Have you ever asked yourself, “How do you care for your heart?”
“It is possible to speak with our heart directly,” wrote Jack Kornfield. Most ancient cultures know this. We can actually converse with our heart as if it were a good friend. In modern life, we have become so busy with our daily affairs and thoughts that we have lost this essential art of taking time to converse with our heart.”
Upon reading this quote, in one of my favorite books, All About Love by bell hooks, I realized, this is exactly how I care for my heart, by being in conversation with it.
I haven’t always been in conversation with my own heart. I remember being asked “How’s your heart?” for the first time and being equal parts speechless and curious. This curiosity inspired the deep work and commitment necessary to stay in conversation with my heart. Today, asking myself this question on a regular basis, I am able to become more aware of how I am feeling at the heart level at any given moment. It has become a practice to learn what my heart experiences as it moves through emotions and what it needs to feel safe and full in that moment of time.
I was curious if and how our Friends of Esalen took care of their hearts, so I asked. Their answers reveal that they are also nurturing conversations with their hearts, with a grounded understanding that this work will always be an ongoing process.
Throughout the unique challenges of the last year and a half, I’ve grown tired of responding to “How are you doing?” This question seems to produce answers that lack any true conversation with our hearts. Try asking a friend “How’s your heart?” You may tap into something deeper and offer a chance for others to explore, share, and connect.
Here’s what these Friends of Esalen shared about how they care for their hearts:
“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.”
“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.
What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?
Friends of Esalen is a community that gives people who want to have a more active role in advancing our mission more ways to stay engaged. You can find out more about engaging and other ways to give back by joining Friends of Esalen. Esalen is a 501(c)(3) organization and your gift is tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.
Lacy Shannon is a Community & Advancement Associate at Esalen. She lives in Big Sur with her partner, whom she met at Esalen. Lacy also teaches yoga and is exploring healing through various modalities.