“Your true heart is not subject to chaos or limited by pain, fear and neuroses, but is joyful, creative and loving…It is the core, the essence of your being, a reservoir of joy, powerful love and infinite compassion that lies within you.”
Ed and Deb Shapiro, in Listen Up! Why Being in Your Heart is Better Than In Your Head
I have been talking a lot about listening to your heart these past few posts. But what does that actually mean and how do we do it? The ancients, philosophers and physicians alike, believed the heart to be not only how we “know” something (as the Hebrew people believed) but actually the very origin of thought, emotion, passion and reason. All those years ago, the wisest knew what we have forgotten or repressed. In our busy, logical culture, to suggest listening to one’s heart is tantamount to elevating emotion, sentimentality, impulse and passion above reason and logic. But that’s incorrect – the heart is the center of both reason and emotion, practicality and passion. Listening to the heart certainly isn’t about being unreasonable or out of control in any way, but rather being at peace, centered, calm and connected to an inner wisdom we all possess if we will but listen.
To do that, as I mentioned the other day, one must silence the mind to some extent. Not ignore it…just get it to rest while we think with our hearts first. The mind is capable of exquisite creativity but it’s also bound to the physical aspects of life…with all its fears and uncertainties – will this work? Will I have enough? Will I succeed? But the heart cares only about our well-being (both physical and emotional), our happiness, and our spiritual growth and enlightenment. So how do we start to listen?
First, we have to consciously confront our bias in favor of the mind. Making decisions, we are almost certainly going to seek the rational and logical answer and ignore any intuition that suggests that might not be the best way to go. Intuition communicates an inner heart wisdom to us in many ways and we must recognize the signs in order to really listen. Have you ever made a logical decision about a career path, a relationship, an opportunity but had your stomach tie up in knots? Suddenly, you’re not so sure – some other center of knowing is giving us a different answer, suggesting that our decision may not ultimately be the right one. More often the heart speaks in hunches, sudden insights, or a profound certainty that is different from our analytical and linear resolution to our problem.
The first actual step toward listening and living from the heart, then, is to quiet the rational mind. How? Well, the ancients, especially in eastern thought and philosophy but also in Western religious thought, knew that one had to substitute one repetitive sound or thought for all the racing noisy thoughts that fill our heads all the time. Adopting a mantra (a Sanskrit word that means to “protect from or free from the mind.”) is a very effective way. Traditional mantras include the well known “Om” – a sacred syllable representing the source of life. Pronounced Aum with an extended resonating hum, this sound is one of the most natural to all human beings and combined with a technique of breathing in on the first part of the syllable and breathing out and holding the second part, this mantra can quickly rid the mind of extraneous thought, opening it to “hear” the messages from the heart. But you can accomplish this same purpose by repeating any single or double syllable word that you associate with something greater than the mind. Christians and Jews might use the Aramaic word “Abba” which means “father” or more intimately, “daddy.” It is considered one of the sacred names or titles of God.
Sitting comfortably with eyes closed and repeating some mantra is one of the first tools of meditation…and that’s the second step toward quieting the mind and opening the heart. I’m no expert and I’m not as consistent as I wish with meditation practice but I do have some thoughts and some guided meditations designed specifically to open the heart or “clear” the heart chakra. That’s where we’ll go next time – releasing the energy of the heart. I'll include a soundtrack for a guided meditation and some other suggestions for how to get started or improve your meditation practice. Till Tuesday then...I'll leave you with this profound truth from Franz Kafka -