“The longest journey you will ever take is from your head to your heart.”
This proverb has been repeated by many over the years. Some say it was a Native American Sioux saying. Others say it was by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, or even the former Anglican archbishop Donald Coggan. Present in so many traditions, this idea seems to speak to a core wisdom of our shared human journey. We know intuitively that we need to live with heart if we are to experience a full and meaningful life.
In the quest for inner peace, we come to understand that our busy, thinking minds are not going to bring us the happiness we seek. The intellect is important and its electric speed is an immense gift from Nature for us to use wisely. But if it is not tempered with the compassionate awareness of the heart, then we miss out on the fullness of the moment and our connection with others.
Nature is a loving mentor, which we access fully when we are open, ready and willing. Now, in touch with our mentor, the journey begins in earnest. The transition from head to heart is part of the threshold we cross on our way to finding our inner peace sanctuary, because ultimately the heart is the home of peace within us.
The Heart Centre
You have probably heard the phrase “get to the heart of the matter”. No one would say “get to the mind of the matter”. We understand that the heart is our vital core. In yogic teachings, the heart centre is known as the anahata (“unstruck bell” in Sanskrit) chakra. This energy centre is about learning to transcend your personal needs, which are expressed and supported in the three energy centers of your lower body. At the heart centre, you tap into the transpersonal and unconditional. It is the place of alchemy where the personal meets the universal.
For some, connecting with the heart is easy. For others, those who have learned to rely on their intellect to get through life, or who have been wounded in the past and have their defences sky-high, it can be terrifying. There is a softening in being heart-centered that may seem threatening. But it awakens you to greater possibilities, and helps you tap into your true source of power: Nature’s compassionate presence. If you have been relying on your intellectual ability to feel in control and figure it all out, the idea of dialing that down for a more open, connected state can feel as though you are losing your safety and bearings in the world. You may even feel as though you will be attacked—or even die.
The way through these intense feelings of fear and resistance is radical acceptance. In this deeply therapeutic practice, you accept that you do feel afraid to open and trust your heart, however much you wish you didn’t. You unconditionally accept yourself the way Nature does. This includes forgiving any past circumstances that may have triggered fear and resistance in the first place. You also accept that those past circumstances are in the past, not in the here and now, though you have the tendency to project them onto this moment.
When you look deeper, the sobering truth is that part of you gets something out of hanging onto old patterns. Perhaps it is a sense of control, or of reassuring your ego in its belief that you are a separate being, a victim to life or hard done by in some way. When you accept that you have that impulse, you set yourself free because you let go of the compulsion to keep following that impulse. You accept the temporary discomfort of moving into the new. You accept the loss of perceived control and increased vulnerability. This acceptance is the loving force of Nature, of the unconditionally accepting Earth that has given you every cell of your being and that totally has your back.
This acceptance is not something you can cogitate. Your heart, not your mind, is the home of radical acceptance. I like to think of the heart as God’s living room, where you open to welcome the divine in each moment. It is a place of great alchemy, where the lead of your old stories transform into the gold of compassionate understanding and true power. Its nature is infinite spaciousness and everlasting light. In your heart, you can find room for even the deepest pain, the most wrenching fear.
Open The Closed Doors
Behind every door within you that your mind has slammed shut is not a monster waiting to devour you, but your own vital energy, closed off from you due to fearful misperceptions. You cannot force these doors open. Nor can you figure them out intellectually like a logic puzzle. Only your heart has the power to soften your resistance so that you open them willingly, accept what lies behind them, and reclaim your whole self in all its inherent goodness.
If you are willing to soften and no longer resist the journey from head to heart, you will learn tremendously valuable lessons, gifts that become irrevocable parts of your very essence. See if you can go deeper into yourself to touch that which is timeless, expansive and whole. Try to move beyond your usual perspective on situations. Just on the other side of your habits lie tremendous possibilities. Your heart is the way. Go there.
Between now and next week, find a quiet and safe place where you feel you can be vulnerable and honest with yourself. Then ask yourself the following questions, and answer as candidly and openly as possible:
• How do I feel about going from my head to my heart?
• What does it feel like when I do so?
• Are there places in me that fear being present and in my heart?
• When I go there, what do I feel? What do I see?
• Why do I have this fear? What is the payoff I get from holding on to it?
• Are there parts of me I struggle to accept? What are they and how come?
• Am I willing to see that part of me gets a payoff from not liking them?
• Am I willing to see that my imperfections don’t make me bad, but human?
• Can I begin to soften now and find compassionate acceptance for all aspects of myself, even the ones I don’t like?