Dr. Hester O Connor, clinical psychologist, shares her experience as a Mindfulness teacher and a Heartfulness practitioner.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.’’
– Helen Keller
On the 30th of April 2016 I will celebrate twenty-one years of Heartfulness meditation. I trained as a Mindfulness teacher in the beautiful valley of Triginos in Wales in 2008. For me the Mindfulness practice of being present moment by moment softens me and takes me to my heart. Heartfulness satisfies the longing of my heart. I would like to share with you the love story of my route to Heartfulness. For it is a love story. Every day I get up to re-orient my inner compass to a heart-centered goal that started out long ago when I was a small child in a village near Cashel in County Tipperary, Ireland.
The kindness of Mindfulness is a beautiful place to begin to re-connect with the spiritual heart of Heartfulness.
As the sixteenth child of a family of eighteen children, it is hardly a surprise to say I was raised a Catholic. I recall going with my mother to visit the church before the others would file in from school. The visits were short and the church was just fifty yards from the house.
Sometimes we would call over to the grave of my brother Peter who died aged five years having been hit in the head by a horse. These were precious moments with an overstretched mother. I was stealing moments of togetherness that never happened anywhere else in the day-to-day melting pot of meals and wash up. I believe that the intense inner longing of my heart stems from these moments. The childhood yearning of my heart was finally satisfied twenty-five years later when I began Heartfulness meditation.
From the first meditation I can only describe falling in love with what and who and where I cannot describe, but all I can say is that every time I turn inwards my longing heart feels satisfied.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”
– Helen Keller
What I love about Mindfulness is the non-judgement, the moment-by-moment awareness and aliveness to the visceral sense of connection with the body. In the Body Scan or Sitting Practice, that easing to a spot is calling your attention, curious to where your attention takes you in this moment. Maybe the mind wanders as minds do, to what you will eat for dinner and you learn to kindly bring your attention back to this moment in the body.
What I love about Mindfulness is the non-judgement, the moment-by moment awareness and aliveness to the visceral sense of connection with the body.
After thirty years of practice as a clinical psychologist, one thing I am sure of is that many of us come from backgrounds of trauma, loss, longing, and general unease within ourselves. Most mothers today have deadlines, debts, and pressures of all sorts to contend with. Mindfulness has enormous potential to bring us back to ourselves and I have seen this time and time again while running Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (MBCT) groups with adults. It is a delight to be with someone who has known depression learning to treat their thoughts with kindness. Kindness is something truly beautiful in Mindfulness practice. There is a growing emphasis on compassion and kindness within the Mindfulness movement.
The simplicity of Heartfulness has a great deal to complement Mindfulness. Heartfulness reaches beyond the body to the realm of the spiritual heart with its capacity for infinite expansion that can encompass the whole Universe.
Where Do Heartfulness and Mindfulness Meet?
The simplicity of Heartfulness has a great deal to complement Mindfulness. Heartfulness reaches beyond the body to the realm of the spiritual heart with its capacity for infinite expansion encompassing the whole Universe. For me, getting out of bed every day to tune inwards to my heart profoundly shapes how I orientate myself in response to the ups and downs of daily life.
It takes years to become a Clinical Psychologist and I am very glad that the drive to get there has softened to a willingness to let my heart lead the way in meetings rather than that driven-ness that was so strong when I first set out in my studies. I now manage a psychology service and what I do most days in meetings is simply connect us all through the heart; it changes everything.
What I believe Mindfulness has to offer Heartfulness is the returning to the breath, this breath, in this moment. The visceral connection with the body that comes in Mindfulness is really precious in today’s world dominated by social media and external attraction where the centre of gravity seems increasingly far removed from us all. The kindness of Mindfulness is a beautiful place to begin to re-connect with the spiritual heart of Heartfulness.