The HEART Practice
Being a fiery perfectionist, I can quickly feel overwhelmed by irritation, stress, anger, or too much adrenaline from a close call - aka, slipping on ice or almost rear-ending someone. About 3 years ago, in my depths of mystery illnesses, I began finding comfort in putting my hands on my body and just breathing. Then, my dear friend, Jody, and I went on a hike and she shared this very practice. She put it into simple steps to create a recipe for those moments when you need to find a healing calm.
Jody began by telling me to first touch my heart, breathe, tune in, become curious and just ride my feelings. “Stick with that feeling. Don’t run away,” she said. What was so amazing to me was how I had already begun to do this intuitively - out of nowhere else to turn for relief, and here she was walking me through it. How funny to feel you’ve had the keys to intuit your own needs all along. As I listened closely to my inner voice, I followed ambiguous instructions to FEEL instead of THINK my way - or downright abandon myself - through intense emotions.
Whoa. Everything changed in this new understanding. Turns out emotions are intelligent and will lead me to insight, healing, release, and even profound empathy and understanding for others. Now I know that the only reason for emotions becoming unbearable is because I have forgotten to take a brief (or long) moment to place my hand on my heart and truly feel and follow them.
This HEART practice is a tool I constantly use now and I am grateful to have the simple, memorable steps to tune into ME. It’s so simple, I can even access them when I find myself flailing about in the swirling and explosive tornado of CHAOS inside. I put my hands on my chest and say in my mind, “Don’t try to stop it….ride this thing. Get curious about it. Follow the turbulence to the birth of it. Breathe.” As they say in AA, “The only way through it is through it.” High five to all you fellow humans.
I love you and want you to give you the gift of HEART.
- Evan Mack
The HEART Practice
Brought to us by Jody Kemmerer, therapist and friend.
H - hands on heart
E - easy breathing
A - aware of sensations
R - remain in the feeling
T - trust your experience
Hands on your heart
Gently place both hands on the area of your chest over your heart. This serves as a way to anchor your focus of attention and intentionally attend to the interconnection between the heart and brain.
Once you are settled gently switch your focus of attention to your breath. Breathe naturally, neither enhancing nor controlling the breath.
Aware of sensations
Become aware of the sensations in your body, especially your heart. Notice your pulse and other sensations arising. If at first you feel nothing, just observe the nothingness. If you experience sensations and emotions, become curious about what you are feeling. If you can, name the emotion(s).
Remain in the feeling
If your mind starts to wander, bring it back to observing the feelings and sensations. Notice any urges to move away from what you are feeling. Gently and intentionally remain in the experience. Avoid judging, analyzing or making any conclusions. Remain focused on the sensations themselves. Stay open to what these sensations are doing in this very moment. Ride the experience out like a wave.
Trust your experience
Trust the wisdom of your body and the connection between your heart and mind. Know that the sensations arising are the body’s way of communicating important information. Trust that what you observe now will lead to greater self-knowledge. As you begin to better understand your experience, you will naturally begin to validate your emotions, and with this you will develop greater self-compassion.