Prism of the Heart

March 2, 2014
We’ve spent the last few months looking at the heart practices, and now is a good time to review a little and spend some time practicing. Here are the various practices for cultivating loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity.
For the next week, choose one each day and make it your practice. Or if you prefer, choose one practice for the whole week. Remember that with steady mindfulness, each one supports the other. By focusing on any of these beautiful and wise expressions of the heart, the others will be engaged and automatically play a supporting role.
Loving Kindness
In formal practice, one recites these phrases silently as blessings, intentions or resolves. It can be helpful to visualize yourself (or the person you’re practicing with) feeling contented, peaceful, and happy while saying the phrases. Sometimes I enjoy putting my hand over the heart center while keeping the image in mind and saying the phrases. This connects the mind and heart directly to the intention of the practice. Try gently smiling, too. It relaxes the body. 
May I be contented and pleased
May I be protected and safe
May I be gentle and kind
May I meet this moment with ease
We all have people in our lives we find challenging. Regardless of the particulars of the circumstance, sometimes it’s so challenging that we are less than skillful in our interactions. Compassion can really help reduce the sting of these situations. My mentor, Donald Rothberg reminds me that when we can tune into the pain of another, we will be in our right minds. And I want to live in my right mind.
Take some time to think about that. This is what makes “compassion” a verb. When we get out of our own way, we really can see more clearly and act more wisely.
Compassion for ourselves works the same way. When we can get underneath the surface of our own muck and see what’s really going on, we’re more likely to feel some relief and be kinder to ourselves. And when we can’t see what’s really going on and all we feel is lousy, we can say 

“May I hold myself with compassion”
Appreciative Joy
Keep this practice simple. Look for the good, smile often, and remember joy. Here are a few phrases that are a lovely meditation directed towards finding joy in another’s good fortune.
May your happiness grow
May your happiness continue
May your happiness shine
Like the moon, the stars, and the sun
The practices for cultivating a relaxed accommodating even-mindedness, and the capacity to take it all in and say “this, too,” can be done anywhere anytime. As with the other practices, the key is remembering to do it. Try silently saying to yourself:
May I have balance in this moment
May I be centered in this moment
Imagine what being balanced and centered feel like, and drop into that. This part is important. By getting a sense of how this feels in the body, it becomes more easily accessible next time you’re looking for balance. This also applies to the other heart practices.
And understanding that equanimity is directly connected to actions, whether ours or someone else’s:
I am the owner of my karma. My happiness and unhappiness depend upon my own actions, not on anyone else’s wishes for me.

I hope you enjoy the practices.