Sitting in Central Park listening to early morning birdsong, surrounded by the gift of lush green and inhaling the fragrance of Locust trees laden with their summer flowers, I find myself soaking it all in with a grateful heart. With so much strife and suffering in the world, these quiet moments with nature represent a powerful gift, a time of restoration and deep nourishment.
As I sit here, my thoughts turn to a conversation I had recently with a group of colleagues. We were talking about practices that enhance a focus on heart intelligence and heart perception, and how different a heart-based orientation is when compared to experiencing the world primarily through a head, or brain-based, orientation.
Thinking with the heart has become a theme I return to again and again in these practices, most probably because I feel it’s one of the most important shifts we can make to impact how we move through the world. I say this because of the difference in the quality of what we see, how we feel, and how we interpret what comes our way when we do so from the heart rather than just the head. It’s not that we don’t need our cognitive skills to negotiate the world skillfully and successfully. Problems arise when we think solely with our cognitive capacities and leave out the connection-oriented perspective of the heart.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to track, perhaps even more than you do already, when you are thinking with your head and when you are thinking with your heart. I’ve mentioned before how helpful it can be to ask what your heart thinks about something when you can’t find a solution or can’t understand something. It’s almost always a surprise to notice how differently the heart understands things compared to what the head might say.
Because our culture doesn’t cultivate heart-centered perception, shifting to it can require quite a bit of mindful awareness to catch ourselves when we are left with only our cognitive understanding of something. One way to support building a habit of including heart perception is to regularly ask yourself, “What would my heart say about this?” Or “What does my heart think of this?” Then, notice if any different or new perceptions or understandings arise. When you can have a more integrated head and heart kind of perception, you may find that your experience and understanding of situations and problems becomes clearer in a new way and reveals more options than you have with head awareness alone.
Many times I’ve offered links to resources that support heart-centered perception and practice, and here they are again. For me, shifting to heart intelligence is one of the things we most deeply need at this time in our history and it’s a matter of returning to the heart again and again, as I do in these practices, to help us remember that our culture is missing one of the most important sources of perception and understanding that we have available. So, here are some of those resources again:
HeartMath Institute: https://www.heartmath.com
Tonglen: From my website: https://www.nancynapier.com/1999/01/06/one-version-of-tonglen-meditation/
From YouTube – Pema Chodron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_XPJhGwjbU
As with all these practices, allow yourself to discover what works best for you. Nothing is right for everyone, so let yourself find the heart-centered practices that bring the experience alive in you. And, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion, as it supports being open to new discoveries.