You are at a place where you want and need guidance. Maybe there is some decision to make, some inner confusion, or you are seeking more meaning and purpose in your life.
At times like this you often hear “listen to your heart.” To which you're like:
In the thick of inner confusion, these words usually feel too abstract and meaningless. This has definitely been my experience in times of personal indecision.
However I can now say I believe deeply that this is actually one of the most practical and essential pieces of wisdom we could ever follow.
So what does it really mean? And practically - how to do it?
If you don’t have the time or patience to read my poetic rambling on the matter, :( skip to the bottom where I share some step by steps. :)
First, a little story.
One day many years ago, I was sitting among some tall grasses on a beautiful breezy day on the rolling hills of Freeport, central Trinidad. When a wave of wind would come, I could hear it swelling up towards me from far away like ocean
breakers on the beach. When it would reach me I would be surrounded by the gentle sibilance as the grass danced in rhythmic ritual. And then, smiling, it would recede into the deep silence of the Earth. I closed my eyes and listened - and as the sound faded to silence, it struck me powerfully what it really means to listen.
We don’t listen with our ears. Our ears hear. We can hear and not listen, but we can’t listen and not hear. We listen with our attention. As I listened to the symphony of grass and wind become more and more subtle until overcome by silence, nothing else existed. With full attention directed, all other awareness faded into the background. Sure, I could still hear the faint whine of my chaotic human mind, but somehow the silence sang louder.
To listen is the practice of giving attention. And in a world where we are caught in-between the clawing and thrusting of a thousand hands and brands trying to grab our attention - it truly is a practice.
Try this short activity:
Get comfortable and relaxed
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to settle down
Become aware of all of the sounds around you, just listen for a while
Try to listen for the furthest sound you can possibly hear
Spend some time with it, trying to extend your awareness as far out as you can. Don’t strain, your awareness should be one of relaxed appreciation.
When you physically exercise a certain muscle group you become aware of how it feels to engage those muscles. Likewise, with this practice you become aware of how it feels to really engage the power of attention - what it is to listen deeply.
And so, knowing how to listen deeply, take this practical advice: “listen to your heart”! It means to direct all of your attention at your heart, right in the centre of your chest. The real you lives there, the part of you that has not been confused and convinced by the voices of the world to constantly seek external validation. The real you knows what you truly want and knows how to get there.
Your heart knows with quiet confidence. It does not shout, it does not scold, it does not judge. It has a voice, but it does not speak in words, it speaks in feeling. “Who feels it knows.”
So in practical step form:
Get comfortable and relax
Close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes
Notice if your mind is chattering - and don’t take it too seriously
Direct your attention at the centre of your chest with a mind-set of relaxed appreciation
Notice what you feel, and allow yourself to feel it
Remember, this is a practice. Doing it often for just a little while at a time makes it grow and get clearer.
Final thought: Do not judge what you feel when you do this. You might feel a rush of emotion: sadness maybe or anger - that is good, remember it is part of a process. It's sort of like ear-wax that has been clogging up the ear being released - emotional ear-wax…yeah.
(I'm really sorry about this ^^^ )
You might feel nothing at all and that’s okay. Maybe the ear-wax still has to be released and it will when it is ready. You may feel deep inner peace and joy and that is good, very good.
We live in a culture that denies the intelligence of the heart and relies fully on the judgement of the intellect, and I think that is why our world is in such a confused mess. I believe we need to tune in to our heart and follow the guidance that comes from within us for our personal balance and for healing the confusion of our culture.
So….”listen to your heart!”