I recently finished reading a book that consistently brought me back to the importance of learning to shift awareness to the heart instead of emphasizing the brain—to perceive the world through heart intelligence rather than just cognitively. The book is called “The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature,” by Stephen Buhner. The book reminded me of the importance of heart perception in the workings of intuition and also direct sensory awareness of the world around me.
Because of the reminders in the book, I have returned to my practice of HeartMath (www.heartmath.org). It’s a practice that helps me to remember what many cultures haven’t forgotten– that heart intelligence and perception are natural aspects of our human intelligence and perception. Even with all the years of practice with various forms of meditation, intuitive experience, HeartMath and Tonglen practice, I still have times when I think of my “seat of consciousness” in my forehead, even as I feel the constant, enlivened presence of heart awareness. For those of you who consistently place your seat of consciousness, your sense of identity, in your heart, I thank you on behalf of those of us who still have to make consistent this most important shift in where we experience our consciousness arising.
One of the challenges we face collectively at this time is that our Western worldview emerges from a linear perspective of reality, one that actually doesnst accurately reflect nature or our own body-mind processes. Both reality and nature are much more fluid and distinctly non-linear than our Western sciences have historically conceptualized. Discoveries in quantum physics are helping to shift this worldview, but it will take time for Western thinking to catch up to what these discoveries reveal about reality—a worldview that indigenous people have never lost.
From a practical perspective at this present time, our need for an emphasis on kindness is both urgent and immediate. All one has to do is spend a small amount of time on the Internet to discover that kindness seems to have fallen out of favor in daily discourse in many places in the world. When we are able to shift into heart intelligence and perception, kindness and a sense of connection emerge automatically, spontaneously. The key is to find the practices that work best for you and then to make a commitment to work with them each day. Living from the heart doesnst mean becoming passive or willing to accept whatever other people may do. Rather, when living from the heart, it becomes impossible to experience anyone as an “other”, even though you might vehemently disagree with them or disapprove of their actions.
For this week’s experiment, I invite you to begin to explore heart-centered practices of whatever kind and, if you already engage these, ramp up your awareness of those times when you may drop out of your heart-intelligence. Here are some simple ideas you might choose to play with, if yousre unfamiliar with this kind of practice:
• Notice what happens if you develop a habit of asking yourself, “What would my heart say about this?” “What would my heart ask me to do about this?” “What would be different in my response if my heart were to guide me through my choices?”
• Explore what it’s like to spend some time breathing in and out through your heart. This is an aspect of both HeartMath and the Buddhist practice of Tonglen, and it may surprise you to notice how quickly your body-mind can settle when you spend a few moments focusing on breathing in and out through your heart.
• Another element of the HeartMath process is to bring to mind an image or memory of something that touches on affection, love, gratitude. Also, there are many gratitude practices that open the heart so if you already do a gratitude practice, add in a deeper awareness of your heart perception as you do it. One way to imagine this is to sense that you literally drop down into your heart and notice what impressions arise, during your gratitude practice, heart-focused breathing, or other practices.
• For many of us, mindfulness meditation approaches have helped us learn to ignore the often-constant chatter from the mind. Heart-centered practices are supported by the ability to ignore our tendency to try to understand or make logical sense of our experience. The heart receives sensory and intuitive input from the world around us in every moment. Allow yourself to play with your way of receiving and perceiving this constantly arising flow of information.
As always, remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion. It automatically supports being open to the world around you. And, be sure to pat any judgments gently on the head as they arise and give them lots of room to keep moving right on through.