Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Feelie Hearts.
They are small handmade hearts of soft fabric like velvet, flannel or fleece, stuffed with a little puffy material, small enough to carry in a child's pocket. Sometimes even smaller than the ones shown here. I don't remember where I first heard about them.
But I discovered that they originally came from the Bridges Center for Grieving Children at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, WA. They were designed to be a tactile reminder of hope for children who were grieving the loss of a parent or some other special person, a soft physical sign that someone was thinking of them, that they were not alone. Since then, many other groups have picked up on the feelie heart idea, making them for foster children, for families facing serious illness and upset, for children who have lived through a school shooting, even for first year medical students "as a reminder to hold their own hearts and the hearts of their patients and colleagues tenderly."
Wouldn't it be nice to have a feelie heart? Or to make one for someone you love? You could hang it on your bathroom mirror. Or tuck it into your child's lunchbox. Or have one with you while you are doing homework or attending a job-related Zoom meeting (no one will ever know!) If you share your space with someone, you could even make a game out of it--where will the feelie heart turn up next? (How about behind the toothpaste? Maybe in the egg carton?)
This tool is from the eighth Toolkit. Here's the Index of all toolkits. And The Mini-Toolkit: For Those with Little or No Time.
Back in January 2020, I wrote a blog post about a friend who had a single word as a focus in her spiritual life. Her word was "with" which reminded her that she was not alone, that the God she believed in was named, among other things, Immanuel, which means "God with us." It also helped her remember that she had human companions who could support her when the journey got rough, and she them.
I think I may have found my single word.
It is "here."
It reminds me to be in the present, not lost on some distant planet of future or past. It suggests a most basic reality, being present in my body. It is also close kin to with. Almost every time I begin a journal entry, usually consisting of a written dialogue with my Higher Power or with one of the wiser parts of me, the first word that comes from somewhere deeper than my everyday ego-self is...here. A reminder to slow down, allow Presence, allow being. It gives me hope that those helpful parts, those facets of God, are here. With me. That I am not alone.
Here is simple.
Here is a key.
Here is a place to be with.
To me, here is the essence of mindfulness. When I am here I can feel my feet, feel my breath, feel my beating heart. I can notice that in this particular moment I am okay.
I am here.
Recent research shows that just 10 minutes of mindfulness practice a day can set up your brain to allow an extra second before you decide or act, during which you can step back and consider. Just one second. But that one second gave people in the study more peace and a chance to make decisions they were happier with. One second may sound tiny, but if you are here in the present, a second can be...a space of grace.
But I am such a beginner with here. During a 10 minute meditation my mind dips and flutters and sputters; some days I doubt if I spend, in total, a full minute actually being mindful of my breath. And yet...and yet...the Presence is here. Evidently even that disjointed less-than-a-minute allows the space of grace to open up. Unearned. Miraculous even. And utterly simple.
Here's one of my favorite poems, all about here.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes behind you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
David Wagoner, Collected Poems 1956-1976
Until next time,
Feelie heart photo and How to Make a Feelie Heart, Bridges Center for Grieving Children
Friends, Gemma Chua Tran, unSplash
Boy on a hill, Drew Gilliam, unSplash
Woods, Sebastian Unrau, unSplash