a little first aid for the soul (II)

DSC_0038It’s important to cherish warmth of heart especially when life feels tough or a little wintry. Developing our capacity to centre ourselves in our hearts so that our activity and our thinking is warmed by what we experience in the sphere of connection, of love, of courage, is part of our contemporary human challenge. If we become too isolated in our clever, controlling heads we can be prone to judgment and criticism, forever seeing the world, ourselves and especially others as ‘not quite right’ in ways that definitely need fixing. And isn’t it remarkable the way we can see the shortfalls of others so much more easily than our own.

If we jump into action without the mediation of the heart, then we fail to heed the breadth of information avalable, the diversity of views. When we are connected to our heart, we shift away from judgment and fear, and into wiser discernment. From the heart, we reach out horizontally to encompass others, the world, or our small slice of it, with a little joy and responsibility rather than fear and judgment. We need a lot of practice at this (or at least I do) when there is so much fear and outrage being used to mask the truth by our very own selves as well as in the wider world. Let’s not fall prey to our own narrowness, there’s enough of that going on out there.

Tip for reducing judgmentalism or another unhelpful habit. At the end of the day, take a few minutes to scan back over your activities. Rewind the events in a backwards swoop. Come up with a moment where you leapt into judgment or fell into despair, reactivity, lack of self-esteem or choose a moment that stood out for you.

Imagine you walk through a door or up a hill so you can look back or down upon yourself. Choose one incident—it may be something very tiny. I wrote recently about a cumquat predicament, tracking the inner voices that beset me when I was offered some free cumquats and had to decide how many to take—yes, a very first world problem, but illuminating nonetheless.

Another example came from a time where I found myself gossiping about someone else, rich with judgment from my place of superiority in that satisfying ego-enhancing way that actually makes you feel a bit, well, yuk is the only way to describe it afterwards.

Write about or picture that incident as though you were describing a character in a story. Include other characters who are involved and their perspectives as well.

Allow any insights to gently filter through and record some of those as well. No self-flagellation is permitted, just observe what happened in a curious compassionate way.

The whole exercise need only take a few minutes, but changes will begin to develop if you hold your heart open to yourself and others in this way.

This is an example of one of the exercises we have practiced recently in ‘writing for wellbeing’ workshops. A new series of nine sessions will begin on 19 July in Eaglemont (1-3pm) or 21 July in Warranwood (1-3pm or 7-9pm). See the workshops page for more details or ask me.

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