Monday, February 2, 2015


 In Asian languages, the word for mind is usually the same as the word for heart. 
In this time when mindfulness has become a trend so popular it’s just about gone viral, it could be worth considering whether such a linguistic fact may be relevant to the true practice of mindfulness; is it just about simply quieting the mind and being fully present in the moment (as many describe it), or should it also somehow involve the heart? And if the answer is ‘yes’ (as the more serious practitioners have it), what does that look like?

Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years – as a part of the Buddhist religion but also in other forms, and framed in many ways. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, (the originator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction MBSR, and responsible for bringing mindfulness to both medical and mainstream popularity) “If you’re not hearing the word heartfulness when you’re hearing the word mindfulness, you’re really not understanding what it’s all about. ……. Mindfulness is pointing at something beyond words, underneath words, underneath thinking.” 

So what is underneath words and thinking? What is heartfulness? Some would say it’s the wisdom of the heart, and others would say it is feelings such as love, compassion, and kindness. I would say it’s all of the above and more, for it involves the balanced management of emotions. The heart reflects the emotions we feel, revealed in the patterns created by the heart’s rhythms. When our emotions are brought into our awareness and we learn to manage them so they serve us, our relationships, our life-path and our values, then our heart rhythms will be harmonious - and coherent with a fully present mind. On the other hand, if those emotions are disturbing or unpleasant and unmanaged, so too are the rhythms of the heart. At this point our conscious mind will take a hike up into the busy-ness of our ‘monkey brain’, and mindfulness will no longer happen.

Mind and heart must combine to create the deeper present moment awareness –the mindfulness- that gives us the ability to accept and take pleasure in each moment of work and play, to fully listen to those we dialog with, to deeply appreciate each interaction with loved ones, to savour each morsel we eat and drink, to relish tastes and smells and sights and sounds, delight in musical notes as they reach our ears and in views as we glance upon them, and to surrender to the experience of life, in all it’s glory and messiness. In short, mindfulness need not be a passing fad, or a short-term, fast-acting replacement for pain-killers or anti-depressants, or even the latest way to deal with the stresses and strains of modern or corporate life.

Mindfulness in it’s true form is heartfulness – (it is in the work we do with Applied Emotional Mastery as well as in the work of many of our contemporaries and peers); - it's message is to maximize good and minimize harm, both to oneself and others. It is a daily decision, a way of life, a discipline (in the best sense of the word), that increases awareness and acceptance, insights and wisdom, and that helps us BE fully in-the-moment and (to paraphrase Viktor Frankl) conscious of that space between stimulus and response – where we can pause to make more informed choices - where we can choose to move in the direction of maximizing good.

So even if commercialism takes over and the popularity of mindfulness eventually wanes, the message it has brought and spread, and the heartfulness within it, will surely only have contributed positively to our planet. And (quite fitting for this 'month of the heart') I figure that's good news, however you look at it.

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