What's Guiding You - Head or Heart?
The other day I was driving and all of a sudden I became aware that I was fighting some sort of mental|emotional battle. I was worrying, overthinking, doubting - everything. That's why I was feeling so uncomfortable.
Then came a momentary insight that went like this, "Oh, I'm anxious. Be anxious - that's what you are experiencing right now."
As soon as I stopped fighting the anxious feeling and I said that to myself, it took the edge off and I got to just be that way.
It's wild when we see just how all-encompassing the sway of the mind has been. Having gotten real with what I was feeling, I had a little more wiggle room to explore what all was underneath and the chance to reconnect with my heart.
Just reconnecting with the physical sensations around my heart was enough to bring clarity and a sense of compassion.
In many traditions, the heart is considered both literally and figuratively "The Guide", and there are practices to cultivate an awareness of this intelligence.
Over the past few decades, scientists have gathered data that shows us the heart is far more than we'd ever imagined. There's now scientific evidence that the heart sends us emotional and intuitive signals to help govern our lives.
Beyond it's physical functions, the heart links us to a higher intelligence - we've known this for a long time, i.e. "the heart knows" "follow your heart."
Somewhat recently, neuroscientists have made a discovery. They found that there are at least forty thousand neurons in the heart sending information to the brain - not only the other way around. It's referred to as "the brain in the heart."
The heart talks to the brain and the body in 4 ways:
- nervous system connections
- hormones produced in the heart itself
- biomechanical information via blood pressure waves
- it has the strongest electrical and electromagnetic field in the body
Heart awareness involves discerning the difference between the head and the heart and observing how differently we perceive the world around us when we're in contact with heart intelligence.
Our minds operates in a linear, logical manner that is awesome in many situations. Part of the deal is that it never stops - believe me I know, I hear ya - it's okay.
Awarenessing of the heart, we feel more in control, our minds become more focused and we view life from a more helpful perspective.
"Hold up" you might say. "I've listened to my heart before and gotten stepped on."
It's so human to look back on an emotional experience and, thinking that it was our vulnerability that got us there, guard ourselves. This way of thinking often leads to a misguided defensiveness that cuts us off from the powerful wisdom of our hearts.
It's more accessible than you might think to listen to the signals of the heart.
We're wired for head and heart communication - right down to the biological level.
The phrase, “listen to your heart” takes on a literal meaning as we discover that the heart relays information to the brain.
This is an effective way to put our reactive minds and emotions in check and it’s an in-house source of common sense solutions!
Step by Step:
Take a time out and feel what it's really like to be you right now - be real, it's just between you and you.
Consider an aspect of your life that is stressful.
Recognize your automatic reaction to it and feel it in the heart physically before letting it become a story in the head - just keep putting your focus on the heart area in your chest.
Make a sincere effort to shift your focus away from the racing mind that is stimulated by any reactions - keep your focus around your heart for 10-40 seconds straight and see what happens.
Now, using your intuition, common sense and sincerity, ask your heart - What would be a more efficient response to the situation, one that would minimize future stress and bring the most positive outcome?
When we realize that for years our mind has been swindling us schemes that aren't real, it's amazing - because then we can practice introspection with equanimity of this moment. In this moment, a lot reveals itself as hollow and starts to crumble.
Getting lost in the head is a habit that's hard to break. But because we really want to be in a more peaceful, clear state of awareness - we try.
To discover the wise guide of our heart, we plummet into the depths of silence, listen to and learn what we might not have otherwise.
By sitting with our hearts this way we communicate to our minds qualities like non-judgment and patience - which is often accompanied by a peaceful and clear state of awareness.
After all we close our eyes, nudge the volume down on the day-to-day thoughts and enjoy a widening of the mind.