Heartfulness

heart

The concept of mindfulness has become popularized in recent years as a result of the work of many teachers, writers, and practitioners. And I am very grateful! Being more aware of who we are and what we do, living in the moment, and being intentional about our thoughts and actions are all integral to leading a meaningful and purposeful life.

But it isn’t enough. Without a full and open heart to center and connect our mind to something greater than ourselves, whether it be communal or spiritual or both, the practice of mindfulness can become esoteric, and sometimes egocentric.

I don’t think many mindfulness practitioners would disagree with me. At least I hope not. Indeed, the way mindfulness is typically taught and practiced, at least in my experience, promotes the fluid integration of mind, body, and spirit.

But something about the term mindfulness seems deficient to me. It begs for a companion to demonstrate that the mind alone does not fully represent our human experience.

Heartfulness is a complementary concept that builds on the idea of mindfulness. It focuses not on the thinking and feeling of mindfulness, but on being and doing instead. It is a process through which we can create resilient hearts, leading to more peace and love in the world. Heartful means to be full of curiosity, acceptance, understanding, responsiveness, forgiveness, and hope. It is to be our most beautiful selves despite the challenges and turmoil we face. When we practice heartfulness, we don’t need to think about being intentional because we consistently connect with and express the pure love in our hearts. It is to be who we are meant to be, a continual expression of our deepest desires and dreams.

Bat Out of the Belfry

I was recently looking through a three ring binder in my attic for a document that I thought might be helpful to a coworker who, just the other day, reached out to me for this specific type of assistance. While I was unable to locate the document, I inadvertently aroused another object, an animal actually, which would soon met me face to face. At least that is my theory of how it all began. bat Bats tend to make a grand swooping entrance that usually takes the room’s occupants by surprise. Few creatures can provoke such horrified excitement merely by entering the room. Refined, sophisticated woman that I am, I was unable to contain my surprise on this day not so long ago.

I have a certain type of scream, a shrill first soprano, which clearly indicates that a bat is within close proximity. My dearly departed cat Sugar had what I affectionately called his ‘bat face’ — eyes wide open, ears perked forward, and head titled at just a certain angle. While the visit of a bat is purely unpredictable, our reaction certainly is — particularly as it becomes something to which one becomes as accustomed as one can become accustomed to such a thing.

As I sat in my bed, where I often jokingly refer to as the place where I do my best work — not because I am a sex worker but because it allows me to spread out my papers and invite the company of a feline companion who usually blocks my access to as many papers as possible — setting up the final exam for the Introduction to Sociology class that I am teaching this fall, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. This something was flying around my room in circles. At first I thought it was a bird. While the odd bat finds its way into my 150 year old Victorian home that sits on a hill near the intersection of two rivers, which I imagine makes a lovely habitat for our bat friends, it was broad daylight and never before had I encountered a bat without my back to the sun. And usually at 2 a.m. on a day when I am expected to arise early, full of energy, to complete one task or another.

But then it hit me that yes, indeed, it was a bat. The screams, the shrieks, commenced. I had to think quick, a skill with which I am not largely endowed. I am usually plagued with abundant afterthoughts, and the perfect comeback or strategy magically pops into my head a minimum of 48 hours too late.

I managed to stand up, and grabbed the tennis racket — one that my mother used to play tennis as a teenager, at a club which she often reminds me was a very long walk from her home, but now rests near by bed to be used for just this sort of occasion. I tried to gently persuade the bat, coax her or him onto the racket so that I could escort him outside.

At some point during this ordeal, my mother — who was sitting downstairs — heard my screams which she later told me let her know in no uncertain terms that a bat was in the house. I told her to open the door. Then I asked her to bring me the oven mitts. I remember a former coworker once telling me that, when a bat visited their home in the middle of the night once long ago, she used oven mitts to pick her or him up from the ceiling fan to which he affixed him self (hmmm…I hope it wasn’t turned on, that would be a not so fun ride for a bat in crisis). She came up the stairs with the fishing net we purchased two years ago (but luckily didn’t need in 2014 as it was the year without a bat). I told her I didn’t want the net, and to go back down and get the oven mitts. It was a crisis, and I was commanding. She insisted that I take the net so I reluctantly did as I was told.

After a few minutes of some crazy woman screaming and chasing her or him around in circles in a relatively small room, the bat decided to take a rest. She or he perched on a shelf near the corner to the room. I grabbed a shirt from my closet and approached with it and the tennis racket, wishing I had the oven mitt lest I get bitten by a rabid bat. I tried to pick up the bat, but she or he would have no part of that and started flying around the room again. She or he found solace in another corner of the room, and crawled about my stereo speakers. As she or he rested there, I was somehow able to open up a window, shaking the whole time as I recall.

I went back to the corner with the racket and shirt, and the bat moved around slowly until finally her or his what we in Pennsylvania Dutch country call a ‘hinder’ was hidden underneath my blue yoga mat. It was then that I was able to carefully examine her or his face. The bat was cute. Really, really cute. She or he had a sweet little face, adorable feet, and a stripe down its back. I got the net and put it on the floor near the yoga mat to try to get the bat into it. She or he totally ignored my sweet talking, during which I called her or him just about every term of endearment in my sweetest of sweet voices. But sadly the net made the bat scared, and she or he started making a chirping noise. I could tell that the bat was even more afraid than me.

After several tries, the bat finally made her or his way into the net. I somehow stumbled to the window and placed the net outside. She or he flew off in an instant.

Bats really are amazing creatures. They are essential to our ecosystem, providing many benefits as described in this article from Bat Conservation International — an article which I read every time I have a bat encounter to help me be more understanding and compassionate toward this unwelcome house guest. While it was an exhausting event, I am grateful (in retrospect only, not that I ever want it to happen again) for this opportunity to get so close to a bat and speak to it lovingly rather than with screams.

Hungry Muse, Naughty Muse

I yearn to create writing that is imaginative, playful, honest, and luscious — and to do so on a consistent basis. Writing is not only an emotional outlet, it is a reflection of who I am. It serves as documentation of the interconnected processes of self-exploration and transformation which I continually experience. It is an exhumation and selfless giving of the most special, sacred spaces in my heart. Writing is what makes me come alive, and in turn it gives life to ideas that hopefully inspire others in unique and meaningful ways.

At one time, I barely wrote anything for about four months. I was depleted, uninspired, and exhausted. My life felt heavy and stagnant. I was unable to produce anything of merit, anything worth sharing, anything worth reading. The less I wrote, the less I wrote. I was sucked into a downward repressive spiral from which emergence seemed more and more impossible. Was this it? Was there nothing more to say? Was I all but gone?

There was a lot going on my life at the time, and as a highly sensitive person I am often unable to filter out certain types of difficult experiences. I absorb them, ruminate, and internalize other people’s insecurities. Eventually my despair serves a purpose — connecting me with greater awareness and understanding, and illuminating new insights. This lengthy and difficult process is necessary for my spiritual awakening. But I could have been writing to help me make sense of those experiences along the way.

When I get stuck, it is usually because my naughty, naughty inner muse is assisting me in this self-sabotage. And like unruly children who are neglected and unfed, that naughtiness comes from a lack of attention and nurturance which renders her incapable of engaging in a creative relationship with me. When I feed my inner muse, she astonishes me with her support and tender loving care; In other words, I am better able to invoke passion and love through the written word when I take care of myself and indulge my desires — regardless of how often I stare at a blank piece of paper or screen. Because my writing is so deeply connected to, and a part of, me — I need to be well in order to write well.

There are certain special things I like to do to feed my inner muse, like immersing myself in sunshine, bubble baths, ocean waves, and spectacular music, eating ripe peaches at the height of summer, and traveling to previously unfamiliar places. Daily rituals, like meditation and physical movement, also fill her heart with joy. I can also approach every moment with openness, wonder, and curiosity and engage with the world as my playground, rather than a battlefield. Neglect her, leave her hungry, and naughty girl will once again emerge. At every moment, I need to treat her, my most wise and beautiful inner self, with lovingkindness so she, and my writing, may flourish.