While dining at a restaurant I encountered a human angel named Gabrielle. She was the consummate hostess with a sunny disposition, and I couldn't help but notice the words tattooed on her arm:
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eyes."
It is a quote from a book called The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I got goose bumps as I allowed myself to sit with the truth of this statement. For the last several years I have been consciously working with my heart's intelligence. I have found that every aspect of life improves when I allow my decisions and choices to be heart-centered. Even when I don't necessarily understand the "logic" of the situation, when I follow the directives of my heart, I am always amazed at how well things turn out beyond anything I could have imagined.
What is heart intelligence? For me, it is the deepest wisdom I have available. It is a flow of information inside me that leads to profound understanding about myself and directs me to effectively navigate the mountains, valleys, rivers and oceans that are my life experience. Heart intelligence has the ability to answer all the questions we have about ourselves and to know what is best for us.
Beyond the physical heart, which beats our unique rhythm and regulates all of our body systems, the heart is the center of our body's electromagnetic field or energy system. It is the intuitive intelligence that connects us to the Infinite and guides us toward our best possible life. It gives us the energy to follow our inner voice and move toward our dreams and passions.
Many people are afraid to live with an open heart because they feel it leaves them vulnerable and increases their chances of getting hurt. However, it also leaves them with a decreased capacity to experience the fullness of life and love. It the heart is closed, it is difficult for anything to get in or out. When we shut our hearts, we cut off valuable communication with ourselves and we lose opportunities to live life at its most beautiful, joyful and powerful. Sometimes we miss out on the most amazingly fulfilling experiences that come our way due to the shallowness, fear and callousness that breeds and grows when our hearts are closed. So even when love does come knocking, we have lost the ability to even recognize it. It's like looking for light and fresh air in a dark, musty, windowless basement.
We have all made decisions where we purposely went against the advice of our hearts, fearing we were being foolish and would ultimately be disappointed. As a result, many of us found that instead of flowing toward happiness, we were filled with regret for missing an opportunity our hearts tried to lead us toward or perhaps even remorse because we hurt ourselves or others in the process.
Singer Alanis Morissette said it best as I recall: "It is when I am my most vulnerable that I am most powerful."
How can we activate and utilize our heart's intelligence? Here are some simple exercises that have worked for me:
1. Quiet the mind through a meditative or relaxation practice. Then, while lying down or sitting comfortably, simply place both hands on your heart and ask a question about your life. Let the answer come to you in the silence.
2. Practice a physical posture of heart openness by sitting or standing erect with chest out and shoulders back and focus your attention on your heart in the center of your chest. Feel it beating. Take a deep breath and breathe into your heart space. Now notice how different this feels compared to when you slouch. Acknowledging the heart's presence in this way begins to get you acquainted with its variety of feelings. Ahhh, you can almost feel your heart take a breath of fresh air. This is a particularly valuable exercise to do when we feel hurt or heartbroken. It allows us to keep our heart open no matter what and makes us appreciate how powerful and resilient we are.
3. Use the power of intention. Before going to sleep at night, ask your heart what it wants. "Heart, what is it that you want?" Then pay attention to your dreams or any insights you have upon waking. This process can be repeated until you have an answer or clue about your next steps. Be patient and consider getting a dream journal to keep near your bed to jot down any dream memories or feelings before they fade. Sometimes the details of a dream that seems insignificant will cause an AHA moment when reread at a later time. Other times, the answer will come in steps over time like a jigsaw puzzle coming together.
4. For those of you who prefer a guided meditation or even workshops, there is useful information on the Internet, library or bookstore ripe for exploring.
5. Finally, courage and patience are so very necessary! We live in a world where doing what others expect and have decided is "right" is seen as honorable. It often takes time to get used to following the voice within and learning to live authentically. We may have second thoughts or doubts about the guidance we receive. And EVEN when we know what we've heard our hearts say is true, we may be afraid to follow its guidance because it may seem out of character or upset the status quo. However, as the saying goes, "the truth will set you free!" Once you get used to accessing, honoring and living from your personal truth you will never want to live any other way.
When we learn and allow ourselves to think with our hearts, it brings balance to our logical mind, which is often overworked and over-appreciated as our only source of intelligence. Heart intelligence puts us in the zone where we are able to make choices from a place of freedom and self-trust rather than ego-based ideas such as fear, greed, arrogance and lust. Thinking with our hearts is the new intelligence.
Listen to Akoshia's prescriptions for improved relationships with self and others, streaming live radio, every Saturday at www.whcr.org when she presents her segment "Today's Lesson," at 7 p.m. EST on "A Lesson In Affection" with host Mark Lo playing the best in love songs from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. EST. Podcasts are available at http://lessoninaffection.podomatic.com
For more by Akoshia Yoba, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.