heart-centered living

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13th-century poet Rumi wrote: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

What if instead of finding all the barriers we have built against love though, we find all the barriers that we have built against becoming love and let them go?

When I think of a world where everyone engages in a practice like that, I imagine a world where everyone embodies kindness, generosity, and compassion and genuinely cares about the well-being and happiness of all beings. 

In Buddhism, mind-heart qualities like loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy for the happiness of others, and equanimity are called divine abodes or the four immeasurables which are said to be the only mind states that arise once one becomes liberated.

I imagine Buddhist masters the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh as beings who emanate the divine abodes.  The Dalai Lama describes his practice as a peaceful path of kindness, love, compassion, and not harming others that has become a part of him.

Quotes from the Dalai Lama on these qualities include:

“The basic fact is that humanity survives through kindness, love, and compassion. That human beings can develop these qualities is their real blessing.”

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

“Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering.”

“A truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you.”

“Love is the absence of judgment.”

“The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your action will be.”

“Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.” 


Supportive phrases and prayers we can offer ourselves from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Four mantras:
“1. Darling, I am here for you.
2. I know you are there, and I am very happy.
3. Darling, I know you suffer.
4. Darling, I suffer. Please help.”

Nine prayers:

~May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
~May I be free from injury. May I live in safety.
~May I be free from disturbance, fear, and anxiety.
~May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and of love.
~May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
~May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
~May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
~May I be able to live fresh, solid and free.
~May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.


Certainly a heart-centered way of living has its risks and can be the polar opposite of the way many of us are raised to engage in the world and yet the opposite of it isn’t safe either. My upbringing prepared me to be in full body armor at all times and I wasn’t safe. I wasn’t protected. I was just hiding, not truly living life. Over the years of practice though it seems like that armor has slowly dissolved on its own.

Along with being with practices such as the divine abodes so frequently that they become a part of our nature, heart-centered living entails a radical self-love and care. That kind of care is expressed beautifully in these pieces by poets Khalil Gibran and Nayyirah Waheed:



What does radical self-love and care look like for you?

For me, I feed all of my wounded parts jam and stroke their hair, deeply listening and nourishing them, and loving them as I love all the parts within me. I work with the resistances I have built to protect myself from getting hurt that have in actuality kept me from love. I relinquish my baggage, my stories, my dwellings on the past and projections of the future. I love myself in my entirety in a world set up for me not even to love the smallest aspects of myself. With a love like that emanating through my day, what could I have to fear?




(This is an updated version of a post that first appeared on
above photo by ilsebatten
pleasure activism

joy and sorrow (pleasure activism series)

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
photo by Ben Heine.


One of the keys to having greater access to happiness and pleasure is allowing space for their presence in all circumstances, through all the ups and downs of life. As adrienne maree brown says in Pleasure Activism, “Pleasure is the point. Feeling good is not frivolous, it is freedom.”

Pleasure is the point. And yet pleasure does not mean ignoring or denying sorrow when it arises. The difficult times make it more possible for joy to be present. There is an indelible connection between joy and sorrow.  Without one, there could not be the other. Can we allow there to be space for both? Can we allow for there to be space for all of our experiences without pushing away the unpleasant ones or grasping tightly to the pleasant ones?

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain…When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” — Khalil Gibran in The Prophet: 

adrienne maree brown references Gibran’s quote about sorrow and joy in Pleasure Activism:

I recognize that my sorrow carves out the space for my joy, and that both in this lifetime and in the cycles of my lineage there is so much space that has been carved out by sorrow, and I get to fill it up with joy and pleasure. What a pleasure it is, after all, to be a free Black queer woman. To be a human, self-aware. To be of the earth, with such beauty and interconnectedness. — adrienne maree brown 

I didn’t always see this connection between joy and sorrow. For some time, I always saw my happiness as small and my unhappiness as vast. I think that was because I paid more attention to my sorrow, which allowed it to grow. With my mindfulness practice, I became increasingly interested in the seeds I planted, cultivated, and nourished within me. Was I nurturing seeds of discontent, anger, scarcity or was I supporting seeds of kindness, love, and gratitude to grow?

I made choices regarding the seeds I was nurturing with each thought I chose to believe, each person I chose to spend significant time with, and each activity I chose to engage in regularly. I began to let go of the people who did not value me and did not treat me well and stop doing things that didn’t support my well-being. I spent time listening to my body, heart, mind, time in nature, and time in supportive solitude to help me know how to make choices that were supportive. All of this helped me find and connect to the happiness that was within me all along. It gave me the space to meet wonderfully kind and loving community once I fully understand how to be my own happiness. That kind of happiness, completely predicated on my wholeness, on the miracle of me being alive in each moment, stays present even when I am sobbing in heartbreak over the many injustices of the world.

Find the pleasure path for your life and follow it. Let it reverberate healing back into your ancestors’ wounds. Let it open you up and remind you that you are already whole. Let it shape a future where feeling good is the normal, primary experience of all beings. –adrienne maree brown 

Are you on your pleasure path for life? What supports you in feeling good? How can you share more of that with yourself and gift it to others?


This post is part of a monthly series exploring aspects of adrienne maree brown‘s book Pleasure Activism. To see the first post in this series, please visit here.