Posted by: Monkey | July 11, 2012

A heart massage

**I actually finished this article weeks ago and have hesitated in publishing it out of concern that it may be something that I am writing about and not actively applying in my life. In that time however I have noticed I use this tool and a few others quite consistently and it is very much a part of my life… as such I feel ready to share. As I have changed in that time I could probably go back and rewrite the article to fit more adequately where I am coming from at this moment, and even if I did within a couple of weeks I would probably want to change it again anyway… that is what my experience of being a human is, one of fluctuation. One of as soon as I think I know myself, I learn something new that will either subtly or not so subtly change the way I think about everything.
As a human I still mess up, a lot, and I am constantly discovering limitations within myself to the full experience of what life has to offer. For a long time I have wanted and waited for that perfect moment before ever acting, and it is dawning on me with increasing brilliance that there will never ever be such a moment. There is only this moment.

In previous articles I discussed the distinction between emotions and feelings (as I see them) and then went on to elaborate how we can avoid our authentic feeling state when it is uncomfortable through the use of control and sedation methods.
Both of these articles were, for me, a lead up to a tool that I have been applying in my life with increasing levels of consistency and which is what I really wish to share.

A couple of months ago now I had the idea for this article while I was lying in a hammock on the porch of a small wooden hut I was living in while staying in the town of Pai, in the northern regions of Thailand. On that particular day I was feeling uncomfortable about something (I forget now the specific details of what was going on for me) and I chose in that moment to close my eyes and apply this tool that I will elaborate on in this article. What occurred to me in this time were the parallels between this tool, which is utilized at the heart level, and a massage which is therapeutic at the physical level. I thought that an interesting name for the application of this simple process of increasing awareness at the emotional/heart level could be considered of as a ‘heart massage’.

In general when we are confronted with stimulus that provokes an uncomfortable feeling within us, and we all receive this kind of stimulus almost daily, we largely resort to an unconscious reactionary state of being. In many circumstances we will reach for our particular form of control or sedation that is usual to us, however in some other instances when either that control or sedation isn’t available or the stimulus is too large and perhaps pent up to be handled in that manner, or the stimulus involves another individual that we are in direct interaction with, what will often happen is we resort to an unconscious state I like to consider as ‘drama’.

Drama is prevalent in our lives. It is the basis for many TV shows and movies and is something we can all relate to at some level as existing in our day to day experiences.
I like to define drama as an unconscious and uncontrolled reaction to an event that provokes deep feelings of discomfort within our emotional body. The use of the word reaction is intentional and implies something much deeper within a dramatic outburst. If we look at the word reaction we see the prefix ‘re’ which usually means to happen again, followed by the word ‘action’. So a reaction can be thought of as a repeating action, by this I mean it is a specific action that we have probably acted out in some variation for much of our life. A typical dramatic reaction may take the form of anger/attack and lashing out at the person with us, or for others like myself it may be a fear based action with tears and pleading, shame and apologies. Generally it is some form of action that attempts to provoke a heightened sense of attention directed towards us or away from us in regard to those around us.
The key is that it is unconscious and it is repeating and when we fall into this kind of behavior it is very common for us to say or do things that at a later stage we may marvel at how we could be so… dramatic and perhaps hurtful. Some people, of course, never have this kind of retrospective outlook and do not take the opportunity to take a closer look at the ways they are behaving towards themselves and others around them.
It is also important to note that usually once we fall into such a behavioral pattern that we are for that moment in an altered state of perception where both reason and empathy may fly completely out the window as we become completely reactive beings… much like the way we may cry out in pain or clench and move our bodies in involuntary patterns when receiving a deep massage that touches on a sensitive point. This is because the event occurring is touching a sensitive point. The difference is that the ‘trigger point’ is in our heart/emotional body as opposed to our physical body.

Drama is almost always destructive and can be the cause of painful breakups between lovers or distance created between friends and family. As I am too painfully aware of in my own life.
The thing is we don’t have to live our lives as constant drama, there is another possibility and that is of having a conscious response to an event. The distinction between a reaction and a response is in the awareness of the impact at the heart level. The stimulus can be the same and we could react out say in anger, or we could as a response take a deep breath, look inside and see the effect it is having within us, take a moment to empathetically connect with the person involved (although it does not have to be a person, I often find myself being triggered by memories or even movies that I am watching) and then make a conscious choice about the action we are to take, if an action is even required. The point is we do not flare up and lash out or create unnecessary levels of commotion and attention and we do not, regardless of how strong the urge is going to be sometimes, reach for our nearest control or sedative fix.

So how do we begin moving from a dramatic and reactionary approach to life and into one where we make a conscious response to the moment to moment unfolding of our experience?

One tool that I have found extremely useful is what I have called above a ‘heart massage’.
This practice is one that at the beginning is best done alone, yet in time and with practice it is possible to have it happen immediately when confronted with excitatory stimulus.

The process is simple when used as an intentional practice and with familiarity it will occur spontaneously in an event that would have previously caused a dramatic reaction within us, and help to take us deeper within to the peace, joy and love that is our birthright.

–          Find a quiet place where one can be alone, comfortable and undisturbed for fifteen to twenty minutes.

–          Invoke using thought and imagination any particular issue that is bothering oneself, or perhaps the last time one felt triggered by an event. Use thought and imagination to flesh out this event or issue until a feeling arises within the body.

–          Stay with this feeling and observe it with what can be called ‘felt perception’, which is really an internal sense used to feel what can be called our feeling or emotional body. Notice where in the body is there a feeling when the thoughts and memories arise. Intentionally engaging the kind of negative dialogue one might use about this situation can help bring the sensations on more fully.

–          Drop all thoughts about the event or issue, they are not important anymore. There is no need to mentally understand the cause or reason for why this event or issue has one triggered. If understanding arises spontaneously then embrace it momentarily and then let it go.

–          Focus more deeply on the feeling and begin to flesh it out, fine tuning ones ‘felt perception’ by noticing all the qualities of the feeling… where is it in the body? Does it have a particular size? Shape? Colour? Movement? Is it perhaps pulsing or buzzing or tingling? There is no need to be concerned about what any of this means; the important part is to focus on really fully feeling whatever it is that one is feeling.  If it changes somehow then allow it to change, if it does not then allow that to be.
This practice is one of cultivating a state of unconditional being with oneself, and that means accepting whatever condition it is that one is in.

–          Remain focused on feeling this feeling for fifteen to twenty minutes and then let it go and carry on with one’s day to day living.

 

I have found in myself that through using this tool, and others, that there is much less drama in my life. It is not completely absent, of course, and I still have plenty of things to work through… and I find myself much less likely to fall into reactive and unconscious behavioral patterns. These days I find myself, when such a situation occurs, removing myself from the stimulus and finding a place to quietly work with whatever it is I am feeling. The deeper I go with this kind of practice, the more I find within myself to work with. There is less drama in my life, I have a greater sense of self-awareness and at the same time I also notice increasing levels of awareness of the places where I am still ‘stuck’ and where I have set up unconscious methods of control and sedation.
This kind of practice is not a means to an end, it is a lifelong practice and as far as I have experienced to date… there is always a deeper cut.

I invite you to give this a try with the most pressing issue bothering you right now, or the most recent event that has triggered you in some way.
The results, if there are any – and if there is not then that is completely fine also – are interesting to observe. If you pay more attention to the details of your life and practice this heart massage consistently you may notice things begin to shift towards becoming more conscious and more responsive and that you manifest less drama in your life.
Much like a body massage, when attended to regularly, will relieve tension in your body… this practice will relieve tension in your heart.

I am aware that this article feels somewhat rushed or condensed, and that is because there are many concepts I am working on trying to cram into a short piece. I hope it makes sense to you, and if it does not please let me know what is confusing or ambiguous.

Enjoy, and I am interested in hearing any feedback from reading this article or trying out this practice.

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