Sunday, January 31, 2010

February - The Heart Month

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” - John Andrew Holmes, Jr.

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” - Gandhi

There are two ways to look at the heart. One is physical and the other is spiritual.

Eating a more heart healthy diet or adding in some extra exercise that gets us moving is helpful in strengthening the heart. Or if we haven’t had a full medical exam in a while, maybe we should make an appointment to have our blood pressure checked and blood work done (my personal plan for the month) and then taking the necessary steps to improve any below normal findings.

Yoga teaches us that the body has seven energy centers or chakras. The fourth energy center is located at the heart. It is here that love, compassion, gratitude and self-acceptance lies. Think for a moment of all the heart expressions we use, for example “a heartfelt thank you,” “from the bottom of my heart,” and who amongst us doesn’t know the sadness of a ‘broken heart’. One of the reasons yoga has so many chest expansion poses such as backbends, is to help open up this area so that all the loving qualities of the heart can flow easier.

Here’s another way to think about it: Imagine a vertical line running down the center of the body. This vertical line is our connection with God, or Christ, your Source, the Universe, whatever your personal belief may be. Then imagine a horizontal line. This line represents our relationship with the world around us, our day-to-day life. These two lines intersect at the heart center, sometimes referred to as the Final Portal.

When we bring our hands to a prayer position at our heart and touch our thumbs to the breastbone, or bow our head in prayer, we are bringing our awareness inward and downward to the heart center, a reminder of the connection between the physical and spiritual world. How nice to know that the stuff that flows on the horizontal line can be lifted up on the vertical line to a higher power.

Focusing on strengthening our heart physically by eating right and exercising is vitally important to our overall health and well-being, but so too is taking the time to work on the spiritual side. A healthy heart flows with ease in all directions.

“It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason.” Blaise Pascal (17 century mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Year

“We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us nearer to our invisible destination.”
- John O’Donahue, 1956-2008 (An ex Catholic priest, Irish poet and philosopher. This is the last verse from the poem “At the End of the Year").

I always look forward to the beginning of a new year. Not for resolution making, but for reflection. I enjoy taking some time now that the busyness of the holidays is behind me to reflect back over the previous year. I remember all the people or situations that taught me a thing or two and I give thanks for the many blessings in my life, as well as the many challenges. Honestly though, going through the low moments I was anything but thankful. Let’s see, frustrated, disappointed, angry and sad would be more like it. But working through these feelings, to the best of my ability, strengthened me both emotionally and spiritually, and for that I am truly grateful.

The New Year brings a fresh sheet of paper, ready for life to be written on it. I say, “Bring it on!”

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.” – John O’Donohue

Happy New Year!

Here is the uneditied piece of poetry:

At the End of the Year

The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline's longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.

~ John O'Donohue ~

(From the book, To Bless the Space Between Us)