Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Listening To Our Hearts

How often have you had a discussion with someone, looking for advice from them, and you’ve heard them say, “Just follow your heart.” If you haven’t heard this personally then perhaps you’ve heard it in a movie or a song.

I used to think that such an answer was flaky and unstable, and therefore without much merit at all. I thought it sounded too fairy-like. But things have changed.

There is a song by The Ragamuffin Band that says the following: “If I ever learn what my heart already knows, and not feel the hurt that I wear on my sleeve, but the laughter that burns inside my soul. Let the child come alive and drive away these ghosts. You know my head ain’t even close to what my heart already knows.” In another spot, they sing “With your hand you wrote upon my heart, what my head has yet to believe.”

Can we trust our feelings? Can we trust what our heart is telling us? For a few years I have heard of the concept of having your mind “descended into the heart” but I think I need to recommit to this, to listening to how I’m feeling.

You can only truly do this if you accept yourself and give your heart room to breathe. You can not listen properly to your heart if you’re always suspicious of it.

A question must be asked, “Am I my beliefs, or does my identity lay somewhere else?” Rich Mullins, a singer who headed up The Ragamuffin Band before his passing in 1997, wrote the following in his song Creed: “And I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am.” For me, this rings hollow, to think that what I am at my core is a set of beliefs I hold. In an earlier song, he speaks against listening to your heart: “Boy you just follow your heart? But my heart just led me into my chest.”

I think that there is a suspicion of the heart among many people for probably centuries. It goes along with a frowning upon of the body and sexual experience. I think the big question, or at least one of them is: “What is humankind’s condition at his/her core?” I used to believe that each of us was sinful and fell short of what we were supposed to be. Even though there was a belief system that was supposed to make up for this (for me, the system was Christianity and the death and resurrection of Jesus) I always seemed to be looking for a way out of my sinful self. I found myself cut off from my heart and my body. And what resulted? I began to live firmly entrenched within my mind. This is one of the big reasons why I found myself riddled with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. My mind was overworking when really my heart has been trying to talk to me.

I now believe that we are naturally good, that we are original blessings. Therefore our hearts and bodies are also good things, wondrous things.

How do we learn to rediscover our hearts all over again? I suggest two ways. Firstly, by taking a few moments each day to simply sit still with yourself and breathe, trying to not think of anything. This can seem daunting at first - I myself find this hard - but as thoughts pop up in your busy mind about what you “should” be doing, or about the days events, simply let the thought go and concentrate on your breath. Perhaps, if it helps, you can place your hand over your heart. I suggest doing this at least once a day, even for 5-10 minutes. Or perhaps doing it at the beginning of your day and at the end before curl up with your Snuggie and go to bed. Secondly, another way to reconnect with your heart is to do something creatively or immerse yourself in beauty. This may involve taking a walk and looking at the trees, looking at a full moon, singing your favourite song. It may involved making love with your partner.

If you’re like me, your mind could use the break. I believe the mind can also be a beautiful thing but it’s in the heart where true life resides and where we meet God, or Spirit, or Divine Mother (which I prefer). Just as our minds can become sick, so can our hearts. Perhaps yours has been broken as you’ve travelled through life. But there is help, and there is healing available for you.

Wherever you are at this point in your life, I hope that you can take time to listen to your heart.