The Heart Singing
Many thanks to Jon Young and his teachers for this exercise.
This practice is a way to begin orienting yourself toward experiences in life that fill you up rather than drain you. Much like calibrating a compass, you train your awareness to notice when you feel a positive pull or calling toward something. This is a simple practice. You may find, as many do, that it is enjoyable and that you learn quite a lot from it.
You are actually retraining your nervous system in this exercise, and you are building a biopsychological foundation of coherence and resources. There’s a lot more to say about that, but this post is not about theory. It is about practice. And simplicity.
Your job is to notice, throughout your day, when you get the feeling of “your heart singing.” For some of you, this language is enough. But for those of us who are more concrete thinkers, it’s best to say more. You are looking for the experience of something naturally compelling you; something making you feel light and energized. It's not a craving. It is not something addictive or overwhelmingly pleasurable. It’s a simple, wholesome experience of being in the moment around something that feels deeply compelling or good. Like there's a magnetry to it. It really could be anything that inspires this... hearing the violin and imagining playing it, a particular place, thinking about a class you'd love to take, playing a game, cooking a new dish, woodworking, dancing, learning mathematics, being in the presence of a particular person, etc.
The practice is this:
1) Carry around a little pocketpad or use your phone. (I suggest the pocketpad, but just use what actually works… what you will actually do.)
2) Throughout the day, your job is to notice any time you come across something that “makes your heart sing.” Whenever you experience this, your first job is to write it down and do nothing more. Just a few words written down to make a clear note of what it was. No rumination. No judgment. No room for the critic to come in and say why you can’t. No planning it out. You are simply making an honest recording of each experience.
3) Try for noticing 4-5 experiences a day. They can be subtle and simple. If you notice more, go for it. If you notice less, no worries.
4) Do not open the book and look at them again. Once they are recorded, just go about your day.
5) At the end of a week, you can review what you’ve written for the week. Make notes in the form of no more than a paragraph on what you noticed. Maybe you noticed some commonalities or something that surprised you. Here is the time where you get to enjoy a little reflection. See how it feels to review these things. It might feel very good (“heart singing”) to just be reading through and paying attention to them.
6) Do this for two weeks total.
7) After two weeks are completed, add this: Include “what makes your heart sink.” You most likely know what this means. You will still be writing down what makes your heart sing. The heart sing is your foundation and your buoyancy. It is the main practice. You will also make notes on the things you experience that make your heart sink. These are things that feel draining or aggravating or dimming to your life force. Basically, the opposite of heart singing. They, too, can be mundane and subtle. They could be things that your critic wants to edit out because they are necessities of life. Remember, your job is not to judge them. Just record them. Honestly. If adding this piece to the exercise makes your heart sink and kills the magic too much, then drop it. That means that the heart doesn’t want that yet. It probably means that the habitual attention has already been mainly focused on the sinking. In this case, it needs that support and resource of just knowing what makes it sing. You’ll have to be compassionate and honest here to discern whether your heart is ready for this part of the exercise.
8) At the end of a week, you can review what you’ve written for the week. Same as before. A paragraph on sing and a paragraph on sink.
9) At the end of two weeks (total of 4 weeks of this exercise), review the whole thing. Write down a summary. Here is where you get to really notice and bask in what you’ve learned. Here is where you might let some of your creativity come in and make a few changes. Let the exercise do the magic and trust yourself at this point. Continue cultivating this awareness for as long as you’d like. Adapt it as you wish. See what happens naturally as you increase your awareness of your heart singing…