Someone recently said to me, “If it’s in your heart, you have to do it.” This represents a radical departure from how many of us live. Many of us would say instead, “If it’s in your mind, you have to do it.” Or believe it. Or be governed by it.
While our culture loves to worship the mind as the ultimate powerhouse, the heart has 60 times the electrical charge of the brain. Along with that, more nerve pathways travel from the heart to the brain than the other way around. In other words, in some very essential places, it is the heart leading the way. Once again, our biological intelligence is pointing to something we all too often do not recognize. In this case, that being, that it is the heart that is the true powerhouse. The one carrying the big charge. The call we want to sit up and take notice of. The one we do not want to deny.
This is not easy to do given the loud and insistent ways that the mind can drown out the more subtle and graceful messages of the heart. Not easy to do in a culture that has made many of us wary, shy and even downright suspicious of what the heart has to say. Some of us have even been so deeply and painfully wounded that it feels like nothing short of terrifying to imagine letting our hearts come out of hiding. And while likely we have all heard some version of “follow your heart,” it can seem like more of a romantic notion than a reality-based, viable approach to life.
For one, we don’t have a lot of good role models for this. And if we do, they are often saints, or people like the Dali Lama who can be too removed from daily life for us to feel as though we too, have access to what they do. For another, in a culture that uses fear as a sales tactic, as a way to keep us in line and that offers up entertainment based on the horrific and the outrageous, we can be left believing that to rely on the heart and its ways is childish, weak, ineffective, soft or overly sentimental. Maybe even downright dangerous to our safety and well-being.
It is anything but that. Believe it or not, the heart has its origins in courage. As in, the word courage derives from the French root “cour,” meaning heart. So beautifully portrayed in what the lion was looking for in The Wizard of Oz. But that is a child’s fantasy you might think. Maybe. Or maybe it is an expression of what we all most deeply long for. Something we all intuitively know to be a resource far greater than the insecurities, fears, shames, grievances, controls, anticipations and worries of the mind.
Check it out for yourself. Lying in bed first thing in the morning, before the mind has kicked into gear, pause. Don’t let the schedule and the demands of the day move in before you have placed one hand over your heart, and taken a few deep breaths right into the very center of your courage and wisdom. Ask your heart what it wants. And then, listen.