Spending time “going into and opening our hearts” is healing and restorative. We can do this for ourselves as healers and guide patients through the practice. It’s as simple as slowing down, putting your hand on your heart, and taking three deep breaths.
Lifelong Learning in Clinical Excellence | August 27, 2020 | 3 min read
By David Kopacz, MD, University of Washington
It’s normal for us to crave balance and predictability. The absence of homeostasis is the very definition of stress. But these times are anything but predictable and it feels like we are continually adapting and continually in a state of imbalance. How can we maintain our balance during unbalanced times?
“Know thyself” was inscribed on the ancient Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Before we can balance ourselves, we need to know ourselves. A holistic perspective teaches us that we’re made up of different components that make a whole. To begin with, let’s look at these different components:
Body—What are you feeling in your body? What does your body need to feel balanced?
Emotions—What emotions are you feeling? What do your emotions need to feel balanced?
Mind —What thoughts are you having? What do your thoughts need to feel balanced?
Spirit—What inspirations or demoralizations are you experiencing? What do you need to feel hopeful and peaceful?
Heart—Bringing together these four different elements of human being in your heart, what are you experiencing in your heart? What does your heart need to feel balanced?
You can do the above check-in as a meditation, focusing in for a few minutes, or even a few seconds on each of the five elements of human being. You can do this in seated meditation, getting comfortable, taking three full, deep breaths, and then observing where you are in balance and out of balance in these different domains. Know thyself. Listen to your body. Listen to your emotions. Listen to your mind. Listen to your spirit. Listen to your heart.
The imbalances in the world
Now, let’s look at the imbalances in the world right now. Two of the major imbalances are struggling to stay healthy with the pandemic in our personal lives and riding out the political turmoil that is going on around us. It’s very difficult to have a sense of inner balance when the world is out of balance.
The medicine bag
There are many different practices that can help with balancing body, emotions, mind, spirit, and heart. Joseph Rael teaches that the heart is the center of the person and is a medicine bag that holds the healing we need.
“The human is a medicine bag. A medicine bag contains articles deemed sacred and holy by the person to whom the bag belongs. So it is with us. We carry holy ‘objects’ in our psyche.”
-Joseph Rael, from“Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality.”
Opening our hearts
Spending time going into and opening our hearts is healing and restorative, whether we do this practice as healers or guide patients through the practice. It’s as simple as slowing down, putting your hand on your heart, and taking three deep breaths. Other practices that promote holistic balance are:
1. Yoga practice
2. Tai Chi practice
3. Meditation practices
3. Specific meditation practices of Loving Kindness, Tonglen, and Metta
4. Expressive journaling, specifically a paragraph on each of the human dimensions
6. Having a heart-to-heart conversation
You can also develop your own balance marathon—pick a physical exercise, an emotional awareness exercise, a mental exercise, and a spiritual exercise, then choose a heart exercise to bring it all together. Our hearts are naturally organs of balance—helping to balance our oxygen levels, blood flow, and blood pressure. Hearts take in the depleted blood and give back the recharged blood to the body. Watch the flow of blood and oxygen through your body in your imagination—you can do this as a meditation. Your body knows how to find balance, it’s doing it right now. Transforming suffering into healing is a task as old as humanity. Healers have been working at this for thousands of years. Now it’s our time to take on this task, for ourselves, for our patients, and for humanity.