Several weeks ago, a friend and I were talking, and in the conversation, I mentioned that I try to live a heart centered life. For the first time instead of nodding, or affirming what I said, my friend simply asked, “What does that mean?”, “What does that look like?”. My brain immediately kicked in and I began to answer, but something stopped me. I knew what the answer was for me, but I was not sure if I was about to explain it that way, because in that moment my head was in charge. Instead, I paused and took a few deep breaths, and did the very thing I just claimed I do, I answered from my heart, not my brain. In the end we had a great discussion, and while total understanding may not have been achieved, leading with my heart made it more meaningful for both of us. I thought I would share some of that discussion as it really helped me clarify to myself, what all this really meant to me.
What it isn’t
Living a heart centered life is not about being passive, accommodating, or having weak or non-existent boundaries. Each of those approaches to life are sometimes valid, sometimes not, but they are separate from the act of living heart centered. The challenge we have is the confusion we sometimes feel when caught up in situations where we are conflicted. Connecting with my heart allows me to intuit my best approach if I’m confused, or when I have strong emotions that are playing out. The key is that the heart is not really attached to any outcome other than what is in alignment with the universe. Sometimes that means taking a very passive position, sometimes it means being more vulnerable than you might be comfortable with, but at other times it could mean just the opposite. Taking an active role, which may be unpopular, but still in alignment, is living a heart centered life. Holding a firm boundary that upsets others, but is still in alignment, is also heart centered. These are the times you will question yourself and your motives. Good! If you sit quietly and see how you feel, and it feels right, then hold firm. Your mind will over analyze, and some of the many subconscious programs you have picked up throughout your life will chime in as well. Don’t listen.
What it is
As we live through those moments where it’s important to lead with our heart, you will begin to understand something quite profound. At least I did, though it took a few years. What I realized is that living a heart centered life is a 24/7, 365 days a year kinda thing. It may start out helping with big decisions, or big reactions, but in the end, it should always be the default mode you function in. I am not saying the mind has no place in your life, it absolutely does. It can be a wonderful co-pilot providing insights into events and even oneself that can be invaluable. And there is nothing wrong with letting it take the wheel from time to time when it feels right. Over time you will find when the heart leads, and the mind supports, that's when the magic happens in our lives.
Sounds easy right? It isn’t. Like everything else in life, it is a process, a learning and unlearning that will take time. The biggest challenge we all face in this journey are the times we will fail, and we will fail a lot. Leading with your heart effectively takes time and effort, and above all else, persistence. It’s like developing sea legs when sailing. In rough seas you are going to stumble and fall a lot, but you’ll get there eventually. As you start out you are going to make decisions you think are heart centered but are not. Meaning you are not in alignment with the universe, and you are likely in alignment with your self wants or needs. Sometimes these things will end poorly, and people might feel hurt, and that you hurt them. While I know these times are very difficult for anyone, you can’t let those failures deter you. These are the moments you really need to look at yourself carefully, objectively, and above all else compassionately. Apologize, seek forgiveness, and try again next time. A famous quote by Stephan McCranie comes to mind, “The Master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried”. Remember, failure is just as much of a gift as a success.
As we were finishing up our discussion, my friend and I realized just how difficult it can be to live a heart centered life in a society that promotes analytics, cost benefit, and risk-reward in nearly every decision made. If the Universe was a mathematician, that might work. 😊 However, even though the Universe may organize mathematically, it runs on love. Leading with our minds can put us in conflict with our true selves, and the universe we live in. As we seek our way out of this disconnect, be kind to yourself, and forgive your mistakes. Use empathy, compassion, and gratitude in dealing with others, and yourself. Most of us have grown up with our minds in charge, and our hearts regulated to a silenced advisor. Robin Sharma said it best, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master”. It's time to make a change.