03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Art of Attention: Healing Your Heart 101

Everyone in your life, without exception, is there to show you the path to your freedom. The more vexing the situation or the person, the more clearly your path is being illuminated for you. Will you see it?

There are going to be real moments when vexation compromises any semblance of composure. In order to cut through the confusion and see the next step clearly, I offer you a very simple, specific exercise that has recently proven inordinately helpful.

In one sentence: follow your breathing to your heart and dwell there - for a few moments, or minutes if possible.

Here goes: right now, take a breath in, place your attention in your heart [generally center upper body]; exhale, soften your skin. Several times, inhabit that space with presence for just a few breaths - or minutes - if it feels resonant for you. Notice how everything eases: your mind, your body, your face.

Interaction-wise, I've recently staved off bouts of searing fear and anxiety using this practice; each time I manage to get one moment of time in my heart - even amidst the most haunting, bracing clarity in a conversation or circumstance - instead of saying or thinking that which would only drain me, I've noticed a profound softening.

"Such a choice should be made anew in each stressful event. It is about developing awareness of intricate, neural maneuvers. There is no grand conversion to the intelligence of the heart, no theatrical, emotional fit that announces that you're now 'realized' and you may relax..." When I re-read this recently it came to me that we are actually accumulating experiences in an ongoing journey to nurture real presence. Whatever the situation brings, we must learn to value, honor and respect ourselves and our own process by continuously striving for presence in this part of our body. This accumulation generates magnetism within us, drawing toward us whatever will best serve our growth.

We are not learning something new; we are approaching and engaging an inherently human function, that of our heart, which harmonizes all the systems of our body. When we become aware of the over-emphasis we place on our intellectual activity, it's obvious that we need to make more room for the balancing, harmonizing effect of our heart in our body with a practice such as this.

As you traverse time and experience, collect moments of residing in your heart and create true presence in your body. If I'm vigilant enough, this sense of presence helps me catch my brain's intricate, insidiously overpowering trails away from my heart. When I catch it, I am able to liberate myself from all momentary distractions (my history, doubt, fear) and return to the nourishing harmony of my heart again.

Caveat: your brain is not a problem. There is simply a process of discernment and choice that most of us have not fully engaged yet. We can only accomplish it by choosing the extent to which we engage ourselves mentally by living in our hearts more of the time.

Essentially, in this simple, single moment of following the breathing to your heart, you are submitting your cerebral consciousness to your harmonious, nurturing heart's consciousness. This silent choice is ongoing, and we must be incredibly consistent in choosing it. This inner harmony is our given state; to live there more of the time is to feed and uphold the most abundant ecology of your being.