These are not easy times in which to live. Daily we are bombarded with stories of tragedy and loss. Daily we deal with a myriad of responsibilities at home and at work. Daily we may care for others, shouldering burdens that feel too heavy to bear.
If this is true for you, and if you happen to be a sensitive person, the door of your heart can gradually drift shut from the "too muchness" of life. Have you ever experienced this?
Body and mind fatigue may set in. Compassion fatigue too. When they do, it is time to be extra gentle with yourself and open the door of your heart. This practice from my book Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook, can help:
Week 25: Open The Door to Your Heart
Feeling closed down, agitated, irritated with yourself or others? Stop what you are doing and open your heart. Heart opening stretches not only release bodily tension, but enable your emotional heart—your heart center, the 4thchakra—to open if it feels tight or closed down. It allows self-awareness through self-love to return.
You can do this exercise anywhere. Simply stand up, stretch your arms out wide to the sides as if you were an airplane. Breathing slowly and evenly, gently arch your body back as if there were an imaginary string connecting your heart to the sky. Stay in this position for at least a minute. Continue to breathe in a relaxed way so you can feel any constriction that is present open up and release. You may need to repeat this heart-opening practice a few times if you’re feeling especially resistant.
This practice can also be done lying on the floor. Lie flat on your back, arms at your sides or spread wide like airplane wings. Relax your torso and allow your legs to rest comfortably, feet comfortable so they fall gently to their sides.
Slowly and gently lift and arch your back, raising your torso just a few inches off the ground. Don’t strain or lift too high. Attune your awareness to your heart center so that you can intuitively feel when your chest is beginning to feel less constricted, more open. Hold this position for a few seconds, then release gently back to the floor.
Our thoughts and feelings move in energetic patterns throughout our body and often house themselves in certain regions. They can get “stuck” in one area or another. Thus the phrase, “I feel like my heart is breaking,” when sorrow is present. Discomfort can actually be felt in the heart center. Anger can also be felt in this region by tightness or the discomfiting experience of pressure in the chest. Often simple physical movements can help redistribute the energy and, ultimately, release it.
Sometimes a less formal practice of movement can do the trick, too. Try it yourself and see. Lie down on the floor and very slowly, gently, move your body around. Wiggle, stretch, lift and raise, move from side to side—however your intuition instructs you. Listen to your body and feel where lack of peace may have housed itself. Release it by moving your body.
Anytime you connect with your body and allow it to help to release what’s burdening you, honor its trustworthy service. Place your hands in prayer pose, thumbs touching your heart center, and thank it for serving you well.
©2015, Janice L. Lundy
Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook
Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook contains 52 original practicing for accessing the deep peace that lives within you. It is available as a paperback book and as a downloadable book here.
After eight weeks of in and out travel (and pretty much living out of a suitcase), I'm home and getting back into a routine that honors my contemplative nature and needs. And though I have plenty to catch up on, including caring for our house, my body, and my work life, this segment I wrote for Living Gently with Myself is the focus of my efforts as I "regroup." I hope you enjoy and find it helpful ... wherever you are.
When I wrote my first book Coming Home to Ourselves, I was living a completely unbalanced life, which I set out to correct. I created a system whereby I would spend an allotted amount of time each day on each part of my personal triad: body, mind, and spirit. I theorized that by doing so I would get my life back in balance. Much to my surprise, my theory, put into practice, worked. One year after I implemented it, I felt great and my health returned. My life did feel more balanced.
Yet, walking the beach one year later, realized I was not completely at ease within myself. I felt unsettled much of the time and was not sure why. That afternoon, as I lay on the beach, relaxing, soaking up some sun while my children were occupied elsewhere, I found myself drawn to read a new book I’d picked up featuring the poetry of the 12thcentury Persian poet, Rumi. Rumi was madly in love with God.
As I read, listening to the waves lap upon the shore, I felt internal waves of peace and love wash through me, carrying me into what I can only call a unitive experience, a genuine feeling of oneness. Of belonging. Of deep connection to the God of my understanding, which, ironically, was very limited at the time.
In that moment, an awareness whooshed in (dare I call it grace?) that I was still living “upside down.” I was working too hard at getting my life just right by focusing on balance; trying to do all the right things for myself—body, mind and spirit. I experienced a new knowing that life, ultimately, was not about balance at all, but about harmony.
Balance, by its very nature, is impossible. Nothing is ever in perfect balance. I often assure myself of this by visualizing a teeter totter. The plank on which we sit is never completely parallel to the ground, it’s always tipped a bit, one way or the other; more up than down, more down than up.
The words of Rumi I read were not about balance and getting our lives just right, but about spiritual living, heeding the voice of the soul. When we can listen in thus way, he said, the soul points us toward the One. We are divine creatures in human form and we are most happy when we are living in harmony with the Creator, the Beloved, as Rumi called it. I knew in my bones that what he said was true, because in that moment, lying in the sun on a hot August day, I came to realize I was supremely happy feeling connected to Source.
From that day forward, I shifted my daily focus to take care of my spiritual life first, and then my body-mind second. The “balancing act” approach to life suddenly felt like striving and was deeply unsatisfying. I experienced a shift when I addressed my spiritual connection first. Everything in life seemed to fall into place as a result of this. Prioritizing my relationship with the Sacred through various spiritual practices enabled me to feel harmonious within myself, and at ease with all aspects of my life. The same can be true for any of us.
Putting your spiritual life first is a game changer. In fact, when you do, you will realize there is no “game” at all, just a beautiful Flow and you are part of That.
Is your inner life a priority or does it play second fiddle to attending to all of the responsibilities of your daily life?
© 2018, Janice L. Lundy
Excerpted from Living Gently with Myself: A 30-Day Guidebook.
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Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.