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Heartfulness, Self-Compassion, Open-Heartedness

It’s been a while since I’ve written. The mid and late fall were taken up with seeing clients and with supervision meetings–preparing for what did end up being my final exam to complete my registration for autonomous practice with the College of Psychologists here in Ontario. (Note: I’ve passed. I’m done!) Tragically, a week later I experienced a heart-breaking loss in my life. Then it was the holidays. I’m unfolding from all of this and am both getting back to routines, as well as consciously and deliberately working to create some new ones.

Today I would like to share a quote from a wonderful little book I read in the fall by Jon Kabat-Zinn called Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness. The book is comprised of excerpts from a much larger, longer book he wrote called Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. The latter tome I’ve been reading a bit at a time since late December.

There were a number of excerpts from Arriving at Your Own Door that touched me. Today’s is from very early in the book (lesson 2), where he suggests the idea of heartfulness, something that resonated with me when I read it:

“In Asian languages, the word for mind and the word for heart are the same word. So when we hear the word mindfulness, we have to inwardly also hear heartfulness in order to grasp it even as a concept, and especially as a way of being.”

Mindfulness = Heartfulness. What I like about the word heartfulness is its tonal quality of warmth, openness, and whole-heartedness. I like how it seems to remind us and invite us that, as a quality of presence and a way of being, heartfulness (mindfulness) comes from a centre in one’s body, or lower into one’s body, not something purely “in one’s head”.

In my workshops and other teaching about working with people who self-injure, I talk about high quality human connection — the absolute importance and foundation of this in our work with others. This way of being in relationship and presence involves many qualities of mindfulness including of non-judgment, openness, curiosity, and being present right here, right now, not needing to quickly try to get anywhere else. High quality human connection is an intervention in and of itself including when it comes to struggles with emotion regulation. Heartfulness is a foundation.

When you come to a workshop to learn about how to work with someone who is self-injuring, don’t be surprised when I start the “how to help part” here, with this, with heartfulness, and then build on and go from there. When you come to learn about self-compassion, voila!, there it will be again, as a place to explore and to begin.

I was reminded of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s excerpt on heartfulness when I watched today a personable interview with Kristin Neff (recorded in 2011). In it, she speaks of a base of compassion and self-compassion as being of open-heartedness — open-heartedness to what arises in others and in ourselves including the sweet and the bitter.

Kristin touches briefly on various topics in the interview including on self-esteem (the limits of this), empathy (something that can be used for help or harm), sympathy, mindfulness, motivation, and self-criticism as a few examples. She also speaks a bit about her own journey toward self-compassion in her life, as well as of feeling more integrated and whole — integrating the academic and cerebral in herself with the emotional and the spiritual.

Here is a link to  the youtube video. Curl up with some tea and your journal or notebook and whatever technological wonder you’re reading this from — watch the video and jot down a few notes and/or your feeling and thoughts. (The website where I stumbled upon this video is here: Centre for Building a Culture of Empathy.)

Until next time, heartfulness