The heart is responsible for the wisdom of what Buddha called the sublime states, or divine abodes. He suggested we constantly visit and dwell in particular attitudes, behavioral qualities and thought streams from the heart. Instead of just waiting to be more loving, compassionate and forgiving, the suggestion is that we practice these particular qualities.
It’s something to be cultivated! Like a muscle, the heart realm must be exercised. Dwelling spaces we ritualistically return to. Strengthened because we’ve regularly conditioned it.
The more we visit these particular qualities, the more immersed in them we become. Fully saturated in them, we’ll stir up these attitudes and sink deep into the heart so that heart-informed living becomes spontaneous in our manifestation.
A Heart-Based Yin Yoga Practice to Cultivate Emotional Harmony from the Heart
1. Arrive in a Brief Seated Meditation
In Chinese Medicine, the heart is known as the shunya, the open sky space. Rather than feeling “full” in the heart, practice emptying so it becomes wide open terrain to hold all tones and textures of the self — like the wings of the heart spread wide open, a vast expanse.
2. Shoulder Opener : Metta Practice (Loving Kindness)
Metta means loving kindness, or empathy — literally “feeling with.” The capacity to genuinely take interest in emotions of others, to taproot our basic goodness. On side one of the twist, practice the three lines of metta for someone you love. On the other side of the twist, practice metta for someone who challenges you.
Three lines to awaken the Metta Heart View
May you be well.
May you enjoy genuine happiness.
May you be at peace with what comes.
3. Melting Heart Pose : Karuna Practice (Compassion)
If loving kindness is wishing others full of freedom, compassion is wishing others free of suffering. In this pose, bring someone you know who is suffering into the center space of your heart. As you breathe slow and rich, recite inwardly this intention for them: “May you find the outer resources and the inner space, soft and tender, to meet and move through your pain.”
4. Seal Pose : Kshama (Forgiveness)
Forgiveness is at the edge at the edge of our capacity of what we can accept. Being at the edge is challenging and transformational. In this kshama practice, we expand our window of tolerance and remind ourselves of the ability to release, transform and evolve.
Two inner practices for forgiveness:
Asking forgiveness from those who you have harmed : “If I have hurt or harmed anyone, knowingly or unknowingly, I ask for their forgiveness now.”
Offering forgiveness to those who have harmed you : “If anyone has hurt or harmed me, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive them.”
5. Resting in Savasana (Supported Backbend)
Or in seated meditation, reflect on the wide expanse of the heart and its ability to feel in harmony with the whole human collective — to see everyone with an underlying basic ground of goodness, even if there are distortions on the surface.
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in the eyes of the Divine. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed
… I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. — Thomas Merton
Photos by Lauren O’Neill.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2021-22 issue.