Follow your heart. We hear it said over and over. But how do you even know what your heart is saying?
How do you know it’s your heart you are listening to and not some other aspect of yourself misguiding you? What if your heart is closed and you can’t hear it?
A new subscriber sent me this subtle and interesting question this week. It was so good I decided to devote this week’s post to answering it. Here’s his question:
“How can we follow the heart if it appears closed? Are we subtly prompted through the mind until we fully reconnect with it and choose to open it and follow it again?”
Some keys to the answer are embedded in the question itself.
One key is in the word “appears.” The heart appears closed but is never really closed. Openness is its true condition, its natural state, and it never forgets how to do this.
Because of trauma, events that happen to us, and our conditioning, we may learn to close down our hearts. We may feel afraid of being hurt or disappointed, rejected or shamed.
We may have been taught to distrust the heart and favor the mind. That is the dominant paradigm of the Western world. So, the heart feels atrophied.
We may feel we are not fluent in the language of the heart, due to a lack of encouragement and practice. So, we find it hard to hear the voice of the heart or recognize it.
The Signature of the Heart
The heart voice has a distinctive signature. It speaks with authority, wisdom, quiet subtlety, and sometimes humor. It can be no-nonsense direct and sometimes utterly mysterious from the perspective of the mind.
Other elements of the heart signature are: The heart doesn’t offer reasons. It simply says, “Go there. Do this.” The heart doesn’t know fear. And it is not concerned with outcomes, with gain or loss. It is concerned with Truth, Growth, your rightful path, Fulfillment, Deep Joy, and Connection.
It will take in complex situations and lead you toward a good life, a life that benefits all.
Your heart voice will have its own unique signature. If you get to know its signature, you can learn to recognize it. You’ll learn to know how your heart speaks, which is often not in words.
The heart we are talking about here is not the wounded heart, not your wounded self with its false beliefs and limiting behaviors and ego-desires. Rather, it is your internal guidance system, meant to lead you to your best life.
When the heart is speaking, you feel it in the body. There is a resonance. You feel moved. You might feel tingling or a slight pressure in the chest. Maybe the hairs on your body stand up or tears come to your eyes. Or you feel very still and peaceful. You feel compelled from within. There’s a knowing of rightness and an absence of doubt or questions.
Can the Mind Lead You to the Heart?
Let’s look at the second part of the question above: “Are we subtly prompted through the mind until we fully reconnect with [the heart]?”
The answer is no. The mind will not direct you to the heart.
The mind deals in fear. Its job is to protect us from perceived and real harm. It tries to hold onto gains and shield us from loss. It is excellent at making distinctions, language like I am using now, making plans and following through, figuring out details. But it is meant to be the servant of the heart, not the boss. Most of us have this backward to our great detriment and the detriment of our world.
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
This quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, is a paraphrase of something written by Bob Samples about Einsteins’ teachings. Nonetheless, it’s apt.
Instead of expecting your mind to prompt you to hear your heart, I recommend that you look, listen, feel for the heart’s unique signature, and follow those promptings. This takes practice, patience, and a willingness to make mistakes. Like any art form.
An Ancient Tool for Hearing the Voice of Your Heart
Fire is one of the primary tools given to human beings to help us connect to our hearts and live our lives in a good way.
Human beings are the only creatures who have a relationship with fire like we do. We are the only ones who for thousands of years have gathered around fires to warm our bodies, cook our food, light our way, share stories, songs, and poems, and work through conflicts. In fact, the earliest evidence of humans cooking with fire dates back to at least one million years ago. Archeologist Michael Chazan admits, “Socializing around a campfire might actually be an essential aspect of what makes us human.” I would agree.
It is said that in the time before time, this special relationship with fire was given to humans as an antidote for the mind. To bring us back into connection with the heart. There’s a reason that we are, to this day, dependent on fire in so many ways. Human beings are meant to connect with fire daily as an aid to counterbalance the negative tendencies of the mind.
In cultures around the globe, fire is associated with heart and spirit. You see candles burning in temples and synagogues and churches. You see fire used in ceremonies throughout the world. And you hear some of the many profound gifts of fire spoken of in the metaphors we use: the fire of passion, the fire of truth, the light of inspiration, the burning away in transformation.
Fire also helps us feel our emotions so that they don’t stay stuck inside and fester. When we do this, we can hear and feel our heart’s movement guiding us in our lives.
A Profound Practice to Reconnect with Your Heart
A very simple and profound practice for reconnecting with your heart is to sit with a candle for a few minutes (or longer) each day. Gaze into the flame and pour out your heart to the fire— whatever is weighing on you, concerning you, delighting you, perplexing you, frustrating you. You can do this silently or out loud. Then, sit for a few minutes (or longer) and listen for a response.
The response may come in words you hear inside, in a felt sense, in a shift of awareness, in a movement of emotion, or in quiet and stillness (so that you may think nothing is happening, but it is!). Often, the answers will come in your life, as you get up from your candle and move through your day. Opportunities, synchronicities, and messages will appear if you pay attention. This is the movement of heart, guiding you back into balance and wholeness in your life.
If you can gather with others, or alone, around a campfire, that is even more potent. Most potent of all is a sacred fire, consecrated for ritual, connection, and transformation.
Choose to Follow Your Heart
The last part of the question I received contains wisdom: “Are we subtly prompted… until we fully reconnect with [the heart] and choose to open it and follow it again?”
It is a choice to open our hearts and follow their guidance. We are free to make this beautiful choice in every moment of our lives. We get to choose again and again.
Will I follow my heart? Will I risk looking like a fool or a beginner, making a mistake, doing something that feels challenging or new, to follow the promptings of my heart? In the movie Tick, Tick, Boom! one character asks another: Are you letting yourself be led by fear or by love?
Let this question be your guide. And keep your questions coming. I love answering them when I can.
To your heart-centered life,
P.S. For further reading, you might enjoy my post on cultivating intuition here: https://maximakahn.com/cultivating-intuition/
And, there’s an excellent post by psychologist Amy Johnson on learning to distinguish between what I’m calling the mind voice and the heart voice, which she calls personal mind vs. wisdom. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/is-your-mind-the-servant-_b_7822304