A Mindful Heart
November 9, 2015 by Dr. Ryan Niemiec ·
There is a lot of research on the benefits of simply practicing mindfulness. But, what if we want to take it one step further and practice mindfulness to lead to another outcome, such as using mindfulness to be more heartful?
When we used the word “heart” we tend to be referring to something that is meaningful, virtuous, and positive. We are serious and intentional. This is typically action-oriented.
I define heartfulness as the following: Taking meaningful action using your character strengths and virtues for the common good.
It is mindfulness that catalyzes our heartfulness. It sets up heartful action. It assists in your striving to be more kind, more courageous, more wise, more just. Mindfulness can exist without heartful action. Sitting, attentively breathing, curious, open, and accepting. This is important to.
Someone who is truly mindful – tuned into a specific situation – knows when heartful action is needed.
The story of the two monks exemplifies this blending of mindfulness and heartfulness:
Two virtuous, solitary monks walk together in silence, making their way from their monastery to the closest nearby store, several miles away down a windy dirt path. After walking a few miles, the monks come upon a babbling brook. On the other side is a woman carrying a large bag and appearing hesitant and fearful at the brook’s edge.
The younger monk, recalling his vow of silence and commitment to have minimal contact with the outside world, swiftly crosses the brook and passes by the woman averting his eyes from her, acting as if she does not exist.
The older monk follows the young monk across the brook. Upon reaching the other side, he stops, turns to the woman and asks if he can help her. He lifts the woman and carries her across the brook. He and the young monk then continue their journey.
About a mile down the road, the young monk stops and turns to the older monk, angrily exclaiming, “How could you pick up that woman? I can’t believe you disregarded our vows.”
“Brother,” said the elder monk, “I let go of that woman back at the brook and you are still carrying her with you.”
In this story, the elder monk is not only mindful, he is heartful. His mindful attention helps him see the reality of the situation and the wider perspective of what matters most. In this situation, what matters most is helping someone who’s struggling. This mindfulness opens him up to acting from the heart. With heartfulness, the monk brings forth kindness and humility and courage .
In our daily life, we too face increasingly complex and challenging circumstances. Often, these are ethical and moral dilemmas. Other times, we are trapped in confusion. These are, in reality, perfect opportunities. They are opportunities for us to pause and mindfully reconnect with our breath – our present moment reality.
This mindful attention grounds us, rooting us into stronger footing. It also gives us perspective – our vision widens and we reconnect with “what matters most” in our current situation. This is the foundation for heartful action. Our heartfulness can then explode on the scene. Our character strengths and virtues can be unleashed. We don’t just think and feel from strength. We act from strength – for the betterment of others. This is the heartful way.
When facing a challenge, conflict, hot emotion, or problem, tap into mindfulness followed by heartfulness:
- Step 1: Pause. Reconnect with your breath and your whole present moment – both your inner landscape and the exterior world.
- Step 2: Ask yourself: What matters most in this situation? How might I contribute to the common good right now?
- Step 3: Unleash your character strengths. Take action!
Question for you
Is heartfulness always interpersonal?
- Tune in next week to find out!
Learn about your character strengths: Take the free VIA Survey
Read about mindfulness and character strengths