When I was in Africa I sat in a jeep only a metre away from a lion. I looked into his eyes and he looked deeply into mine. It was very quiet except for the wind rusting the grass and the low hum of the engine. And time seemed to stand still. I was very present that this moment is all that exists right now. I could feel my heart beating as I slowed my breathing down as much as I possibly could. Neither the Lion nor I moved for a long time. He watched and as the jeep began to move he did not stop looking at me nor I him.
Our eyes remained locked as we moved further and further away. And only then did I realise I was crying.
That night, The Lion came to me in a dream and we had a conversation.
Lion: Tell them, to follow their heart.
Me: I sigh. “That’s all very well to say we must follow our heart but how do you know if you are really following your heart?
I did not say you must. I said “follow your heart.” Very simple. When we follow our heart we no longer concern ourselves with should’s or must’s or have to’s in our lives. When we follow our heart we become clear about what we want and what we need.
When we follow our heart we are no longer ruled by expectations. Not our own or those of others. Can you imagine a life where you are free to live and learn according to your heart and not because people expect this or that from you?
When we follow our heart we no longer concern ourselves with duty or obligation, unless of course you love to live that way. Then by all means, be my guest. So many people think that if they are dutiful daughters or sons, or if you live a life in service because you think this is the right way to live, then you can feel proud you have lived a good life. Rubbish!
Why is that?
Because, my dear, living a dutiful life is not synonymous with living from the heart. One can be try to be generous, kind, patient and compassionate but the very act of trying implies it is not flowing from the heart. And when we don’t live from the heart we are not being authentic. One cannot follow the heart and be inauthentic at the same time.
You sound a bit cranky.
I am cranky. How long have we been role modeling authenticity to you all. Some of you are very slow learners.
Now that’s a bit harsh.
We lions are proud to be who we are. There are times we are loving and compassionate and times we are ruthless, wild and powerful. But we never try. We are who and what we are. Simple.
When we follow our heart we open our inner ear and every question we ask will be answered from the heart. Thats is why there is an EAR in inside the heart.
Now that’s clever. An EAR inside the heart. You make it sound so simple. But if it were that simple everyone would be following their heart and living struggle free lives.
Nonsense! Following your heart does not automatically make life easy. In fact it often makes it considerably harder. Consider this for a moment.
Imagine you lived in a wonderful home and have everything you could ever want. Clothes, food, education, a loving partner and even a gorgeous child. And one day you look out the window and you see an old couple arguing, and you see a mother who is tired and frustrated because her two children who have physical limitations and cannot walk so she has to push up a steep hill. And you hear there is a war raging far away and you hear of struggle and upset. What do you do?
If there is a should or must or ought-to-do-something to help, then you know that is not the heart talking.
But if you listen and wait. If you ask yourself, “Do I feel connected or detached. Do I feel comfortable or uncomfortable.”
How do you answer?
If you feel that what is happening around you has nothing to do with you? Fine. No problem. Continue with your life.
If you feel uncomfortable, ask your heart, “Why do I feel so uncomfortable?”
The heart will answer and sometimes it will take a long time to respond. Get used to feeling uncomfortable.
Sometimes is says it’s time to go out on a limb.
Sometimes it tells you it’s time to take a risk.
Sometimes it gives you a gigantic shove and says, “It’s time to be seen, to be heard, to be vulnerable, to be courageous.”
Now you can really feel uncomfortable!!!
Courage comes from the heart. The Latin word cordis is the modified by French cour, which gives us such words as courage (one must have a great deal of “heart” to be courageous), encourage (to give someone “heart” to carry out an act), and discourage, which means to give someone a “heart apart” about a particular situation, that is, to dissuade someone from doing something (from the Latin word dis—apart, not, away from, reversal).
One of the earliest descriptions of courage is when we speak our mind by telling what’s in our heart.
So when we are courageous are we are following our heart?
Yes. Unless of course, we are simply doing what we think we should do in order to do the right thing. Then the action of courage comes from the head and not the heart.
If the heart and the head are not aligned then we begin to bring should, or must, or have to, bak into our thoughts and deeds and actions and consequently slip out of following the heart.
Are you saying the heart has a mind of its own?
It does. Let me put it this way. The Mind of the Heart does not get caught up in negative repetitive situations. It is truly MindFull. It does not react. It contemplates, meditates and assimilates all situations and all information, and then processes it through the heart. When the head thinks too much it begins to call in all sorts of emotions that lead to painful feelings and impulsive actions. One may mistakenly believe these feeling come from the heart but in fact they come from the emotional body of the lower mind.
That small mind attaches itself to substances, behaviors, thoughts and people and creates powerful emotions to keep it in that situation. It becomes hungry for short term pleasures and gratification.
I have a sign in my office, “Don’t believe everything you think.” It’s meant to be a joke but I think it’s related to what you are saying.
It is. We can easily lose our equilibrium when we get caught up by our interpretations and thoughts and when we become convinced by our beliefs and opinions. The feelings that emerge from these are not Heart-centred.
And that’s it. I understand. Creating a heart-centred life. It’s not always comfortable but it’s authentic and fulfilling and real.
I recently listened to the podcast by Krista Tippet called On Being and she interviewed Mary Catherine Bateson who wrote a book called Composing a Life. She is the daughter of the inimitable anthropologist Margaret Meade and as I listened she quoted a poem by the great Rudyard Kipling called, “When Earth’s last Picture is painted.”
It asks “What is it that a human being wants.”
To me this poem encapsulates everything to do with ‘following your heart.”
Would you like to hear it?
“When Earth’s last Picture is painted.”
When Earth’s last picture is painted
And the tubes are twisted and dried
When the oldest colours have faded
And the youngest critic has died
We shall rest, and faith, we shall need it
Lie down for an aeon or two
‘Till the Master of all good workmen
Shall put us to work anew
And those that were good shall be happy
They’ll sit in a golden chair
They’ll splash at a ten league canvas
With brushes of comet’s hair
They’ll find real saints to draw from
Magdalene, Peter, and Paul
They’ll work for an age at a sitting
And never be tired at all.
And only the Master shall praise us.
And only the Master shall blame.
And no one will work for the money.
No one will work for the fame.
But each for the joy of the working,
And each, in his separate star,
Will draw the thing as he sees it.
For the God of things as they are!