Many years ago, I was suffering from what we now know are stress-related illnesses. Over many years I lost countless time and success to the physical and mental ravages of poor stress management and lack of self-care. I pushed myself too hard, beat myself up about everything and didn’t know the core message I now preach: relaxation is not a luxury. During that time, I had a number of sessions with a very wise man, who was originally a mainstream medical doctor but then went into Chinese medicine, acupuncture, counselling and a load of complementary therapies which he would use or explore as appropriate with each patient.
One thing sticks in my mind from this time: the word “heartsong”. He talked about – and we discussed – the importance of knowing what thing or things would make a person’s heart sing and then the importance of going after it and finding it somehow. At the time, I knew that for me heartsong would be when I became published, which I desperately wanted. My problem was that that wasn’t entirely in my hands: I’d have to wait and practise and be lucky and do a load of things to make or allow it to happen and it might not happen quickly (as indeed it didn’t, unless you count Thomas The Tank Engine books and similar, which I probably should but don’t! They weren’t enough for me, though perfectly valid if that’s what you want.) So we also talked about other things that I could make happen more quickly and that would also give heartsong. At the time, that would be things I might do with my children, or being outside, or whatever – to be honest, I don’t remember what they were at the time. We all change and so does what gives us pleasure.
I still practise and value heartsong-seeking. For me nowadays it comes from gardening, growing vegetables, reading, cooking for friends, being outside, running. Being alone and sometimes being with lovely friends and family.
I’ll offer you a few guidelines as you think about what gives YOU heartsong:
- Although it may involve “success”, it MUST involve you feeling pleasure.
- You need to have more than one thing and ideally more than four or five.
- At least some of them must be things that are in your control. (Being published wasn’t, and was also potentially too long-term. It was important to recognise it and to keep going for it but I also needed shorter-term things that were more within my active control and which I could do now.)
- You must acknowledge them when they happen and properly allow yourself to feel the heartsong.
What gives you heartsong? Can you apply this lesson to a friend or your son or daughter? Let’s spread heartsong around!