In October of 2013, in the days prior to my 39th birthday, I declared that 39 would be my Year of Fear. As you can imagine, I got some funny looks. My intent was to find joy and excitement in facing my fears, but truthfully, it sounded kind of awful even to me. Now that my year is up, I’ll tell you this, I feel happier, more sense of possibility, and more capable than I have in what feels like a very long time.
Throughout my adult life I tended towards low-level anxiety when busy, which was a lot of the time. The anxiety was just enough to get me out of bed in the morning. That little bit of buzzing nerves fueled my ability to get a lot done. I would describe myself as happy and busy. But things intensified greatly when, 9 months before declaring my Year of Fear, my mother passed away. She left this plane sooner than I was ready to say my goodbye. Life began to feel hard. Money was tight. I felt an underlying fear and anxiety as though the rug had been pulled out from under me and it could happen again at any moment. I was on constant alert. I wasn’t sleeping well.
So began my Year of Fear. I committed to face one fear a month until my 40th birthday. In the process of facing those fears I began to study my physical, emotional, and mental response to fear. Biologists tell us that stress induces our autonomic nervous system to switch us from a state of rest and digest to fight, flight, or freeze. What I began to notice is that, even at my most restful state, I felt the buzzing of nerves and an antsy desire to constantly move. Emotionally, I was more short-tempered than usual. Beneath that, I was afraid and sad. My thoughts were egging me on with a sense of urgency and I was looking for worst-case scenarios at every turn. I was not returning to a state of rest and digest. If facing my fears was going to be fun and exciting, something had to change.
And then it struck me. My entire experience and perception was through the lens of my nervous system. I am a fleshy, fluid filled body. I am made up of so much more than wiry nerves, but all I could feel was the influence of their buzzing. As a Somatic Psychotherapist and a student of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, the founder of Body Mind Centering, I know that each body system has a consciousness of it’s own. And so I posed the question: Can I consciously put my attention into another part of my being and change my perception and experience? I’ll skip ahead and let you know that, for me, the answer is a resounding Yes!
I chose to focus on my heart and circulatory system. Who am I when my attention is situated in my heart? Can I allow my actions to be propelled by my beating heart as opposed to my buzzing nerves? I mean this in a very practical sense, not just the spiritual or New Age intention of being heart-centered. In our early development as a fetus our arms literally grow as buds out of the heart. They are a direct extension of the heart. I began a practice of finding the feeling of my heartbeat inside my chest. I attempted to feel blood being pumped away from my heart via a system of arteries to the extremities of my body and returned through my veins. I moved through a gentle yoga practice allowing my movement to be propelled by the blood that flowed through me.
It’s my desire through writing and teaching this practice that each of us have the opportunity to find our own answer to the question: Who do I become when my attention is situated in my heart? I believe that we are all unique and our answers may vary. What I can say, for me, is that my energy, emotions, and thoughts clearly change when I am in this practice.
Which brings me to the 28 Day Powered By Heart Challenge.
As we move into the month of February I am committing to this practice daily and I invite my community to join me. To make it easy I’m attaching a link for a 12 minute guided meditation into our heart and circulatory system. Feel free to use it or share your own practice.
It’s important to acknowledge that, that this practice can be powerful. If you, like me, have gone through busy times where you’re not attending to the emotions on your heart, you may find that your feelings are particularly strong. If this is this case, know that you are not alone. It can be very helpful to do this work with another. Please reach out. Let me know if you have any questions and I’m glad to schedule a Somatic Coaching session in person or via Skype to support you in your process.
Let’s find out who we become when our attention is situated in the space of our hearts! I’d love to hear about your experiences so please share here!
Here’s the meditation link: http://lorenhadassah.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Heart-Meditation.m4a