Have you ever been faced with something that unsettles you and leaves you confused and lost? Have you ever had a day where you got frustrated about how unreasonably frustrated you were? Have you ever wanted to do nothing but exist, just for a moment? If you have, I empathise entirely. Everyone has tough days, weeks, or even years. Everyone needs some way to calm down, a coping method that allows them to observe their thoughts. For me, that method is Heartfulness.
What is Heartfulness?
Heartfulness is a lifestyle that encourages connecting with one’s true feelings and intuition. Its philosophy is that the heart is our true guide. Although we may be scattered and anxious in our minds, our sincere feelings in any situation are expressed through our hearts. It warms when we’re happy, hammers when we’re scared, clenches when we’re angry. Heartfulness strives to tune into the heart and be in a state of love, peace, and calmness. There are three aspects to the heartfulness practice: relaxation, meditation, and cleaning.
I usually do relaxation if I’m tense, or before meditation, but you can do it whenever you need. The relaxation process involves taking a few minutes for ourselves and observing our bodies. We take note of what muscles are tense, stiff, or sore, and relax. This YouTube video contains a guided relaxation exercise made by Heartfulness.
The process of heartfulness meditation is simple. Sit down comfortably, close your eyes, and imagine that your heart is full of love and light. You don’t need to focus on it. Thoughts will come and go as they want. I’ve spent many a meditation session completely distracted by a random song incessantly playing in my head. The heart isn’t supposed to restrict your mind, it’s supposed to be a haven where you can relax and be with your thoughts and ideas without being chained by any worries or responsibilities.
I try to practise heartfulness by myself at home, but for those practising traditionally, the first three meditation sessions are done with a prefect/preceptor, who guides you. These are called sittings. Those who teach heartfulness advise doing a sitting around once a week, especially when you’ve just started off.
Cleaning is my personal favourite part of heartfulness. It has two parts, the first of which involves letting go of any anxiety, insecurity, or heaviness in your heart. The second is imagining that, after your heart is empty of negativity, you fill it with lightness and love. I like to actually imagine the light flowing in, but you can simply reminisce about happy, relaxing moments in order for your heart to feel light and joyful. There is a guided cleaning video made by Heartfulness too.
How does heartfulness compare to mindfulness?
You might have heard of mindfulness, which is the ability to be aware of what’s happening in the present moment, both inside of your body and in the world around you. Mindfulness and heartfulness are quite similar in their philosophies, with both focused on being present, appreciating, accepting, and reflecting.
Heartfulness switches the focus onto cultivating a sense of light and love in the heart. Some practices associated with mindfulness do this, such as Loving Kindness or Metta Bhavana. However, while these practices are based on presence as a starting point, they move to cultivation.
Mindfulness and heartfulness seem to make no sense at first glance. One can emphasise focus and the other can stress the importance of allowing your thoughts to drift. In reality, though, heartfulness and mindfulness work extremely well together.
Heartfulness can be an extremely tough meditation to grasp, especially in the beginning. How can you be happy and relaxed through sheer force of will just by sitting down and meditating? How are you supposed to enjoy meditation if your thoughts are always buzzing around?
Mindfulness is a great way to counter this problem. The mind can have more clarity and focus after mindfulness meditation, so it becomes easier to observe your thoughts and connect with the heart.
On the other side of the spectrum, heartfulness comes with multiple additional perks, the principal of which is a clear way of reflecting and connecting to your emotions. Mindfulness can help observe thoughts, while heartfulness can harness the power of one’s emotional intuition. With both together, I feel I can face life with poise and self-assurance.
Do what works for you
Meditation may sound idealistic to some, and those who try it may be discouraged by how little progress they make. I hate trying to meditate on bad days where I don’t even want to leave my bed.
However, meditation isn’t a prescribed rulebook. It’s simply a tool that you can mould to help you as you see fit. If I can’t focus on my breath and my thoughts are too negative and overbearing, I find that taking a hot shower or listening to music helps me more than forcing myself through a meditation session would.
However, I know when I’m stressed before an exam, or if I want to think calmly about a situation that I’m sensitive about, meditation is the best tool I have. It helps me remember that my flaws and insecurities are not my whole self and that I can trust myself to make thoughtful, sensible decisions, even during emotional moments.
Both heartfulness and mindfulness are transformative and wonderful, but they work best when you use them the way you want to. They’re a great opportunity to explore and understand your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours, as well as learning how to care for yourself as best you can. So, take what you like from this article, and do what works for you.