IN MANY TRADITIONS,
the heart is the ultimate destination, the real core of your being,
the place you want to abide, the center where you are You.
But what are they talking
about? What is this heart?
It's not the heart that
cardiologists study, not the big wet thumping glob of muscle in
your chest. It's the emotional heart, the heart that wants to burst
when you're imperiously proud, the heart that grows heavy as you
gobble a gallon of chocolate ice cream to stave off depression,
the heart that lurches when you're overcome by emotion during the
tear-jerking finale of an everything-works-out-in-the-end movie.
This heart should be
easy to find, since it's you, but sometimes it isn't. Where
to go for guidance? To Lorin Roche, of course. He's a remarkable
meditation teacher who lives in California. What makes him different
from other teachers is his facility for helping people find the
technique that's most natural for them. (It's the one they already
use a little bit without realizing it.) Here's how he put it in
a letter to me:
"What I want is
for the person to spontaneously slip into the technique most appropriate
for them, and then to notice what that is. When a meditation teacher
has done her or his job properly, in my book, the student is not
impressed with the teacher -- she is impressed with what is inside
her, with the wisdom of life that's there just under her breath.
When I am working with people, I get them to tell me what their
technique is -- by asking them simple questions about how it feels
to breathe, to sit there, to see light, to feel the touch of air
on their skin, to feel the impulse that made them interested in
meditation. As they tell me, they shift into the level of perception
that meditation techniques come from."
Lorin's ability to help
people do this is more than a knack: he wrote his doctoral dissertation
on the subject at the University of California.
We asked Lorin for permission
to reprint his directions for a heart-centered meditation from his
delightful book Meditation
Made Easy. Here it is.
A Heart-Centered Meditation
Made Easy by Lorin Roche, Ph.D.
One minute to ten minutes
When: Anytime you have heartache or joy that needs attending
Some time when
you are relatively quiet inside, let attention rest in the area
around the physical heart and lungs. The lungs are spacious and
the heart is muscular. Corresponding to those physical organs is
an area of pure feeling. This feeling center is what people informally
mean when they say they have heartache or their heart is glad.
To get in there,
recall some great experience that made your heart glad, that made
you glad to be alive. Just thinking of it, a sensation will arisein
your heart: it could be a sense of light, or swelling, or an upward-moving
current of electricity, or a vibration. Use that as a homing signal
and let attention be called into that place called "the heart."
Be alert, because the sensations may only last for a flash, a few
rests there, become aware also of the gentle pulsing of breath.
If you have
a sense of sorrow or grief, you may have sensations in the heart
already there. If so, simply be with them. The sensations are calling
You may also
have a sense of joy and gratitude about events in your life, and
may have wonderful sensations in your heart center. We can neglect
to pay attention to our joy, just as we can neglect to adequately
be with our pain.
If you do not
have sensations or feelings of ache or joy in the heart, don't worry.
Some day you will. Come back then to this exercise and check it
If at some
point while meditating, you find strong emotions going through you,
explore this simple practice of resting attention in the heart.
As you breathe
in and out, be alert to the qualities of emotion you are feeling.
If you are feeling an emotion, be aware that it may change every
couple of minutes into something else. Sometimes the emotions change
every few seconds.
Go back from
the sternum, inward. Feel all the way back to the spine. That is
the heart area.
with these sensations will help tremendously, for the heart knows
how to heal itself and become available to love again. You have
only to be willing to tolerate the aching.
When you "speak
from the heart" it means you are speaking from inside those sensations.
Courage is "to have heart." To stay in the heart when you are afraid
or the sensations are too much to bear but you bear them anyway,
that is the definition of courage. As you breathe in, the world
is touching you, renewing you, encouraging (en-courage-ing) you
to live again, adventure forth and experience.
Here is a simple
approach to a heart meditation:
Be there in
the heart to greet the incoming breath. Embrace it. Be awake to
the gift life is giving you with this breath.
to the outgoing breath. Let go of it. Be awake to the freedom that
comes from letting go of the old air, old thoughts, old feelings.
Lorin Roche's Website