Let’s listen more to the heart* and less to the thinking mind
Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness, and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another, but praying for one another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.
Isaac Pennington, 1667.
This is a heart-warming word picture of, to my ears, heaven on earth. The kingdom of heaven, for me, is about how we relate with one-another. But is it a picture of how we actually are, or is it what we’re hoping or striving for at some point in the future … or is it, perhaps, just wishful thinking?
Personally, I’m convinced it’s our birthright to be lived joyfully here and now, but there are profound obstacles, and unless we’re willing to understand them together and overcome them it, sadly, can never be more than wishful thinking. Overcoming these obstacles is, of course, crucial for the future of human race … but it also matters closer to home.
In this article I’m going to focus on a number of the obstacles we need to overcome.
The human mind is split, and we need to heal the split. Many disagree … they say, “What keeps us from heaven is injustice, inequality and war. These are the real obstacles … we must try to get those sorted. Only then can we have heaven on earth.”
What I’m saying is … all those distressing external goings on are symptoms of the fact that the thinking mind/intellect is at odds with the heart. Our minds are split. We’re stuck with the habit of paying more attention to the thinking mind than to the heart. But the thinking mind can only lead us into conflict, because it knows nothing of love and togetherness – these are the domain of the heart. Only the heart can guide us to heavenly relationships.
This is a difficult subject to discuss … because it’s about feelings and how we respond to them. The very idea of talking about feelings clashes with a culture deeply embedded over centuries that prizes the intellectual way of learning and knowing, and is suspicious of and suppresses feelings and the heart’s way.
The thoughts being expressed in this article clash profoundly with this culture. What the words, “Be still and know that I am God”, say to me is, “Quieten down the over-busy, noisy, thinking mind, and listen instead to the quieter but deeper and truer voice of the heart.”
Deeply ingrained mental habits are very hard to shift. What makes them so hard to shift is the way we hold on to feelings … and here’s where some readers may find what I’m saying hard to accept …
… Feelings aren’t just in the mind, they’re in the body. When we hold on to bad feelings they become toxic, making our bodies ill, our minds rigid, our spirits static. They block the love that naturally wants to flow through the heart. So we need to be able to recognise them, feel them fully, discharge them and then let go of them in order to be healed, whole and freely loving.
Words don’t necessarily help. As most of us have experienced, bad feelings are most fully discharged viscerally … bodily … through sounds, laughter, tears, yawns, shuddering, sighs, angry noises. Inviting our feelings to make sounds can help us hear what they’re telling us. Staying with them and listening deeply to them calms us down and brings us to our senses.
Here’s an example: The other morning at breakfast Rosemary my wife, noticing I was distracted, asked, “What are you thinking?” Unwilling to share, I was about to say, “Nothing” … but paused … realizing that what was filling the mind wasn’t thoughts but a feeling. I could find no words for the feeling … but stayed with it and invited it to make a sound. Out came a groan. I let the groan continue, wondering where it came from and what it was telling me.
Then it came to me … that groan brought home to me that I’ve been groaning all my life … yearning for something I want more than anything, but often feel is missing. After some moments focusing on it I spotted what it is … it’s a yearning for unity, harmony, peace with my self and those around me. Groan is the sound my body spontaneously makes when my heart feels disunity. “Me too”, said Rosemary … what I was saying obviously struck a chord for her.
This is an exciting new door opening for me. I’ve spent a lifetime pretending I’m fine. I’ve struggled to be the kind of person my thinking, judging mind has thought I ought to be, trying to live up to what I now recognize as a false image of an ideal self … all the while secretly afraid or ashamed of my bad feelings and trying to hide them, often from myself.
Now I see there’s nothing wrong with any of my feelings. Some of my actions I may regret, yes … but not my feelings. Unpleasant feelings are simply what they are … a vital signal from the heart that there’s something going on that I don’t like. In other words, they’re the voice of my WILL … my too-little-attended-to Divine essence … the inner voice for Truth I was created with.
If I fail to pay attention to them I end up saying yes to what I don’t like … lying to myself that what’s not OK is OK … and that splits me from my Will, which is why it makes me depressed. Hearing and accepting my feelings gives me greater clarity about what I like and don’t like, and therefore brings freedom and courage to say no to what’s not OK for me, and to go for what I really want instead. How can I possibly live a life of joy and integrity and be any help to anyone else if I’m split from my own heart and Will?
Of course, if we intend to spend time listening to the sounds of our feelings it’s as well to find a safe place, out of earshot of those who might be threatened by it or misunderstand. This exercise is primarily a private dialogue with our own heart … an exploration of what our feelings are really telling us about our own Will and our own Truth. How can we possibly possess our birthright as human beings unless we pay attention to what the heart is telling us? The thinking mind will only lead us away from this.
* The word “heart” in this article refers not to the physical body’s circulatory system but to the core of our being … the part of the mind that’s aware and can feel, intuit, love, connect with our selves and with others. It’s what Quakers call, “that of God”. Of course we’re all different, because our formative influences are different. Our hearts therefore respond differently to what life throws at us. What’s true for me may not be true for you, and vice versa. But we can each learn to trust our own heart’s voice by accepting and listening to our feelings.
If this article has stimulated your interest, here are some books that are greatly influencing me. I obtained all three from Amazon.co.uk:
· Feelings Matter: Keys to the Unexplored Self by Ceanne DeRohan. Published by Four Winds Publications 2007. This is an enthralling account of the evolution of the human brain, the relationship between it’s interconnected parts, and why it matters not to hold on to feelings.
· Right Use of Will: Healing and Evolving the Emotional Body by Ceanne DeRohan. Published by Four Winds Publications 1984. This is the first of a series of books “channelled” through her, again, about how crucial it is for us as a human race to pay more attention to our feelings.
· A Course of Love: Combined Volume (ACOL) by Mari Perron. Published by Take Heart Publications 2014. This is another “channelled” work. It’s written in a way that, if our hearts are open, moves us to recognize its Truth. One of the things it does is help us discriminate between the thoughts of the thinking mind and the voice of the heart.
The voice that dictated it to Mari Perron claimed to be Jesus himself. But as we read we begin to hear it as our own voice, the voice of the “Christ”, or “that of God”, within us. It’s not necessary to believe in Jesus, or God, or to accept Christian or any other theology for your heart to be totally engaged by this book. It’s a work to be read and re-read many times. Each time I re-read it I’m freshly moved and astonished … what it reveals moves as we become ever more open to it. As yet, few people in the UK know of this book … but it’s early days. The book has huge power.
Phil Gould, December 2016.