Part 3 – From Head to Heart
In Part 2 we talked about Stillness, and placing your attention in your heart area (about in the center of your chest) as a way of calming the mind chatter that “disturbs your peace.” Perhaps this worked well for you and you are still happily “hearting” away. Or perhaps you tried it a couple of times and gave up or forgot about it because the results were not instantaneous or earth-shaking.
This is understandable because it is not an easy thing to do. The mind doesn’t want to focus its attention on the heart; it would rather spin its wheels and continue thinking it’s the one in charge; the one with all the right answers. If the truth be known, these lower minds of ours don’t care for this “stillness” business, and see no point in it.
In case your mind is having a little trouble remembering what stillness is good for, here’s a refresher: Stillness creates a calming and healing effect on all the cells of the body, offering the very best in stress reduction. Practicing stillness helps reduce automatic reactions to people and events and supports you in being calmly present in the moment.
Stillness allows an opportunity for our Creator’s Voice to get a Word in edgewise. And if that isn’t enough, practicing stillness helps those restless hamsters of yours to chill out. If your response is, “What hamsters?” please review Part 2.
Living from Our Head
Most of us in “civilized” culture have the long-standing habit of trying to run our lives from our heads – trying to figure it all out in advance. It is a pie-in-the-sky notion that doesn’t work very well in actuality. But we keep trying anyway because it is the only way we know, and we know it so well.
This is not to discredit all the contributions the mind has made to humanity over the centuries. It is important, however, to acknowledge what occurs when the mind, like a King without a Queen, refuses to share its dominion with the heart. All masculine (mind) without the balance of the feminine (heart) makes Jack a dangerous boy (or Jill a dangerous girl).
It looks to me like the mess we’ve created in the world is the direct result of too much head and not enough heart. In our attempts to control nature and other people, all manner of technological wonders have been created. Technology (mind) without compassion (heart) doesn’t usually solve the problems it purports to solve, and actually creates new problems, which the mind then rides out on its white horse again to try to fix.
Examples of this principle include things like bombs, chemicalized agriculture with genetically modified crops, building cities protected by levees, and drugs like thalidomide (caused birth defects). They appear to offer a solution in the short term, but eventually contribute to more (and usually bigger) problems in the future.
Not that you should immediately bring your mind in to the nearest recycling center – it does come in handy for such things as remembering where you left your car keys and balancing your checkbook, not to mention running a computer. As some wise person once said, “Don’t leave home without it!” (maybe that was an American Express card? Anyway, you get the idea.)
The trick is to use our heart and mind in balance when we are going about our daily activities and making choices each moment that will affect our future. This balance is particularly important when it comes to our relationship with ourselves, each other and with God. I will say more about this in a moment, but first I have a quick experiment for you.
A Brief Experiment
Take a moment right now and notice where the center of your awareness is in your body. Where does your primary sense of “I” or “me” live in your body? Hint: you are probably not sitting on it – but if you are, then drop your computer and go see your therapist immediately! Seriously, just bring your attention inside, and see where “you” live in there. If you’re not sure where you feel your awareness centered, check in at other times during the day and you will begin to get a sense of it.
If you can’t feel anything, there is a 99.99% probability that you are mostly centered in your head. Don’t worry – while it may be terminal if left to its own devices, it’s not incurable!
By now, you’ve probably discovered the secret location to be . . . (surprise!) in your head (unless you are a hormone-charged teenager, in which case it might be somewhere else . So what does this have to do with your life and your relationships?
Think of a recent time when you reacted in a negative or hurtful way to someone you love – something you were sorry for later (this is usually a no-brainer for most of us). Got one? Good! Now, see if you can recall, or sense, where you were “coming from” in your body at that moment. Was it head, heart?
If something “goes wrong” in your relationship with another, or you’re “beating yourself up” over something, you’re most likely coming from your head (or ego-mind), and you’re experiencing the results of action taken without consulting your heart. Said another way, a lot of suffering is created by the mind acting on its own, without the heart’s harmonizing influence.
So, how do you apply this wisdom in your daily life? As you have no doubt already discovered, it’s not an easy thing to change the head habit! But I’m here to tell you that if heart-centerd living is something you really want, it will gradually come to you with persistent practice. I’ve been consciously working on it for many years, and it gradually keeps getting better. Here are some suggestions.
- Practice bringing your awareness/attention into your heart area as often as you can think of it throughout the day (or night).
- When you go into prayer or meditation, see if you can enter into this space from your heart. If your relationship with your Creator is more conceptual (thinking), see if you can “feel” the Creator’s presence in your heart, and/or pray from your heart.
- When you feel stressed in any way (any time you feel the slightest bit of emotional discomfort), remember to bring your awareness into your heart and hold it there for a while. A new insight may come to you as you do this.
- When you feel the urge to blurt out something hurtful, or do anything you’ll later regret, do your best to:
- Recognize that something painful in you is being triggered (and that whatever you’re thinking will seem completely “justified”).
- Keep your mouth shut and your hands to yourself. If possible, remove yourself from the situation and find a place where you can “be still.”
- Bring your awareness into your heart (and keep bringing it back to your heart when your mind starts arguing). Keep your awareness in your heart until you feel your balance returning.
- Be aware of energy (emotions) in other parts of your body as well. The solar plexus or gut area is a common place to feel this. The key is to simply view the emotion as energy, while letting go of any “story” attached to it. Feel it and allow it to move without physically acting on it, or making it up into something it’s not. An example of a story might be anything that makes you or another other person out to be the bad one, or wrong in some way. Such stories keep the “problem” anchored in place.
- Ask your Higher Power to show you what your own inner needs are (that are not being met), and to guide you in healing your own pain.
Number 4 is usually a real challenge. Yet, with persistence , it will allow you to gradually open up your heart and bring enough healing to those painful parts to soothe their reactive nature. It will help you gain mastery over those old reactive patterns that have caused mischief in your life. And yes, it will help you find more stillness, peace and love, and to share it with others – the stuff that really matters in life!
Please seek professional assistance if you are stuck in a pattern that holds any violence to yourself or others, or if the emotions coming to the surface seem too big to handle on your own.
May you be well, be happy, and be in your heart!
Go to: Part 1 – Nature’s Attraction