Updated: Nov 6, 2020
When you think of the heart, what qualities come to mind?
Care, compassion, love, gratitude, or something different?
Other heart qualities that typically come up are courage and the ability to overcome difficult situations. The heart’s qualities have been attributed to heroic stories of survival and perseverance for decades. Frequently these qualities show up during insurmountable circumstances.
The majority of people have experienced these qualities many times in their lives, which raises an interesting question. Why do we ignore the power of the heart? The short answer is we think our way away from its gifts.
The minute we are born, we connect to the world through the heart. Our survival as an infant is dependent on it. An infant has an intuitive way of feeling into the world — he or she cries when they are hungry and smiles at their mother’s face.
Our thinking brain and the ability to take in information develops at an early age. The information we receive and interpret keeps us safe, teaching us how to be a productive person in the world. It is in our nature to be communal, and we learn strategies and tactics that we perceive will create those connections.
There was a time when being eaten by a Sabre-tooth Tiger was a realistic possibility — we have evolved unimaginably since then. However, the wiring in our nervous system is still the same.
Our internal wiring helps us stay safe and survive. Contained in that wiring are transmitters, receptors and neural pathways that regulate our bodies.
Our parents take on the role of passing on the necessary skills to survive and become our first sense of community. When done healthily, a child can develop into a happy, emotionally regulated adult. Unfortunately, many of us still experience unhealthy information as we grow.
Perhaps a child is sent to their room when having a tantrum, sending the message that anger is not tolerated in the family and that if they express it, they will be banished to suffer alone.
Children’s number one need is acceptance and connection, so incidents such as this will wire the brain to suppress the anger to maintain connection, therefore creating a maladaptive pattern — a behavioural pattern that stops one from adapting to new or difficult circumstances. These stories prevent us from experiencing a real sense of freedom.
This all happens on a subconscious level and grows roots deep into our patterns of behaviour. Without us even knowing it, they will prevent us from showing up in life the way we truly desire.
For example, a person may feel angry or frustrated at their partner about something that crossed a boundary. The words are on the tip of the tongue but won’t come out. The anger and frustration shift to fear, and strategies are created to regulate the discomfort, kicking in to save the day. A person can isolate (be alone). In some cases, so much tension is built that an explosion of unexplained rage occurs over something seemingly small.
When these patterns root in our behaviours, especially when unaware of them, it can be impossible to overcome them and create the life we truly desire.
Freedom can be an internal experience rather than just an external one.
Understanding that patterns are at the root of our challenges opens us to a new way of thinking and feeling. We know the mind has many gifts and is a useful tool, but it does not hold most of the answers. If we can start to see the strategies and align with our feelings, we can create the foundation for tackling and breaking our maladaptive patterns.
The heart is wise. It has over 40,000 neuroreceptors surrounding it that are in communication with the brain. Eighty percent of the information between the two points flows from the heart towards the brain. How many times have you talked yourself out of taking action that would move you closer to something your heart desired?
It happens all the time.
What will it take for you to listen to your heart’s intelligence?
The idea of listening to your heart may seem foreign at first. Many who attempt to engage in this for the first time find it difficult and extremely uncomfortable.
This difficulty becomes a choice point — you can move closer to the discomfort and try again, or you can move away from it, say the practice is not for you and list twenty-five reasons why.
I feel compelled to share about an experience one of my clients had during a coaching session. When I asked her to bring her attention to her heart, she began to weep. The connection evoked a strong emotion in her. After the two-minute practice, I asked her what she noticed at that moment. She reported, “It was like meeting myself for the first time — I was overwrought with joy.”
People report many different experiences when connecting with the heart. Almost all report feeling a sense of hope — hope of a new opportunity to tap into a wiser intelligence and shift away from feeling that something is missing.
When you are committing to living a heart-based life leads to a freedom that is challenging to explain. One person said, “To truly understand it’s something that needs to be had as an experience. Once you touch your heart, it is impossible to go back.”
What will you do to start your journey home to the heart?