One thing that all living humans have in common is that we all have a spirit. In fact, spirit is who we ARE at our deepest level. Throughout the ages, sages, mystics, masters and prophets have all taught this as truth. Now that you know that, you are free to be happy and at peace…..What? That knowledge wasn’t enough to cut through the stress of life and find yourself in an eternal state of bliss? Perhaps knowledge alone is not enough. Maybe we need to experience ourselves as spirit in order to benefit from that knowledge.
From the moment of conception to the moment of death we are programmed to pay attention to the outside world. Before long, we have lost awareness of who we truly are, have created our own “worldly persona” (ego) and have all the baggage that accumulates with it. It is my belief that it is precisely this “illusion of who we are” and our forgetting of our true self, spirit, that has created the world of stress that most of us find ourselves in today.
The medical definition of stress is, “the perception of a real or imagined threat to your body or your ego”. Whether it is real or imagined, when you perceive something as stressful, it creates the same response in the body. Socrates said “Perception is greater than reality.”
What can I do right now to begin to experience the qualities of spirit and reduce my stress?
There are three simple steps to this meditation.
Step one is learning to breathe correctly for this meditation. The breathing is done through the abdomen on the inhale, bringing the breath up to the heart and then out through the heart on the exhale.
Step two is learning to feel gratitude around your heart and then allowing this feeling to spread to every cell of your body.
Step three is giving this gratitude away.
Step 1: THE BREATHING SEQUENCE
The breathing is done in a normal rhythm, but with attention to inhaling and exhaling fully. One uses their imagination and breathes in through the lower abdomen as if there were a nose on our belly button that would allow breath to come in through that area.
As the inhale continues through the belly, the attention is brought up to the heart, bringing the breath with it. When the breath has fully filled the lungs, the exhale begins and we imagine the breath exhaling through the heart. It’s best to use the belly breathing, also known as abdominal breathing, during this process. At least three breaths are taken in this way, staying focused and centered on this breathing process. Imagine the breath coming in through your belly button, rising up to the heart and out the heart area on the exhale.
(If you are not familiar with belly breathing, an explanation follows:
Belly breathing is done using predominantly the diaphragm as the muscle that controls breathing. When the abdomen expands (done by relaxing the stomach and allowing it to push out), the diaphragm automatically comes down, which allows more oxygen to come into the lungs. After the lungs have become full, the exhale occurs by gently pulling the stomach inward toward the backbone, (as in “holding your tummy in”) which lifts the diaphragm and expels the air from the lungs. This is the way we breathed in our mother’s womb and as a newborn. Expand the abdomen on the inhale; gently tighten the abdomen on the exhale. If you have trouble breathing this way, just breathe naturally and don’t worry about it.)
Step 2: FEELING GRATITUDE IN THE HEART
After we have activated the heart by bringing the breath into it from the abdomen below, continue breathing naturally, but deeply and begin to feel gratitude in the area of the heart. Think of something that you’re grateful for. It can be something small if you’re having a hard time thinking of anything positive. Whatever you think of, allow the feeling of gratitude to grow. Continue allowing the feeling of gratitude to fill the heart and let that feeling expand until it is overflowing the heart and filling the entire chest area. As the gratitude expands, allow this feeling to flow into every part of your body. Imagine that every cell in your body is being filled with this wonderful feeling of gratitude. You can also imagine each and every cell in your body being filled with dazzling, sparkling light. Enjoy this feeling and know that it is nourishing every cell in your body from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet.
Step 3: GIVING IT AWAY
Research has shown that when we are in a state of stress, one of the best ways to begin feeling better right away is to do something nice for someone else. This takes our attention off of our self and our problems and turns our emotions into a more positive feeling.
This third step is about giving this positive feeling of gratitude away to whomever we imagine needs it. It may be someone specific, a group of people, or even the entire world. After this feeling of gratitude has built inside of you and you’ve given it to every cell in your body, imagine that you are passing it on to whomever we want to give it to. You may continue to pass it on to everyone you meet throughout the day. You can imagine love and gratitude flowing out of your eyes and your smile when you see someone, out of your hands when you touch someone, or simply coming from your heart directly into their heart. This feeling of gratitude comes from an inexhaustible source and can never be depleted. The more you give away, the more you have for yourself.
This completes the Heartbreath Meditation. This can be practiced in as little as three minutes and once this technique has been established as habit, one can tap into that feeling of gratitude immediately and begin giving away this wonderful feeling in an instant. Practice it several times a day and you may find yourself less stressed and even a little happier!
Breathe, enjoy the feeling and spread it around!