The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.
These days the benefits of meditation are relatively well known, and they include reduced stress levels, greater feelings of happiness, and sharper and more creative minds. But there is one form of meditation called Open Heart meditation which is not particularly well known but which has given many people greater health and happiness. I am one such person and I’d like to share a short story about the benefits of this style of meditation and how you can get access to it as well.
I have had a few bouts of depression in my life. And for those of you who have had depression before, you’ll know how hard that can be. At my worst I could barely get out of bed, my thoughts were almost exclusively negative, and I hated my life and the way I felt.
During a bout of depression in 2013, I decided I needed to try something, anything. I had tried running, improving my diet, and had undertaken a variety of meditation styles. I had also tried plenty of anti-depressants, some which had limited positive effect, and others that pepped me up.
One day I found an Open Heart meditation CD which had been sitting on the shelf at home and which I had been using very occasionally for the previous three years. I was aware that to develop a new habit you really needed to stick with something for about three weeks. So I thought, I’m going to do this practice every day for for three weeks and see what happens. The practice is very simple, as all you need to do with or without a recording, is relax, smile and touch your non-physical heart in the centre of your chest, and then smile to your heart. How hard can that be? The other thing I did was make a change to my anti-depressant medication.
The results? Well they were simply astounding. I very quickly began feeling lighter, calmer and happier. I would walk down the street and smile. Colours were more vivid, people more fun and entertaining. Life was now full of possibilities rather than something to be simply endured. I began enjoying my job which had previously caused me nothing but worry and stress. I felt truly blessed to be alive. And all I did was meditate every day for around half an hour.
The question you are probably asking is to what degree was my improvement due to the medication, versus the meditation? Well I got off the anti-depressants after about three months and I noticed no drop in my mood. Five years on I feel great and it just keeps getting better and better. And the thing is, I have missed maybe four or five or days over the past five years, and by the end of those days I don’t feel quite so good. So I have no doubt that the Open Heart meditation has been largely responsible for my new and improved mental or emotional state.
I am, however, only one person. You might also like to know about Kim, a girl I met at a group meditation early in 2014 at the Lotus Centre in Hobart. She was on holiday in Hobart from the Northern Territory and had been clinically depressed for quite a while. At her worst she was so bad she couldn’t even move from her bed to the kitchen to make herself breakfast. But what I saw when I met her was a person with a great smile, a huge laugh, and someone full of vitality and love. When she told me how depressed she had been only a month earlier I could hardly believe it. So what had she done in the previous month to turn her life around? Four weeks of very intensive heart practices. Every day, at least an hour a day, and it changed her life.
Now, I’m going to be totally up-front about my views on the matter. Heart practices can in my view help anyone, whether you feel your life is great already or you are struggling a bit. While you can do the practice without a recording, my advice is to get yourself a recording, try it every day for a three to four week period, and see what happens. Don’t think about what a burden it is to create a regular meditation practice. Just take it a day at a time, but keep turning up. With that level of commitment there is a good chance a heart practice will assist you to feel happier, more peaceful and more alive.
I should also add, while I favour heart practices as my meditation practice of choice, there are all manner of relaxation and meditation practices out there. The key is to find something that works for you, and then stick to it. I think a good place to start, however, is the heart 🙂
P.S. For a range of relaxation and heart meditation recordings, as well as instructions, go to: https://www.happyground.com.au/resources/