Let’s get right to it – being a human being at times will break your heart.
Maybe you are even right in the middle of a bout of heartbreak. A challenging time or an overwhelming period of change and transition. Or maybe, things are presently okay. Which if that is the case, great! Let’s take a moment to celebrate and savor that!
However, whether you are in the midst of a rock bottom or a spell of even-keeled-ness and everything’s fine. I think we can all agree that being a human is more than challenging at times. And, inevitably we will all bump into heartaches from loss, trauma, grief, injustice, and anger, whether by our own actions or those of another.
As a meditation teacher, long-time meditator, and someone who has shared mindfulness and meditation with thousands of people across the world, I have seen firsthand, and also know personally, that given the above is true (as difficult as this may be to accept and acknowledge!) The living question then becomes: Well, what do I do about this? How do I work with and meet the unavoidable heartbreak and difficulties that come with the contract of being human?
Enter, compassion – a millennia-old Buddhist-based practice and principle that is made for this very experience we all find ourselves in. As compassion is the natural inclination of the heart which wishes that all beings, including ourselves, be free from suffering. Therefore, intrinsically baked into compassion is our answer. Compassion is the way we work with the ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and experiences of love and loss. Compassion is our necessary and magical, how.
How compassion works
Before I share with you one of my go-to on-the-spot compassion practices that you can call upon during any moment of need, I want to share an important underpinning of how compassion works.
For instance, whenever we encounter suffering, stress, or any kind of pain (mental and emotional pain for sure too), what tends to happen in that very moment of affliction is the automatic response of self-preservation and self-protection where our hearts close down. Or what my friend, Grief Coach Libby Carstensen, tends to refer to as “an armoring of our hearts.”
When this happens our ability to respond skillfully to the challenge and pain at hand becomes less available to us. Fear and judgment can take over. Or, our old habitual ways of reacting to discomfort will kick in. Like, over-working, over-or-under-eating, self-sabotaging. You know, all those kinds of default knee-jerk self-preservation strategies which ultimately, deep down we know are not supportive or healthy for us. It is here in the midst of reactivity, where the natural intelligence of our open hearts is obscured and unavailable to us because our hearts have become closed.
Compassion also has natural wisdom to it. So, through the active practicing of compassion, we work on opening back up our closed timid or hurt hearts. This my friend, is one of the most courageous and loving things you could ever possibly do for yourself in your own times of need. To learn how to meet the suffering and your closed trembling heart with the healing balm of compassion.
Ready? Let’s dive into learning how.
A go-to self-compassion practice to re-open your heart
I want to share with you an on-the-spot self-compassion practice. One that can be practiced anywhere and at any time.
Whenever you notice your heart closing down. Pause, take a deep breath, and place your hand on your heart.
Take another deep breath into your heartspace as you feel the warmth of your hand pressing against your heart.
Silently, repeat the following self-compassion mantras:
I see you and I am here for you. It is okay to feel this way.
May I hold myself in compassion. May I hold myself in loving care.
Take a moment to receive the innate wish to be alongside your heart and feelings during this difficult time.
Repeat these mantras for self-compassion as many times as you need to.
The coolest thing about this meditation is that no one even has to know you are doing it! I practice this on the spot, self-compassion practice in line waiting for my matcha tea latte if I am picking up on other people’s stress or in the airport when I’m running late for a flight. I for sure have practiced it mid-walk or mid-conversation when receiving some bad news or difficult information. I’ve placed my hand on my heart and breathed into my heartspace in the middle of a painful break-up. I’ve allowed compassion to hold my closed and throbbing heart while in total upheaval and despair.
And, tried and true. Compassion has nurtured my heart’s pain and my most difficult of feelings with it’s tender strength and resilience until my heart felt healed and whole enough, to open back up again. I promise the same is absolutely possible for you. So, what are you waiting for? Try the above self-compassion on-the-spot practice one more time to get the hang of it. Then, know it is here for you during any future heartbreak moment of being human.