By visualizing your heart as a lotus flower, you can begin to create a safe, comfortable place for your mind to settle.
In yoga and meditation, the heart can be visualized as a lotus flower unfolding at the center of the chest. Like a lotus that contracts and opens according to the light, our spiritual heart can be awakened through various yoga practices from asana practice to Pranayama, chanting, and meditation.
The following meditation focuses the awareness on the seat of one's lotus heart. For some, this will be a very natural sanctum to rest the awareness. Others may observe that the restless nature of the mind does not subside so easily. This meditation serves two purposes: First, to learn to focus the mind on any object as an internal seat, and second, to receive the healing benefits of being connected to the heart as a place of unconditional love.
To begin, find a comfortable posture for meditation (seated on a cushion or blanket, in a chair, or against a wall). You may find it helpful to set a timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes so you can deepen your meditation without wondering about the time. You may also want to gently ring a bell at the beginning and end of your meditation.
Place your hands on your knees in Jnana Mudra (index and thumb touching), with palms facing up to open your awareness or palms facing down to calm the mind. Scan your body and relax any tension. Let your spine rise from the base of the pelvis. Draw your chin slightly down and let the back of your neck lengthen. Now plant the seeds for meditating on the lotus of the heart.
Begin by quietly reading this passage from the Upanishads:
"Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart.
Everything that moves, breathes, opens, and closes lives in the Self-the source of love.
Realize the Self hidden in the heart and cut asunder the knot of ignorance here and now."
—The Upanishads (Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 1987)
As you inhale, draw your awareness from the base of the pelvis to the center of the chest. As you exhale, concentrate on the sensations that you feel in your chest. Stay with those sensations and allow your awareness to deepen. Do you feel heat, tingling, lightness, density, tightness? As you inhale, breathe into your heart.
Begin to visualize a lotus flower inside your chest that is gently spreading its petals open with each inhalation. And as you exhale, just dwell inside the lotus flower. (Note: If visualizing a lotus flower is too poetic for you, an alternative is to focus on a cave in the heart with a flame in the center, or a fire illuminating your heart.)
You may choose to stay with visualization of the lotus or you may focus on the sensation of an expanding heart. When feelings arise, allow them to pass through you like the changing light of the day, or imagine them resting on the flower like water on its petals. Dwell inside the lotus of your heart, feeling the qualities of unconditional love emerge.
When you are ready, bring your hands together in Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) and complete your meditation with a moment of gratitude, reflection, or prayer to integrate the energy of your meditation into your life. You can bring your awareness to your heart anytime throughout the day to come back to the seat of unconditional love.