Animals can teach us a lot about being present in the moment and silent at the same time. They know how to just "be" and how to sit in silence for long periods of time.
Animals can hold a space as sacred, whether it's their favorite sunning spot, or the mat by the front door. Observe your pets at these times. Watch as they tune out the world and practice the "art" of silence. I believe they are really meditating, in a way.
You can achieve the same effect. Try and be aware of nothing but your breathing; allow your mind to empty the hustle-and-bustle issues of the day. Simple meditation, done at 5- to 10-minute intervals during the day, can offset the chronic release of cortisol, which not only raises your blood pressure, but contributes to things like heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.
Allow silence to become a part of your daily life. Take time each day to create a mood of peace and stillness for yourself.
To help you do this, I'd like you to try a mental imaging exercise that is designed to put you in touch with your heart and body on a physical level. Just remember that there's no right way to do it. The important thing is to use the imagery to bring out feelings, and then follow the feelings.
I think this exercise may work best for you if you tape the steps and then play them back, or have your partner do it. You can also ask your partner or a friend to take you through the process by reading the steps to you.
- Start by creating silence. Take your phone off the hook or turn on your answering machine. Then, lie down on the floor and place a small pillow behind your head. Make yourself comfortable.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths through your nostrils, and take a moment to feel how wonderful it is to have the floor support your back, buttocks and legs. Feel the breath going in and out. Do this for a minute or two until you're totally focused on your rhythmic breathing.
- As soon as you're comfortable, visualize your heart. What does it look like as it beats steadily in your chest?
- Now I want you to see your heart as a living pump, which is moving its life-sustaining force throughout your body. Make a mental picture of this, and look at how every one of your cells is being bathed in this life-sustaining force.
- Once you begin to feel your heart's force, I want you to give your heart a color. Visualize it as whatever color first leaps to mind. Ask yourself how much space this color occupies in your chest. Does it fill your chest? Or is it just a small colored area inside your heart? Does the color radiate outward to fill your body? Does the color extend beyond the limits of your body? Can you see this color glowing all around you? I want you to exhale your breath into it, fill it with your breath, and feel its presence.
- Now, as you see this color inside your chest, I want you to give this color a voice. What is it saying to you? Is it a joyful voice? Does it sing? Or is it a sad voice? Do you hear your heart weeping? Is the voice a shout of outrage or anger? Or is it a groan of despair, or even a cry? Or do you only hear silence, does your heart have no voice, or is it not speaking right now?
- What is the voice of your heart saying? What is it trying to express? If you can't hear this clearly at first, then ask the color inside your chest for these answers, and listen for its message. It may be very simple, only one word, or a moan or cry.
- After you've received your message, tell it to your heart. See your heart's color, hear its voice, and tell your heart that it is healing. Then I want you to tell yourself that you are healing your heart, that you are nurturing your heart, and with it, your life.
- Now, let all your mental images fade. Open your eyes slowly, and again feel the presence of the floor against your back. Lie on the floor quietly until you feel you want to get up.
Practice Makes Perfect
Some of you will get a lot from this exercise, and some of you may get little or nothing. Either is okay: this exercise is not about performance. It is about getting in touch with your heart on a body level.
Try to continue this practice every day. It takes only 5 to 10 minutes to do it. And your heart will thank you.
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