The concept of “mindfulness” has been on my mind a lot lately. Not just because it’s splashed across headlines and gaining wider acceptance in the U.S. (even corporate America is embracing “mindfulness”)—but also because I spend so much time with animals in my work. And as I’ve written about before, animals are mindfulness masters who teach us important lessons about living mindfully every single day.
But with so much out there in the world about mindfulness these days, I’ve noticed absolutely no one is talking about a vital ingredient to living a truly mindful life: the heart. In other words, I believe you cannot be mindful without also being heartful—feeling and embracing the abundance of emotions and feelings in one’s heart. Without the heart component, mindfulness leads to a calm and aware state of being, yes, but also a state of indifference or detachment.
You cannot be mindful without also being heartful.
In Japanese, the character “kokoro” means mind and heart (the same). So in Japanese tradition, your mind has to unify with your heart for you to be in the “right” space for healing. This idea—a fusing of heart and mind—fits well with my Reiki work with animals. When we sit or walk mindfully with our animals, our hearts open so we can radiate our inner compassion. And with our furry friends by our side, offering their unconditional love and acceptance of us, we are able to access our inner peace more easily. The heartful thinking that follows promotes generosity, openness to others, healing and more.
So next time you think of living mindfully, remember the importance of living heartfully, too. Instead of falling into old patterns of thinking—that the mind and the heart (thinking vs. feeling) merely battle one another—embrace the possibility of heart and mind existing as one and in partnership.