Arriving Home :: Discovering The Heart Practices
Discovering The Heart Practices
Here at AGM, we spend a lot of time on meditations surrounding awareness, concentration, and personal growth. Of course, we have also mentioned the importance of a friendly and kind attitude when it comes to meditation. Especially as it pertains to Befriending Your Mind In Meditation, Meeting Our Difficulties With A Heart Of Love, and Finding Peace Wherever You Are.
In this Arriving Home post, I'll be diving into the Heart Practices in meditation. More and more, even in my own path of practice, I have come to recognize the absolute necessity of the heart practices as it's through compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy and unconditional friendliness that we truly learn how to not only become aware of our life's experiences, but to meet them with wisdom and transformation.
An Introduction To The Heart Practices
In mindfulness meditation, there are two wings that allow the bird of mindfulness to fly. One wing of the bird is the focus, concentration and awareness practices like breath meditation, body scanning, contemplation meditation and practices to grow your awareness. This wing of the bird grows your ability to have your attention in the present moment, to recognize your thoughts, habitual thinking patterns, ways in which you react to discomfort, stress or pain, and ways in which you experience happiness and joy. This wing is led by awareness and concentration. You can think of this like fuel for the car: the more gas you have, the farther you can go in the direction you want to be going in - or, the farther the bird of mindfulness can fly.
The other wing of the mindfulness bird is the heart practices, cultivating the heart's qualities of love, empathy, sympathy, joy, loving kindness and compassion. There are four traditional heart practices that have been shared and practiced along with the concentration practices for the last 2600 + years.
Loving Kindness is the practice of wishing well to ourselves, others and the world at large.
Compassion is the practice of learning how to meet the suffering and hardships we experience and observe.
Sympathetic or Appreciative Joy is the practice of authentically sharing another's happiness.
Equanimity is the practice of keeping a steady and open heart in the midst of our lives.
The heart practices grow and cultivate qualities that point your mind towards calmness, joy, contentment and happiness. You can practice Loving Kindness or Compassion meditation while you are in your regular practice or as a supplementary practice to the basic concentration and awareness mindfulness practices.
After learning the heart practices, I found that they integrated very naturally into my daily sitting practice. I became more compassionate with my own thinking mind. I felt more loving and friendly to myself when I made mistakes. I noticed I was even more patient and kind with other people.
There is a reason why it takes two wings of the bird to fly and soar. Mindfulness needs compassion and compassion is only properly placed once we recognize where it is truly needed.