Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Discovering your “soft spot”

One of my teachers, the Tibetan meditation master Sogyal Rinpoche, used to refer to the place inside where you feel tender, loving emotions as your soft spot. The soft spot can be found in your heart, beneath all the toughness and defensiveness. To reach it, you have to risk encountering feelings you might otherwise wish to avoid, such as fear, grief, anger, and the others talked about earlier in this chapter. You’ll know the soft spot when you get there because it has a tender sweetness to it that’s often tinged with a certain sadness or melancholy about the human condition. (In fact, you may find it slightly painful to open your heart at first, simply because of this sadness, which is actually one of the seeds of compassion.) Because you’ll need to be familiar with your soft spot in order to practice the meditations provided in the remainder of this chapter, you may want to experiment with the following exercise:
  1. Begin by closing your eyes, taking a few deep breaths, and relaxing your body a little on each exhalation. Remember to be kind to yourself.
  2. Imagine the face of someone who loved you very much as a child and whose love moved you deeply. In the East, they recommend using your mother, but some Westerners tend to have more problematic relationships with their parents, so you may prefer to use your grandmother or grandfather or some other unconditionally loving figure. (If you never received love like this as a child, you can think of some famous person that you consider to be unconditionally loving, such as Jesus or Buddha or the Divine Mother.)
  3. Remember a particular instance in which this person showed his or her love for you and you really received it and allowed it to nurture you.
  4. Notice the tender, loving feelings this memory evokes in your heart. The place where you feel them is your soft spot.
  5. Notice if any other feelings accompany the tenderness and gratitude you feel.
  6. If you find it difficult to re-experience the love, pay attention to what gets in your way. What are some of the feelings standing guard over your soft spot?
  7. Begin to explore the area around your soft spot. What is the state of your heart right now? What are some of the other feelings you find stirring inside, in addition to (or instead of) love? Do you notice any tension or bracing around your heart that keeps it from opening to love?
  8. Be aware of what you find, without judgment or self-criticism.

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