Hearts & Minds #3

25th August 2011

Conclusion

What I have learnt is that I need balance between the two aspects of myself. For a long time I lived more in the head than in the heart, learning about and experiencing the world through reading, writing, studying: the processes of the mind. This was the most comfortable place for me because I had decided, from experience, to keep myself safe in a “bunker”. This made me hard to get to know, both for myself and for others.

I talked with a friend recently about the changes I had been through, and how I was now much more comfortable with experiencing and knowing what I felt, both the “good” and the “bad”. He is in a different place, not at all comfortable with being in his feelings and, in fact, questioning whether it is worth going to that place at all. That is, of course, a choice for him to make, but I am often struck how people who need to project strength in many aspects of their lives shrink from this challenge.  They ask “What is the point? These feelings are too difficult and painful”  My answer to that is to look at pain, sadness, joy and love as all aspects of the same thing – to know love and joy, you must know what it is not to have love and joy, ergo you must know pain and sadness (which are, surely, their lack).  Therefore to experience life, we come to know sadness, joy, loss and love.

This is not about suffering for the sake of it, but rather knowing ourselves truly through the experiences that we create for ourselves. Mystics of all religions, who come to know God in their practice, talk of an indescribable joy and unconditional love when they connect with their Christ or Buddha etc. What then is the opposite of these qualities? It strikes me that the answer can be found in the despair, pain, sadness and fear that characterizes some aspects of life as a human being. Each of us has our own share of these experiences, in different shapes and sizes, and by truly knowing and accepting them in our hearts we create the possibility to truly know and accept in our hearts everything that exists in polarity to them.

From my own perspective, the function of the mind is to direct the focus of our awareness and consciousness, and to process experience and information into knowledge. In directing awareness and consciousness, the mind can also focus the energy of the heart. It is as if the energy of the heart is water, and the energy of the mind is a container – without water the container is empty, without the container the water lacks focus and form. There is therefore a mutuality in the aspects of heart and mind, each giving the other a quality which enhances and enlivens. However, it is the heart where true wisdom and trust lies; centering your life and the decisions you make in the mind alone is – in my view – to ignore our love for life, in whatever shape or form it takes.

Finally, living life from the heart allows us to feel empathy and compassion for ourselves and more importantly others. Neurologists may rationalize our response to natural disasters as a “series of chemical interactions” in our brain, but that ignores the reality that many of us know: love for ourselves, for families and friends, and for each other is centred in our hearts; our brains are merely playing catch-up.

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