Thursday, September 16, 2010

Calming the Heart With Heart

How Heartbeat Meditation Can Help Be With Difficult Emotions.

I have observed this before, but this morning was even more striking. Sitting with lots of fiery energy still, and deep sadness also, awareness naturally settled on the heart. Body relaxed, mind willing, breath out of the way, all that remained was pulsing. Strong, compelling, in the place of turmoil. Each heartbeat, a new anchor for awareness.  And the mind becoming calmer, and calmer. And the body, cooling down, more and more. I could have sat for a very long time . . . 

Once during a Dharma discussion at IMC, someone asked the teacher about feeling the heartbeat more than the breath. Where to go from there? No place in particular, was the teacher's answer.

Rereading the Kayagata-sati Sutta, on Mindfulness Immersed in the Body,  I found no mention of the heartbeat as an object of meditation. Breathing meditation, whole body scan yes, heart meditation no. This is puzzling to me. After all, one's heartbeat, although more subtle than the breath, is probably the physiological activity most tied to our emotions, particularly difficult ones. It would only make sense to calm the heart by placing one's attention there.

Have you had any such experience of calming the heart by focusing your attention on the heartbeats? Are you aware of any such practice?


  1. Hi Marguerite - I listened to a dharma talk recently by Tempel Smith on "Freedom Through the Body" and I think he mentioned tuning into the heartbeat as a possible object. You can find the talk in DharmaSeed. It's an excellent talk - I loved his analogy of the fish tank and the ego-fish!

  2. If I find myself with faster heartbeat than normal..with anxiety..or just rushing around...I use the sound of silence to get it back down. Of course, I mental note the speed when I sit down but not focusing too much on the heartbeat it seldom gets it down.

  3. That's interesting! and yet another confirmation that different types of meditation work for different people. I was listening to a recent talk from Andrea Fella, about concentration. When she asked the audience who favored one-pointed concentration vs. fluid concentration, the room was split in half.

    Same here, it seems. What I found an extremely calming practice, does not work for you it seems. Love the idea of listening to the sound of silence . . .

    With metta.