Here, I don’t mean our physical heart, though that fantastic beating organ definitely comes into play over time depending on how we care for our deeper “other heart.” I’m focusing on our inner heart that houses our feelings, our emotions and our sense of being in the world. This heart, so central to our inner sense of personal worth and how we hear and react to all that’s around us, more often than not waits, dead last, until everything else in our daily grind gets done.
My approach at Rise This Day to Minding Our Heart within this article is not about religion, either. However, it could be, depending on one’s believes and where a person draws his or her strength from, but it doesn’t have to be. Unfortunately, some folks are immediately turned off to any considerations of the heart because many writers describe the heart in strictly religious or spiritual terms. Again, I’m referring to our inner and emotional heart and how it impacts everything we do, think and feel.
What does minding the heart entail?
Knowing that our heart is there needing care is the first and most important thing to consider. We spend hours tweaking our daily schedules in order to squeeze into our days all that needs doing. We have apps for this, Fitbits for that and countless handheld devises to keep us productive and on the go. Yet none of these modern wonders (and I have my toys, too) call us back to be more mindfully aware of how our hearts, our inner selves, are really doing hour by hour and day by day.
Consider asking your heart, which is asking yourself, really, these simple questions:
- How is my heart doing today?
- What feeds my heart most and how do I keep that coming?
- What drains and bruises my heart and what can I do about that?
- What is my heart longing to feel and experience that has not happened in my life thus far?
- What is keeping me from satisfying, from feeding and nurturing, what my heart truly seeks?
These questions, I suggest, are as important as providing time for our daily exercise routines or kicking back with a beer or glass of wine as our busy day comes to a close.
When we think about it we all have a few people in our lives who seem to exude a boundless sense of inner heart, who live their lives in such a way that we often describe these people as having a huge heart, or a good heart, or that they are enormously good hearted-individuals. Everyone understands what we mean by this. It needs no further explanation. I’m sure right now that you could name several people who intrinsically fit that category of having a good heart. Yes?
Years ago in my community, before we processed our household waste at modern-day transfer stations, before we called them landfills… back when we called them simply dumps (oh my!), I knew a man who worked there who seemed to have one of the least desirable jobs in the whole place. His name was Earl. His job was to guide backing vehicles of every size and purpose up to the right spot to dump their everyday loads of garbage. Earl was there on sunny days, on cloudy days and on rainy or snowy days. Yet whenever I saw Earl during my work day, sometimes twice weekly, he always had a warm smile, something positive to say and an unmistakable and glorious twinkle and in his eyes. Sometimes Earl sat on the tailgate of this town-issued pickup truck and just pointed with a smile in the direction that residents should back up to.
Earl’s face was round and beaming. And before anyone left Earl always made it a point to walk over to everyone and say hello, sometimes lightheartedly commenting on the garbage we were dumping. Earl always seemed to connect in one way or another with eye contact, tone of voice or body language. In effect, Earl’s words and his joy-filled continence provided a contrasting and delightful canvas to an otherwise dirty, dusty and smelly setting. Every time I drove away I felt grateful for those simple and heart-felt exchanges and wondered how Earl stayed so positive day after day on the job. My conclusion? Earl was a man with heart, and he needed little else.
Owner’s Manual for Minding Our Heart
We are constantly bombarded with how-to’s on doing everything, from how to care for our bodies, our cars, and our kids to how to open a box our next box of cereal. But when was the last time we saw a help menu or start here on how to maintain our emotional, inner hearts? Truly useful resources, that are not trying to sell you something or come loaded with religious overtones, indeed seem scarce. There are some, however, and while basic in nature, they are as important as they are simple:
- As mentioned previously, simply being aware of our hearts inner need is the first and most important step.
- Consider journaling or otherwise noting how your heart (not your head) is doing right now on this very day. Where and upon what is it thriving? What is your heart longing for and is in need of that you can possibly undertake to help make happen?
- If you meditate or pray as a part of your individual spiritual practice do not forget to hold up your own emotional and unseen heart as a part of your overall reflection also.
- Are you getting enough rest? As we’ve been told many time, getting less than 7 hours sleep per night for adults amounts to sleep deprivation. (I sometimes struggle here too.) Studies have shown that a common denominator among highly accomplished people, from various disciplines and walks of life, who are also known for having ‘heart’ that others can feel is that they also make it a point to get the rest that they need on a consistent basis.
- Are your recreations truly restful? Are they fun? If, on average, they are not, then it’s fair to ask of yourself, then why not?
- When you speak do your own words rise from your heart or from your head?
- Consider gently saying thank-you, but no thank-you to those things that others ask of you from time to time that just do not nurture and satisfy your own inner heart. If such requests do resonate within you and feed your emotional well-being, then wonderful, say yes. Just be sure to check-in with your own sense of heart, first.
- Mind your thoughts! Consider assessing how you think about yourself and what that little voice inside might be saying to you. Is it positive or negative? Fearless or fearful? Confident or doubtful of self? Truly at peace or angry much of the time? All of these thoughts and emotions play into your inner heart’s health and only you can make this assessment.
Believe it or not, there is measurable science behind all this too. It’s a mouthful, called psychoneuroimmunology (psycho = mind, neuro = nervous system, immunology = the body’s natural ability to defend and heal itself) which you can explore HERE if you would like to go deeper.* And it is here, studies show, that our emotional heart and our overall sense of how we are doing within does have a direct impact on our other heart that moves our blood inside our chests.
I have also gathered a new section of relevant quotes that touch on the topic of Minding Our Heart that I hope you will find enjoyable, insightful and useful.
So tell me, what helps you, personally, to care for your own heart? People I’ve talked to tell me that they paint, knit, draw, play the drums and so forth. Let me know what works for you to keep your own inner heart healthy and happy?
* Excerpt by Dave Swaim in Human Kinetics
Text and images by Kevin Lee
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