Listening to the calling of our heart

Listening to the calling of our heart.

Our hearts are always calling to us. They try to get us to pay attention to longings that we often bury beneath our everyday existence. We bury such longings and ignore the callings because to listen would be to go against all we have learnt about fitting into society. For society does not pay heed to the callings of the heart. Society pays heed to the callings of the ego and the mind; to mortgages and secure jobs, to school work and university degrees; to being a good child, a good spouse, a good parent.

I listened to an interview with John Mayer the other day and he spoke about knowing that he was a musician and writer from a young age and following that calling knowing it was what he was here to do. Sometimes I wish I’d had that clarity of calling at a young age. But for most of us life gets in the way and our hearts get burdened with expectations. We expect we will follow a certain path only to find that it is not what we thought; that we do not arrive at a place where our hearts are filled with joy, love and abundance. We glimpse such places along our path – maybe when we fall in love, or have a child or begin a job that we love. Yet somehow we can’t hold onto that place within us that is trying to show us how to live.

The heart callings have a strange pull on us and sometimes if we pay attention that pull will be an irresistible force that draws us towards our life’s work. The calling changes over time but some impulses are always with us urging us to leave secure jobs and do things that society may frown upon.

Your heart may be calling you to fall in love with someone, or change your job, or have a baby, or buy a puppy. It may be calling you to stop the busyness of your life and spend time listening to its longings. Sometimes we are so busy that we don’t pay the heart and its desires any attention. Maybe it is because we don’t want to hear what the heart has to say about our current life? Or maybe it is just that we have forgotten how to live in touch with our heart centre but rather pay all our attention to the ego mind.

The ego does not want us to listen to our heart simply because to do so might put us against society’s expectations. But even the ego may fall in line eventually. When that part of us sees that the way of the heart leads to joy and fulfillment and wealth of a type not measured by money. We may struggle with listening to the calling of our heart but once we cease the struggle we can just accept that what we need is to pay our heart more attention. Maybe then we can accept that to follow our heart’s desires is not selfish but the way we can be of greatest service to the world.

Skills for living an authentic life 1

Well it’s 2017 and time for new beginnings and changes. We all like to think about making changes to our lives at this time of year but so often we don’t follow through on our resolutions. What if our one resolution was simply to be better at expressing our true self? I have been writing some of my new book on Transformation and I have been thinking a lot about how people might be more authentic and true to their inner selves. For most of us this is a journey of discovery about who we really are and who we want to be in the world. Living authentically may seem a bit of a new age cliché but a lack of living authentically is what causes many of the problems in society and many of our personal problems. We are trying to be some version of ourselves that is not who we really are. When we can be the version of ourselves that is truly who we are then life falls into place. Yet we often don’t pay attention to the skills we need to live authentically. Over the next month I am going to discuss at least seven skills that help us live a more authentic life and they are –

  1. Dealing with our emotions
  1. Being aware of our physical body
  1. Dealing with our mind
  1. Listening to our intuition
  1. Following our passions
  1. Cultivating our community
  1. Appreciating nature

Today’s skill is dealing with our emotions.

Young children are usually in touch with their emotions; they feel sad they cry, they feel angry and they yell and throw a tantrum, they feel happy and they laugh. Yet society doesn’t feel comfortable with such overt displays of emotion so most of us are taught that some emotions are not acceptable. We are taught not to cry when we feel sad because it is a display of weakness, that it is not okay to feel anger much less act it out, that even laughter and happiness are not always appropriate. We are taught to bottle up our feelings in many different ways. What happens when we are taught to suppress and deny our emotions isn’t that the emotion disappears but rather the emotion simmers beneath the surface and can erupt if the conditions are right.

Most of us know the feeling of anger building as small frustrations mount up into big frustrations and anger boils over. Instead if we allow our anger to be felt and let the feeling permeate our being we can begin to understand what the feeling is about. As we feel the anger we begin to learn about what is causing it. Maybe it is an injustice that we need to speak up about, or maybe we are allowing people to control us, or maybe we need to change something about ourselves. Emotions are not useless inconveniences they are one way our inner self lets us know when things are going well or not so well.

Feeling our emotions is not always easy especially if they are emotions that have been labeled as bad or wrong at some time in our life. We sometimes have to just sit with our feelings and emotions as they bubble up inside us but if we let ourselves feel them they rarely hang around for very long. As we feel them we can usually become aware of their message. So-called negative emotions are a signal that something is not right. Positive emotions signal that things are on track and that we are following our path. When we experience a lot of negative emotions it is good to pay better attention to them; to actively sit with them and feel them. Usually when we sit with them we discover deeper meanings that encourage us to change things – either the situation or our reaction to a situation or something about ourselves.

There are many ways we try to avoid feelings – we drink alcohol, use drugs, work too hard, project our anger onto other people, gamble too much or sometimes we just pretend that everything is fine and put on a happy face. Instead of avoiding our feelings it is wise to simply sit with them, allow them to have their way with us and experience them more fully. This doesn’t mean acting them out but rather allowing them to move through us. If we have a lot of trouble doing this then sometimes it is wise to see a counselor or psychologist to learn better strategies. I have written more about dealing with emotions in my book Holistic Medicine but there are other books around that have been written primarily on the subject that may be useful, such as Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. Whatever way you choose to learn more about your emotional self it will help you discover things about your inner self that help you on the path to becoming more authentic.

In my next blog of this series I will discuss how we can be more aware of our physical body.

 

Disclaimer. This web site is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship.

 

 

The Tarkine

Last week I spent four days in the magical Tarkine. This relatively unknown location in Tasmania is a great place to experience old growth forest and get in touch with the natural world. The Tarkine is located in the north west of Tasmania and houses some of the most spectacular forest on the planet.

This rainforest is unique in that many of the plant species are ancient and there are many species that don’t exist in other places; it is said to be a living remnant of prehistoric forest. To spend a few days walking and camping in such a place is rejuvenating for the spirit and soul. We desperately need to protect such wilderness areas as they are still under threat from mining and logging.

The Tarkine has been listed as one of the top ten places to visit before it disappears and the main threats are not just logging and mining but also climate change. While such cool climate rainforests are generally fire resistant because of their moisture content increasing temperatures and droughts may dry out the forest making it vulnerable to fire.

To help protect the Tarkine there are a number of things we can do. The first is to visit it and experience its magic. The second is to work to preserve it by opposing mining and logging in the area. Go to Save the Tarkine website for more information. Thirdly we all need to recognize climate change as a major threat to the ecosystems of this planet, including the Tarkine, and work to change our reliance on fossil fuels and other pollutants. Our health depends upon the health of our planet.

 

Wellness

Wellness at its most basic is a feeling we have when we are free of illness and balanced in our body, mind and spirit. How do we go about balancing ourselves better to achieve wellness?

In my first book – Holistic Medicine, beyond the physical – I divide the whole person into five parts in order to investigate how we might find better balance and wholeness..

The first part is the mind (air) and is characterized by the right and left sides of the brain that I have discussed in a previous post called Mind. Many of us are unbalanced in the way we use our mind relying heavily on our left-brain logical thinking and disregarding our right-brain holistic intuitive thinking.

The second part is the physical body (earth). Our physical body is fairly obvious, although many of us try to deny that we have a body that actually needs looking after. We try to use the power of our logical mind to control our body, to make it do what we want. In our culture, we are taught to disregard the messages from our body. We run marathons and compete in sports that stress our bodies and then wonder why our bodies let us down. We feed our bodies a diet of junk (both physical and emotional) and then wonder why they don’t work well.

The third part of our whole self is the emotional body (water) that we are also taught to disregard. We learn early on that some emotions are just not okay and that we should suppress them. We don’t need to act out all our emotions but to not feel them is to ignore one of our parts.

The fourth part is more difficult to classify but is represented by the element of fire. At its simplest, fire is the part of us that drives us to grow and create. It is the passion that burns, the creative flame that leads us to great works of art or scientific discoveries. It is the part of us that seeks to grow and expand. Fire is our closest link to the spiritual world. Our intuitive abilities stem from fire, but we experience them through our other elements.

The fifth part or element is represented by ether and is by its very nature ethereal, it is the element that is unworldly, spiritual, immaterial, intangible. This element is very difficult to fully describe but it symbolises the connections between our parts and the connections between us and everything else. It is the energy that is at the basis of all life but it is not simply energy, it is connections. Some would call this etheric element God or The Divine or All That Is. Some would call it the Holy Spirit or the Web of Life or Mother Nature or Gaia. This element is so much a part of everything that we cannot distil it out to discover its nature. We cannot reduce living things to all their parts and call one of these parts ether and expect to then understand what this means. Because ether more than anything is present most in the harmonic combination of the parts.

So here we have the concept of five elements – fire, air, water, earth and ether. Keeping these elements in balance helps lead us back to wellness and wholeness. Western society values fire and has a heavy reliance on left-brain over right-brain. It devalues the emotional body and most of us don’t take good care of our physical body. Many of us are only just becoming aware of the etheric body and its connections to the rest of the universe. So we are all often unbalanced, or living in a society that is unbalanced. Yet despite this, the human system has the uncanny ability to find its own balance and to seek wellness and wholeness.

To focus on our wellness is to firstly become aware that are made up of these five parts and then to nurture each of them. We need to nurture them as a whole rather than as separate parts but conceptualizing them as parts helps us to become aware of which parts we might be neglecting.

I have written a whole book about this but paying better attention to your parts is a vital step in promoting wellness. We can do this by balancing our right and left brain more, by looking after our physical body, by feeling our emotions instead of suppressing them, by following our passions and our intuition and by enhancing our etheric connections. This is a very simplistic version of a quite complex process but it is worth contemplating especially if you are not currently experiencing wellness.

 

 

Mind

The way you think

The human mind is a very complex thing. It can however be divided into two main parts, which correspond to the two sides of the brain. The two sides or hemispheres are imaginatively called the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. These two sides of the brain think in two different ways.

The left side of the brain thinks in logical, rational ways. This is what some people call our intellect. It breaks problems down into parts (called reductionism) and seeks to solve problems by examining the parts. It thinks in black and white terms, right and wrong, good and bad (called dualism). Left-brain thinking is called rational thinking (this is also known as linear thinking).

The right side of the brain thinks intuitively, in wholes, in systems (called holism). It thinks creatively, laterally, imaginatively. Right-brain thinking is called intuitive thinking (also known as non-linear thinking) and it is not logical.

The left side thinks mainly in words and numbers, the right mainly in pictures and patterns and symbols. So language is primarily a left-brain concept while pictures and symbols are right brain territory.

Our thinking appears to be done by our left brain; we think in words, we have a train of thought expressed in words and sentences. These thoughts lead onto other thoughts in a linear fashion and we reach a conclusion. Or the thoughts go round in circles and we get confused. This is all left-brain thinking (of course this is an oversimplification).

Our right brain thinks in a different way. The right brain seems to come up with an answer suddenly. It doesn’t use the left brain’s linear processing to find the answer methodically and logically. Rather, it synthesises all the information in a different way and seems to then suddenly know the answer to a problem, or it suddenly grasps an issue and understands it. As the right brain doesn’t use words and sentences to think, we often assume it is silent, but it just uses a different process to the left brain.

Neither hemisphere can think in isolation; they are joined primarily by a structure called the corpus callosum, a network of connections that link both hemispheres. The distinction between the two sides is partly academic but it helps us understand the two different processes that occur in our brains. Where they occur anatomically isn’t very important for most of us.

Conventional scientific thought uses both sides of the brain but believes that the left side is superior. Science and medicine believe that reductionism and dualism are a superior way of thinking and working out problems compared to holism. They believe truth is to be found in logic and rational analysis.

As individuals and as a society (which includes medicine), what is needed is not a greater reliance on either side of the brain but the ability to use both sides together and also to use either side in the way it works best.

The left side works best for analysing and logically sorting out problems, by reducing the problem into parts and analysing the parts. The left brain can’t conceptualise the whole thing except by looking at the parts.

The right side works best when looking at the whole picture, establishing patterns, and intuitive thinking and creativity. The right brain can’t understand how the parts fit together except by looking at the whole.

Most of us in Western society are out of balance (too left brained) and the reason for this is because it is what we have learnt. We have learnt, in the past few centuries, to use our logical rational brain over our intuitive non-rational brain.

Neither the left-brain process of rational thinking nor the right brain’s intuitive thinking process is right or wrong. They are just different ways of reaching answers.

It is important to understand this difference between linear (left brain) and non-linear (right brain) thinking processes because it is where we often repeat our mistakes and get stuck in the same patterns of behaviour.

Many problems can be solved with linear thinking, but they have to be linear problems. Most of our problems, and certainly those we usually get stuck in, are non-linear or chaotic. No-one can work them out with their left brain. Many people think they are stupid because they can’t work out their problems. They go to a doctor or counsellor because they think such people are smarter.

The problem isn’t smartness or lack of it; it is due to our reliance on a part of the brain that simply cannot solve these problems. The left brain cannot under any circumstances solve a non-linear problem. It is like trying to use a calculator for word processing, or a screwdriver to knock in a nail. It’s just the wrong tool.

Our life is always trying to teach us this. When we find our brain going round and round in circles and not getting anywhere, we can be pretty sure our left brain is trying to sort out a non-linear problem. It goes in circles but it never gets anywhere because the problem is not solvable through linear thought. The left brain can play a part in helping us through such problems but it cannot reach a solution by itself; it needs the help of the right brain.

Once we have learnt this lesson then we can turn to the part of our brain specifically designed for these non-linear problems, the right brain.

This is where we really enter the culture of the holistic because it is here that we change our belief system. We begin to believe that this process of right-brain thinking is the way to solve our non-linear problems. When I say solve I don’t mean in a left-brain way, I mean in a holistic way.

The right brain helps us get to a different place. It helps us understand in an intuitive sense what is going on, what we have to learn, how we have to proceed. The problem is not linear or logical, therefore the process of solving it is not linear or logical, therefore the answer is not linear or logical. Intuitive answers do not always help us reach a predetermined outcome. Instead, they teach us more about ourselves, about reality, about how to be whole and how to live the cycles of life.

The answers from our right brain will not come to us by sitting down and thinking about the problem. Thinking, as we have come to know it, is how we define left-brain processing. Right-brain answers will usually come to us out of the blue, sometimes in a dream or as a sign or symbol. The beauty of right-brain thinking is that it doesn’t make our head hurt like left-brain thinking can. Our lives would be easier if we would just leave a lot of our problems with our right brain and know that it can answer them for us.

The process by which our intuition solves problems is non-linear. This means it doesn’t make logical sense; you can’t follow a line of thought from the problem to the solution. It is as if the right brain gathers all the available information (some of which is not available to our conscious thinking brain), puts it in a container, shakes it all up and then extracts the answer. The answer appears to have just popped into our heads but it popped in there because the right brain’s intuitive non-linear processes made it available. We can’t make logical sense of intuitive processes because this is the essence of non-linear thinking – it’s not logical.

Ultimately, we need to use both sides of our brain. The left side tries to take a problem apart and solve the parts, and the right side looks at the problem as a whole and tries to come up with a way forward. The left side needs the right side to see how the parts fit into the whole picture and the right side needs the left to see how the whole picture can be broken down into parts that are more manageable.