Monday, November 9, 2015

Meditation Monday: Opening the Heart

 By Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC
In an effort to take the “manic” out of “Monday,” this weekly post explores techniques, issues, latest research, and other thoughts on meditation. Nancy facilitates a weekly meditation group at The Awakening Center. For more information, contact her at 773.929.6262, extension 17 or

Meditation often brings relaxation to the body. Jaws and fists unclench; brows become smooth. And something new experiences can happen when the shoulders loosen--the heart opens up.

We often carry our burdens in our shoulders. Without even realizing it, they creep closer and closer to the ears. This tension-related shrugging also pulls the shoulders forward, drawing the area around the heart back. The shoulders bear our burdens and protect the heart.

At the weekly meditation group at The Awakening Center, before embarking on any guided imagery, I take participants through a progressive relaxation of the body. This is so important because if the body is held in a state of “readiness” and hypervigilance, the meditation experience becomes very narrow. We cannot allow our awareness to expand if we’re in a defended posture. Additionally, important information can be gathered by noticing which body parts don’t soften so easily. What is being communicated? What needs extra kind attention?

When we get to the shoulders, I usually instruct participants to allow them to gently drop down and back. Allowing the shoulders to loosen down releases the burden. Slightly back opens the heart area. While this opening of the heart might be challenging and sometimes downright unsafe in the “real” world, I hope that the group is a safe place to experiment with the experience.

Folks who have experienced hurt and trauma heal through building a sense of safety. Within the group, they can practice opening the heart—even just a little bit—without worrying that it will be stomped. They learn to trust their instincts and can begin opening the heart to loved ones—and even to themselves.

Enjoy your practice.

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