Emotional Wisdom series

The Heart as our Compass in Times of Great Change

We live in a time of great change and uncertainty. The turbulence of a warming climate, the polarity of our social structure, the unravelling of the fabric of community and a growing feeling of disconnection.  All this can lead us to a sense of anxiety, overwhelm, frustration or grief.  And these feelings are rife in the field of our communities. What is the compass we can call on to navigate through the inexorable changes and challenges of our times? 

It is the guidance and courage of the Heart.       

As humans we have a deep desire to create a sense of lasting certainty and security. We’ve been taught that if we just get the right job, the right home, the right partner, the right car, the right acknowledgement, then we will feel satisfied and safe. Yet in the face of the unpredictability of life, and the ever-present prospect of loss, this sense of safety constantly eludes us. As long as we cling to certainty, attempting to control our life with the power of the mind, we feel an underlying sense of unease or outright fear.   

As modern people we have become entranced with the cognitive mind and its child, Technology…

At the same time we have been given a resource to navigate the inherent uncertainty of life — the intelligence and guidance of the heart. When our mind is entrained to the heart we are able to move with the ebb and flow of our emotions, our relationships, the weather, the seasons and the unpredictable and wild events of our lives.   

For millennia the indigenous peoples and wisdom traditions of the world have all taught one fundamental truth: our heart is the portal connecting us to the Divine, the source of our wisdom, and the compass by which we can navigate the inexorable tides of change. As modern people we have become entranced with the cognitive mind and its child, Technology, and we have forgotten how to listen to the guidance of the heart. 

Of course, instinctively we do know that the heart is a source of intuitive wisdom. It is part of our popular culture:  we listen to songs, watch movies and read books that all counsel us to “follow your heart”.  But what does that actually mean and how do we do it? Very few of us are ever taught how to listen to the deeper knowing of the heart, how to understand its language. On the contrary, a pervasive and powerful bias in our western culture towards the superiority of the mind in making decisions determines our response to life.    

Courage is an inherent quality of heart-connection.

Even as we strive for this deeper heart-connected wisdom, we can become confused. For instance, when we hear the advice to “follow our heart”.  Our personal heart does not provide our guidance.  Our heart is the portal, the conduit, to the Common Heart, the Divine Awareness alive within all, the source of guidance beyond the grasp of our personal perspective or identity. Of course, we connect to that larger intelligence through ‘our’ heart but seeking the wisdom of our ‘personal heart’ can often be a way for the ego-mind to masquerade as the voice of the heart and re-assert its own agenda.  

Our mind is a wonderfully effective and creative resource for us and deserves respect. However, when it becomes un-tethered from the guidance of the heart, as it does in our mind-privileged culture, our decisions and responses are based on our fear of pain and loss and a desire for safety and control.  With the mind’s primary concern of protecting us by managing uncertainty, we have little or no incentive to support the energy consuming, transformative endeavors that are called for as we undergo the challenges and lessons that life demands of us.   

On the other hand, from the heart arise the spontaneous wisdom and the courage we need to face these challenges. Courage is an inherent quality of heart-connection. It naturally appears in the face of fear when we are rooted in heart awareness. It is not about being fearless. Change is scary. Instead, we hone our capacity to connect to our heart, look fear in the face and move into the mystery with the heart-connected courage    that is our birthright.   

We need to draw our focus away from the seductive allure of the mind…

Within our cultural climate of reverence for cognitive intelligence it can sometimes seem fanciful that an intelligent heart can provide us with effective guidance. However, many scientific studies now reveal a network of millions of neurons residing in the heart. These neurons have the capacity for both short and long-term memory, constantly sending signals to the mind that influence our perception, our mental clarity and our ability to take decisive action without requiring mental cognition. The design of our organism allows for our mind to be entrained to our heart and that is when we function most effectively. 

So how do we entrain the mind to the heart?  

We need to draw our focus away from the seductive allure of the mind, with its promise of providing the answer, and drop down into a deeper, quieter place within. We can begin to learn the language of our heart and how it communicates with us because it is not the same for everyone. We need to practice.   

Here is a simple practice that you can use to connect to your heart’s guidance: 

  • Set aside a little time when you can sit quietly and focus – even as little as 5 minutes is okay so you don’t need to use lack of time as an excuse.   
  • Light a candle if possible: the energy of fire supports us to connect to heart. 
  • Connect with the natural rhythm of your breath, allowing it to deepen a little. 
  • Bring your attention to any people, living beings, or situations that you are grateful for or that you love. Allow yourself to really feel the sensation of gratitude or love and notice where you feel it in you body.   
  • Your attention and energy will now most likely be focused in the area of your heart.  If it is not, you can put your hand on your heart or simply bring your awareness to that area with the help of the breath. 
  • Now choose an issue or challenge that you would like to receive guidance about.  
  • Begin by bringing some heart-connected compassion for wherever you find yourself in relation to this situation.   
  • If you find your mind wondering, use the breath to help reconnect you to the heart.  It may help to imagine breathing in and out through your heart.   
  • Now, ask the heart one or more of these questions, whichever resonate for you:  
  • “What do you know about this situation?” 
  • “What would be a more effective perspective for me to take?” 
  • “What direction can you show me here?”  
  • “What next steps might I take?”  
  • Listen, feel, see what arises. The heart may communicate through images, words, feelings or a simple sense of knowing.   
  • You may receive specific guidance, a shift or perspective, a state of being, or the heart will often communicate through silence. This is not a failure to find guidance. Silence or stillness is a gift in itself. Sometimes the guidance will come later in another situation or interaction. 
  • Take a moment now to feel the warmth of your heart and radiate that healing, enlivening energy to yourself, to others you care about, to others in the world. 
  • Now it is time to honor what you have received without second guessing it with the mind.  Move forward in your life, informed by this experience, and see how the living world responds to you.   

If you would like to experience this process in the form of a guided meditation you can stream The Heart Awareness Journey at no charge here.  If you live in Southern California you may want to consider participating in the Being Human in times of Great Change workshop on transitions, which you can check out here 

 

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