My friend Tom lost his job as an executive, the bank foreclosed on his home mortgage, and his father died—all within six months.
“I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn,” Tom said. “I applied for jobs left and right. But no one wanted to hire a marketing executive who’s in his sixties.”
Something then happened in Tom’s life that changed everything.
“I kept hearing a quiet voice inside me whispering, ‘Open your heart.’ The words followed me silently for days. I could feel them in my stomach like a gentle flow of a flute. They calmed me. But, I didn’t know what to do with them.”
The words, “open your heart,” became a mantra for Tom. According to author Gay Hendricks in his book, The Big Leap, a mantra is a word, phrase or idea that one uses to focus their attention during prayer or meditation. As we meditate, our attention naturally wanders, so we return our focus to the mantra as a home base so we can listen for the Divine Voice in the silence. We can also use our mantra throughout the day to return to our Center.
“Maybe the words were coming from God,” Tom shared with me. “So, one day out of the blue, I decided to start meditating. Up until then I believed in God, but didn’t put much energy into deepening my relationship with him. Now, I felt like I was being divinely led to explore meditation. Maybe I’d get some direction there.
“I sat in the quiet each day for twenty minutes. At first, the worrisome thoughts in my head banged around like hungry bats flying around a swarm of mosquitoes. The thoughts nipped and jabbed at my brain. But then I repeated the words, ‘open your heart,’ to center and calm myself. I imagined I was lifting my heart to God with my hands and he was reaching down to hold my heart with me. The beating in my chest slowed. My breath became softer. Deeper. I began a conversation with God.
“After weeks of practicing meditation, it dawned on me I wasn’t supposed to continue working in the corporate world. I’d done that for twenty-five years and was burned out. The stack of rejection letters in my mail pile confirmed the door back into the marketplace had swung shut. I was being invited to a new season of life.
“I took a part-time job to pay rent and other bills, and began painting. I’d always dreamed of being an artist and using my fine arts degree to paint large landscapes like I’d done in college. Now was the time,” Tom told me. “My heart was leading me, and my feet were catching up.”
Tom continues painting and meditating daily. Much of his artwork flows from his contemplative practice. He now also mentors other artists with the gentle nudge to open their hearts and establish their own meditation practice.
The Heart-Math Institute, which has done extensive research into the heart-mind connection, concludes that the heart is the hard drive of the human operating system. The heart’s designed to send messages to the brain. The brain then serves as the software application to implement the heart’s guidance. (Check out the Institute’s two-minute video by clicking here: Mysteries of the Heart).
From a spiritual perspective, the heart is the location of our souls. It’s the place where we and God connect. It’s why Christians call the heart “sacred.”
According to Tom, if the heart is the center, the operating system for our lives, maybe meditation is the way we enter the heart-space. Sitting alone in quiet each day and lifting our hearts to God opens the door that connects our human hearts with the Divine Heart. In that space, we find encouragement. Guidance. Wisdom.
Scripture tells us that Jesus took time daily to be alone with his father. While healing a group of villagers, he realized he’d run out of energy, so he stopped. He needed to be alone to reconnect with his sacred heart.
“God was gently leading me,” Tom says. “If Jesus needed to spend time alone with his father each day to connect with his heart, maybe that’s what the Creator taught me: the cure for worry is to open your heart.”
—brian j plachta