Our chaplain Nicholas Roddis explains how last week’s ‘light of the heart’ practice can be developed to support us through unsettling times.
Our sense of worth and self-identity often comes from the purpose we find in our lives – ‘who am I in the world?’. This purpose may be expressed through our work, our roles or our relationships. For instance, think of ‘nurses’. There’s a sense that purpose is limited by either time (how long I am in this role) or function (this role means that I do these sort of things – ‘I care’, ‘I provide medicines’ etc). Importantly, we see that our purpose has an effect on those around us – they know me as ‘the nurse’. We are often defined by the boundaries of our roles in life.
Boundaries often give us a feeling of shape and size, and a sense of security. When there’s great change in our lives and the world around us, boundaries and roles help us feel safe when everything around is unsettled.
Throughout this pandemic many of our roles are changing rapidly and our sense of identity is shifting. Who are we without the usual activities and boundaries our jobs and routines give us? It all feels very unsettling. We’re not able to follow through with our usual roles and the ordinary activities that give shape to our lives; it can be hard to know who we are without the labels.
A deeper fear may arise from not being able to function in our role boundaries. This is the fear that without a role or a purpose we can be missed, not seen or ignored and interpret this as having no purpose in the world.
So, rather than focus on ‘who am I?’ in all of this, it can be useful to feel a sense of who we are, and that we exist, through our experience of contact and boundaries.
It’s important to still have boundaries in our lives when we have contact with each other. We can let others know that they exist and we love them, and also reaffirm to ourselves that we exist. We need to ‘touch our hearts to another’s heart’ – affirming that they have shape and form and exist too despite all the change and uncertainty.
A daily practice
In last week’s blog I talked about the idea of a source of light within us that can be imagined as a flame within the heart centre. Becoming aware of this place of light within ourselves we can access a sense of spaciousness and wisdom; we begin to naturally understand what it is we need to do, what we can let go of, who we are and become more aware and affirm the deeper purposes in our lives.
By resting in this light we become aware that things can shift and change just through being; we don’t always have to do something to make things happen. It’s about trusting in a deeper part of ourselves. This week, I invite people to take the idea forward and to extend it to explore boundaries and contact with others.
- Begin by resting in this light in your heart and allowing it to fully form in your body. Then let it expand beyond your physical self (boundary) and out into your immediate environment. Imagine the light filling the room you are in, then your home, your town and beyond.
- Think of it like the sun emanating from your heart centre in all directions; a sphere that gets even bigger until it surrounds the earth and beyond even your imagining. This helps create a sense of spaciousness and of the boundless light we all have. Then rest in this for a few minutes.
- Now, bring the boundaries of this light back to the boundary of your body, in a stepwise manner. Imagine the sphere of light becoming smaller – from it surrounding the earth, to your country, to your town, to your house to your room and back to your body.To bring the practice to a close gently bring your mind back until you focus inside yourself and imagine the flame within your heart again.
When you then go about your day and make contact with other people, think not only about the purpose of finding out how they are, but also experience your personal boundaries. I would encourage you to tell other people how you are; be authentic about how you’re feeling at the moment. Bring the light to shine on how you really feel and rest in it as you interact with others.
Please try this practice and see how it may support you.
May compassionate wisdom flow through you to others this day,