ENERGIZE Your HEART, DEEPEN Your RELATIONSHIPS
Heart Rhythm Meditation is a powerful form of meditation that can help you expand your heart in multiple dimensions and transform your relationships into the fulfilling connections you desire
Love, romance, friendship, feeling a deep connection with others, loving and being loved-these are universally recognized as the keys to a happy and fulfilled life. Yet so many people feel a lack of each one of these. Our culture is both more interested in love, and at the same time more frightened of love than ever before. Heart Rhythm Meditation can help you develop more fulfilling relationships by expanding your heart in several dimensions.
The term heart is so often used it has become almost meaningless. At the Institute for Applied Meditation, we describe it in terms of its four dimensions: the vertical dimension, including height and depth, the horizontal dimension, including right and left width, the forward dimension, and the inner dimension. Each dimension includes different qualities of the heart:
- height brings a sense of idealism, hope, and optimism, lifting the heart in joy - depth brings a sense of empathy, sincerity, and connection- the left width brings receptivity, tenderness, and the ability to embrace difference- the right width is expressive of influence, stability, and peace- the forward dimension brings radiance, enthusiasm, initiative, and creativity- the inner dimension brings a sense of connection with all, as well as the capacity for growth and love
In order to harness the power of Heart Rhythm Meditation, we start with the view that the state of your relationships with others is a reflection of the state of your heart. The heart is constantly growing, constantly progressing toward its fullest development, which tends to occur in one or two dimensions at a time.
Our first task is to assess which dimensions of your heart are strong, and which are weak. We have several methods of assessment, including the Heart Index, an online questionnaire which gives you a score for each dimension. It takes just a few minutes to answer the questions. The Heart Index can be found at http://www.IAMheart.org/emotional/index.shtml.
The dimensions of the heart that are most helpful for working on your relationships are the depth and the horizontal dimension of the heart.
When your heart is strong in a certain dimension, it gives you certain strengths which we can recognize. When it is weak in that dimension, there are certain problems we can detect. For example, with a heart that is developed in the horizontal dimension, or width -- a broad heart -- you are a natural networker who extends your personal boundary to easily include others.
If the left width is more developed, it makes you a good listener, cooperative with others, and tolerant. Your easy acceptance makes you well-liked. You don't complain about others and you're not judgmental. You appreciate diversity-it takes all kinds. What other people do doesn't bother you. Your receptivity quickly picks up the mood of individuals or a group.
If the right side of your heart is more developed, it makes you expressive, gregarious, friendly, warm, and influential. You have the ability to harmonize yourself with others and harmonize others to yourself. You go out of your way to be helpful to others, even people you don't know.
When both sides of your heart are developed, you easily form alliances with others. You become very stable, like a rock in the stream of life. Towards others this stability becomes loyalty and dependability; personally, it becomes contentment. This contentment makes you inclined to peace and harmony, while less inclined to risk. You attract many people who need stability and safety, who want to lean on someone and be cared for, and who recognize these abilities in you. Your stability will be challenged and tested by the many who hang on to you.
Everyone wants the broad-hearted on their side, to attend their party, to sit at their table. Broad-hearted people make others feel more whole and secure, so you are claimed as a friend by everyone. When two groups that don't get along with each other both claim you, it puts you in a dilemma. Unable to alienate or disappoint either group, you'll be pulled in two directions. Also, your accepting nature may be taken advantage of by others who appear to be friendly but are actually exploitative.
When your heart is broadened beyond a balanced condition, you may become so accepting as to become permissive of wrong behavior. In your extreme loyalty, you may overlook a serious problem with your friend that can reflect back on yourself. You avoid confrontation, preferring harmony at all costs. You would like to be independent, but you let the group or another speak for you.
When the heart lacks breadth, it is narrow - constrained on both sides. A narrow heart is isolated. When your heart is narrow you feel intolerant of others, which brings a sense of conflict, so you avoid contact, reinforcing your isolation. In the extreme, this creates social phobia where you are extremely uncomfortable among others, especially strangers. With a narrow heart you're uncooperative, unfriendly, easily irritated, misunderstood and intolerant of change. You specialize in a limited, inflexible, narrow range of expertise.
As you read this description, do you have any strong emotional reaction to it? Does it attract you, as in, 'yes! This is what I need to work on!'; or does it repulse you? Any strong reaction is important to explore. A good way to do it is to sit in meditation and connect your breath to your heartbeat. Feel that you're breathing in and expanding your heart horizontally, embracing all. Feel what emotions come up during this process.
The heart with depth emphasizes the emotions that connect all people and the states of being that we have in common. Your deep heart is empathetic, allowing you to easily feel what other hearts feel as if there was no separation or barrier between you. In the depth we are all united, like water lilies under the water, even though we appear separate on the surface. Because with a deep heart you feel so keenly the reaction of others to your actions, you become very considerate toward others. You are naturally tender and kind. You live in your emotions, so you are familiar with all the feelings that arise, whether desires or fears, longings or anxieties.
Your deep heart is easily moved by the beauty of flowers, the blessing of rain, the smile of a child, or the warmth of a friendly gesture. Scenes in movies and stories of friends affect you strongly. Feelings become your friends; emotions are proof of the energy that moves within your heart. With your deep heart you are a natural counselor. Because of your sympathetic nature, everyone talks to you and expresses their frustrations and victories.
The deepest emotions are felt here in the depth of the heart, the emotions that are without cause, the emotions that are felt in the heart of humanity. Beneath your feeling of loss, for example, is a much greater sense of loss: the separation of the self from the Source. Loss is experienced at certain times-at the end of a relationship, pregnancy, job, or the life of a friend. But the loss of separation is an unconscious, continual emotion in the depth of your heart.
Likewise, joy is experienced at certain times -- a new opportunity, the beginning of a relationship, the purchase of a new car. But there is always a joy in the depth of your heart due to the unconscious, continual discovery of your self reflected in others, in nature, and in beautiful things. The deep emotions of separation and reunion are at the heart of your most profound experiences in life.
With a deep heart, you have access to the hearts of all. It is difficult to separate your own feelings from the feelings of others. In reality, there is no separation between hearts, but people whose hearts lack depth can imagine they are emotionally independent of others-they don't notice that what others feel they feel also. But you, with a deep heart, you can catch the feeling of another person in a glance.
With a deep heart, the awareness of the network that connects all hearts is strong, so you are personally offended when someone acts in a way that harms others. You feel the problems of others as your own, so you take on the struggle of others.
Your deep heart is sympathetic to the pain, confusion and frustration within the hearts of others that can cause them to lash out, and in this sympathy you may even allow them to hurt you. This is incomprehensible to those without depth, but in the depth of your heart you already feel the pain of your tormentors intensely, so the added pain of abuse is not an intolerable increase, and gives a dramatic confirmation of what you feel.
Another kind of distortion of the deep heart is the emotional roller-coaster. To a person without depth, an extreme emotional shift like the change from anger to kindness, for example, is baffling and may appear to be manipulative, whereas the person with a deep heart has access to that fundamental, nameless emotion at the root of all the emotions that can be named. Followed to its depth, every emotion leads to this nameless but very intense emotional base and rises again as a different emotion. The distortion is to ping-pong from one strong emotion to another. Others won't be able to see the connection and will be upset by your rapid change, thinking they're responsible for triggering it. The solution to the roller-coaster is to expand the capacity of your heart (the inner dimension), so you can hold several emotions at once. This will keep all your emotions in balance.
Also, deep-hearted people may suffer from a sense that they are not loved by others. The connection between hearts is so real in their deep heart that you they are hurt by any lack of appreciation in others, and especially a lack of appreciation toward yourself. A common lament is, "How could someone to whom I am so connected not appreciate me?"
Again, as you read this description, does it call to you? Does it make you feel uncomfortable, does it seem impossible, does it frighten you-any strong reaction is important.
You can strengthen your heart; through meditation, and through the choices you make in life. We emphasize three ways of energizing your heart: recognition, application, and meditation. The first, recognition, is to see in others the qualities that are emerging in you. We call it 'recognizing greatness', and it will revolutionize how you see other people. You focus on the greatness of the hearts of others, even if it is obscured by distortion, you still focus on the greatness. The second way, application, involves what we call 'Exercises for Life'. We have 8 exercises for developing the horizontal dimension, including this one:
Mean what you say and say what you mean; speak clearly and simply. This will make you trustworthy.
We also have 8 exercises for developing the depth of the heart, including:
Don't avoid emotional pain; instead, experience your heart's pain with all your awareness, until it becomes a physical sensation. Go so deeply into pain that it becomes the pain of humanity. Let the pain turn to joy, to all feeling.
Finally, we have Heart Rhythm Meditation exercises developed specifically for each dimension of the heart. The Institute for Applied Meditation specializes in this powerful method of inner reflection. Heart Rhythm Meditation involves feeling the flow of energy in your heart as you breathe fully and deeply, while making your breathing pattern stable and rhythmic. We do this by counting the beats of the heart and coordinating it with the breath, for example, 8 beats in, 8 beats out. Heart Rhythm Meditation energizes your heart in all four dimensions, transforming your relationships and your life.
We have found the Heart Rhythm Meditation is very effective at developing each of the dimensions, and that it is good to focus on one or two at a time. We would love to share more of this method with you so that you can begin to energize your heart and strengthen your relationships.
PURAN AND SUSANNA BAIR are the co-authors of Energize Your Heart in 4 Dimensions (2007, Living Heart Media, www.energizeyourheart.com), from which this article is excerpted. They are the co-founders of the Institute for Applied Meditation (www.IAMheart.org); they have taught meditation throughout the world to tens of thousands of people over the last 35 years.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PURAN AND SUSANNA BAIR are the co-authors of Energize Your Heart in 4 Dimensions (2007, Living Heart Media), from which this article is excerpted. They are the co-founders of the Institute for Applied Meditation; they have taught meditation throughout the world to tens of thousands of people over the last 35 years.