This weekend, many of us will finally get warm Spring weather. I’m going to spend most of the weekend on hiking trails in the mountains, looking for pink ladyslipper, trillium, and Jack in the Pulpit. I’m sure many of my readers will spend lots of time walking or just being outside.
Here’s a little thing I do when I’m hiking or walking. The power of it never ceases to amaze me. You can try it this weekend.
Sometimes, even when I’m out in the woods, I’ll notice that my mind is just yammering its obsessions or its opinions or its to-do list. When I catch that happening, I pause for a moment. And then I shift to a mode that I call “Walking In my Heart.”
I started doing this when I was first healing bulimia. I would hike for a while. Then I’d put my hand on my heart. Then I’d move all that energy out of my head and into my heart. In other words, I’d slowly shift my attention from my yammering thoughts to the feeling of my heart. It took some real concentration and time to feel the giant shift. But the first time I walked in my heart, the whole hiking trail lit up. Trees were more alive. And I could see everything, not just a little bit of woods in front of me. The world was brilliant and lovely.
These days I do it with a lot more ease. (Practice helps!) The other day, I was on a trail that had been clear-cut in the 50’s. Now it’s filled with invasive stuff like kudzu and poison ivy. It’s not a very inspiring spot. I was walking my dog. I was in a “get this over with” state of mind. But when I paused and shifted into my heart, I saw the trail in a whole different light. It’s like it opened itself up to me in a way that I couldn’t allow when I was in my head and my opinions. I felt a deep inner smile expand inside of me. And an intense peace just took over.
So, Christine, what the heck are you talking about? How do you even do this weird thing you’re describing?
Well, that’s the thing. I don’t have any steps. I can only offer some thoughts on how it works for me. You can try it this weekend when you’re outside. And once you get the feel for it, you’ll want to do it all the time.
– When I first got the idea to do this, I was working with a massage therapist/ energy healer who sensed a huge disconnect between my head and my heart. She would often put her hand on my heart and hold it there until she could feel me move out of my head and into my heart. There was no effort involved at all. It was just a shift. It was palpable. I wanted to experience that feeling in other places in my life besides the massage table.
– The key thing is to make sure you’re not just “thinking about” your heart. For instance, some meditations begin with “feeling your hands.” Many people hear this and rather than feel their hands, they think about their hands. A great way to remedy this is to close your eyes and imagine that Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak has been thrown over you. Without opening your eyes, ask yourself how you’d even know that your right hand was still there if you couldn’t see it. That brief feeling of your hand is the answer. I call it “hand-ness.” Now, that very same idea is the starting point for walking in your heart. You feel your heart. You close your eyes and ask how you know your heart is even in there. You hold that feeling of “heart-ness.” And as you do that, you allow more and more of your being to move in there. (Your heart can handle it! Don’t worry!)
– When you’ve made the shift, it can actually feel like you’re seeing through your heart. Like the filters that your eyes normally go through are gone. And now your eyes are “going through” your heart. That is an amazing feeling. It’s how it must feel to be enlightened.
– If you’re “trying hard,” then stop. It’s not about trying hard. It’s gentle. It can take some amount of concentration (not a great word because it’s so mental) to hold your attention in the heart space, but it’s not “effort” or “pushing.”
– Most of us spend so much time in our heads. We have aching shoulders, tight jaws, and long to-do lists. Shifting moment by moment into our bodies, and into our hearts can create huge changes in our days and our work.
– In my experience, the heart is not about emotionality. It’s not about drama. There is feeling there, yes. There is compassion and openness there. But when someone claims that they are such a heart-centered person and that’s why they have such sadness and drama, I don’t think it’s their heart. I think that’s still their head! Your heart is actually a very serene and strong place.
– If you’ve never done anything like this, then the first time you try it might just be a fleeting moment, or a quick glimpse. You might suddenly find your way into the heart, and then jump right back up into your head. That’s okay. Once you get that glimpse, it’ll get easier and easier. Eventually, you’ll be able to take whole hikes in your heart!