“This is an awful time of year for me.” My client slumped on the couch and held her head in her hands. She looked dejected.

“What is the most awful part of it?” I asked.

listentoyourheart“Being expected to do everything and entertain everyone and keep up,” she replied.

I nodded. This is a time of such high expectation and demand, and it comes sooner and faster, beginning with Halloween and lasting until January. So much to do! So many people to please! So much food and preparation and travel and gifting. I empathized with my client’s sense of overwhelm.

What gets lost in this frenetic time is the essence of what the holidays were intended to celebrate: gratitude, hope, and deep love. The ingredients we so need to live a life that is meaningful and nourishing for us as well as for those around us.

I suggested to my client that we take a little time to shift focus and see if that helped.

We used a technique pioneered by the HeartMath institute. Their research suggests that the heart is a powerful organ that is not only affected by stress, but when we pay attention,  the heart can change our experience of stress. When we focus on our hearts, and do some simple exercises, we can return to a state they term “coherence.” In the state of coherence our nervous systems, our immune responses, and our heart rate all begin to align. This calms us and helps us feel better in body, mind and spirit.

The brief version of the coherence practice is this:

  1. Focus on your heart space. Become aware of the place in your chest where your heart faithfully beats all day and all night without your having to tell it to do anything. Sense that place where your physical and emotional heart reside.
  2. Feel your breathing as though it is flowing through your heart. In your imagination, feel your breath moving through your heart.
  3. Bring someone or something you appreciate into your mind. See that place or object or person. Feel their presence. It may be a beloved animal, or someone who is no longer physically here, it may be a vacation spot or a place you’ve only seen in pictures. Feel your appreciation and care and gratitude. Allow it to permeate your heart space. To extend this, you can share the feeling out into the world to places you want to know this feeling of care and goodness.

In the literature about coherence, the authors describe this as:

Heart Focus, Heart Breathing, and Heart Feeling.

It doesn’t matter how you define it; you will find the best rhythm for your own heart. What matters is that we do it. Before we get out of bed while we are warming for our joints up to start the day. At a time when we feel overwhelmed or in pain. Waiting in the doctor’s office or at a traffic light., or even in a grocery line. Standing in the shower or lying in the tub. We have many little moments where we can remember our hearts and what they need to connect us to ourselves and others.

This may be a pathway into these holidays that are meant to bless us and connect us with deep meaning. Allow yourself to feel and experience the heart of the seasonal time using your own heart as a guide.