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6 Mindful Ways to Calm Your Mind and Heal Your Heart

Woman at Sunset

“We do not heal the past by dwelling there; we heal the past by living fully in the present.” –Marianne Williamson

As the last moments of my thirties are fading away, I’m preparing for the dawn of a new age, the age at which life is said to begin.

I’m like a butterfly preparing to break free from her chrysalis into the light, ready to spread her wings and feel what it is to be free—a freedom that has been born from six long months of deep introspection.

The catalyst for this journey of introspection was the breaking of my heart. Such a wonderful thing to experience at this stage in life, as without breaking it completely, it would never have opened.

It was hardened from many old wounds, scars from a turbulent past. It was shattered with such astounding glory that it felt as though I would remain forever broken. Forever disconnected from myself and the wonder that lives inside each and every one of us.

As I watched the pieces of my hardened heart crumble to dust, I found something buried deep within. A consciousness that I had never before felt or experienced, and yet felt very familiar. I stood in this new found consciousness and witnessed the feelings, the pain, the fear.

I witnessed them with great clarity as though I had been awakened for the first time. Thirty-nine years had passed since my birth and yet I stood in the wake of my heartache feeling like I had been awoken from the deepest life-long sleep.

Within a few days of this awakening, I found myself walking through the doors of a yoga studio that I had not visited before. Something about the ambiance made me feel like I had come home.

I paid for the next available class—Energize Yoga. This was a Kundalini yoga class, a style I had never tried before. The class involved a lot of breathing with rhythmic movement.

We all lay on our backs with legs and arms raised in the air. We were instructed to shake our legs and arms from side to side to the beat of some loud dance music which was getting faster and faster. All the while we had to breathe out forcefully; this was difficult and made no sense to me.

After five minutes of this nonsense, the music stopped. We were instructed to put our legs and arms down and to laugh as hard as we could. It was easy to laugh, as what we had been doing seemed a little crazy; however, I was not prepared for the laughter and what it would bring.

The energy that spilled out of my body as my laugh got deeper was like the pulse of electricity straight from a socket, almost causing my core muscles to spasm. I laughed a loud bubbly laugh which came all the way from the very core of my being.

I left the studio with a monthly pass and a renewed enthusiasm for life. My heart was still broken, my senses still in shock, but the clarity of vision in my newly awakened state made it feel like I was watching the chaos as an observer rather than being consumed by it.

I could still feel panicked waves of desperation pulse through my body. Depressed at what had passed and anxious at what was yet to come, I could see clearly that there was fear deeply rooted in my soul.

The pain, the fear, the anxiety, it made me want to climb out of my own skin. To seek refuge in some external place as though my body were just an avatar. As I witnessed all these feelings and emotions wash over me in waves, I felt something was profoundly different.

I’d dealt with previous heartbreaks by suppressing the painful feelings or distracting myself with work, parties, and avoidance of time alone. This time was different. Instead of suppressing the feelings or distracting myself, I allowed myself to just be.

I still felt afraid. Afraid of living, afraid of dying, afraid of my pain, afraid of my emotions. On a cold morning in February, I decided to symbolically challenge my fears. I had a fear of height and of open water.

I traveled back to Ireland, and with the guidance and encouragement of two dear friends, I jumped from a pier into the icy cold waters of Carlingford bay. As I emerged from the icy cold waters, I again felt very alive.

I proved to myself that no fear is greater than the strength within. I knew then that I would be okay, maybe even better than okay. My life would never be the same again.

When my heart broke, I woke up and found myself. In losing a love that meant everything to me, I found that everything I need is within me and always has been.

I stopped looking outwardly for approval. I dove into myself. I dug up all that I had buried, every skeleton in my closet. I looked face-on at the parts of myself that I didn’t like. I opened every wound I had ever allowed myself to carry.

I walked myself through every negative memory and imagined I were back there in that day/time when the memory was my reality. For each and every situation I observed through my new found consciousness, I could clearly see my part.

I accepted responsibility for my part in all of these situations. I sat with every emotion that came my way, not judging or criticizing, just observing and allowing it to just be.

I cried when I needed to cry, laughed when I felt like laughing and felt more peaceful with each passing day.

I began meditation in April and found that it brought a calmness and sense of peace that was new to my experience. Epiphany after epiphany came to me as I learned about myself and my layers.

I continued to do yoga and meditation while working through the rainbow of emotions that made up my day. The flip-flopping between my past and my future slowed as I found myself becoming more present and living in the moment.

The more at peace I have become, the more I want to share what I have learned, as I believe everyone deserves to feel this peace.

1. Start with your breath.

A great way to become conscious when your mind starts to wander is to focus on your breath.

You can practice yogic pranayama exercises with the guidance of a good teacher but more basic than that, just stop and breathe! Deep calming breaths are proven to calm an anxious mind and have a positive impact on depression.

2. Observe your thoughts.

The mind is constantly full of thoughts. Attaching to negative thoughts creates suffering. Remember that just because you think something doesn’t mean that it’s true. Byron Katie’s four questions can be a helpful tool when dealing with negative thoughts.

3. Remember that you are not your emotions.

Regardless if how high or low you feel, the roller-coaster of emotions you feel is not you. You are much more than that.

Try to stop when you feel overwhelmed by emotion. Observe how your body feels. Are your shoulders tense? Is your breathing shallow? Come back to your breath. Breathe into the parts of the body where you feel the physical expression of the emotion.

4. Stay in your present reality.

The more present and mindful you can be, the less you will suffer. A good practice for mindfulness is to do regular things differently. Hold your toothbrush in the alternate hand. Drive a different route to work. Switch your knife with your fork. You get the idea!

When you stress over the past or worry about the future, stop! Breathe and come back to the present. Remember always that this too shall pass.

5. Validate yourself.

Don’t look to others for validation. Everything you need is inside you. Forgive yourself for your wrongdoings. Give yourself all the love you need. If you have difficulty with this, treat yourself as you would your dearest friend.

I was my own worst critic and harshest judge until I began to practice self-validation and self-love.

6. Be patient and persistent.

Healing your heart won’t happen overnight. We are creatures of habit; negative habits take time to break. Rewriting of neural pathways takes time. Your body and mind need time to adjust when you make changes.

When you feel like you have taken a step backwards, just breathe and reconnect with yourself. The duality that exists between the heart and the mind can be bridged once you remain conscious and aware. Persistence will keep you on the right track.

As I write this, I feel excited for the life ahead—ready for the highs and the lows, and willing to greet each situation from a conscious state in the present moment.

I am opening my heart to the world, a heart that has come back together from the dust, void of past scars. Ready to live, ready to love, ready to breathe!

Woman at sunset image via Shutterstock

About Denise Conway

Denise is a single Mum to three wonderful children.  She has a passion for yoga and has recently graduated as a teacher.  She loves to travel, cook and write.  You can follow her at zendivineyoga.com.

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