anytime an issue came up I would just shut down. Now, after using these techniques for years, I’m much more able to look at money decisions with an objective attitude.)
- Small annoyances don’t bother you as much—or at all.
- You can return to center more quickly after life throws you a curveball. Difficult, emotionally challenging things can and will happen: it’s just part of the human condition. But people find that they’re able to return to center much more quickly after a disruption.
- You can process your emotions more quickly, and with less resistance. This translates into getting your work done and being present with others, using less emotional energy and stress.
I’ve put all of this together into a completely redesigned online, 8-week Centering for Wisdom program! In the new, redesigned program, you will learn:
- Contemplative prayer and meditation, and how to integrate it into your daily routines
- All of the HeartMath® techniques mentioned above
- How to use the Inner Balance™ sensor to track your coherence, get biofeedback in real time, and track your progress over time
- A simple exercise to identify what I call your Root WHY: your core purpose for your life
You’ll also learn how HeartMath® techniques like Freeze Frame™ and Heart Mapping™ can guide your decisions—big or small—and help you to stay aligned with your purpose. By integrating a regular contemplative meditation practice, HeartMath® techniques, and an understanding of your purpose, you can make decisions that are guided by your true Self and the divine wisdom that resides there.
I’m officially opening up the new Centering for Wisdom program now! The first cohort will begin in March 2022, and we’ll have continual, rolling enrollment going forward.
Even if we’ve spoken before on a Breakthrough Session and you decided that the timing or the price point wasn’t right for you, please do check it out. This really is a brand new program, with a new, accessible price point, and lots of exciting new features from HeartMath®, including the best-selling Inner Balance™ coherence sensor. And if you have more questions, you can contact me directly on Facebook, or through the program page.
I’m so excited to offer this program, and to help you combine the techniques of contemplative prayer/meditation and HeartMath®, to help you get out of the old habits that create a heavy heart, and into the lightness of heart that you deserve. Any way that we can infuse more lightness, compassion, and connection with others is so needed in the world right now.
I look forward to talking with you soon!