In a recent post I described the four inner reference points that help guide us like an internal compass: Heart, Gut, Spirit and MInd (see “Who Guides You”).
Sometimes it can be difficult to really open up and listen to one of these reference points, especially the heart, which can get drowned out by strong emotional gut reactions or the (supposed) logic of the mind. So here are some tips for how to listen to your heart:
- Isolate Your Thoughts – Consciously instruct your brain to isolate and set aside (for the moment) all thoughts that come from outside yourself: what others have said or will say; what society or culture says you “should” do; In addition, be careful not to drag in your own judgements from the outside, for example – much you have invested in your education or choices you made about where to live or who to be with. These opinions have a place and will be taken into account later, just not when you are trying to listen solely to your heart.
- Recall “Perfect” Moments – Recall times when you felt you were having the time of your life, when everything felt “in synch,” and you were energized yet relaxed and comfortable. Seek out details from those moments – what was the environment like, who were you with, who were you being (a teacher? a leader? completely giving of yourself?). Small clues can give you big insight into your heart’s desires.
- Define What Matters – What do you care most about? First consider your inner circle – your family, friends, home, personal activities. Then consider your community – neighbors, clubs, schools, government. Next, what matters in the world? Hunger, war, poverty? Sure, they all are terrible problems, but which one calls to you the most? Envision yourself helping someone solve various problems. Which scenario gets you the most excited or passionate or emotional?
- Put Regrets Aside - Identify the things that weigh heavy on your heart – things you might have done wrong, people who cast shadows on your dreams, opportunities not taken. Can you move these things aside just enough to crack open a doorway through your wall of regret, guilt and anger and see through to your heart once again? If complete forgiveness or letting go is impossible, settle for a shrug of your shoulders in acknowledgement that bad things happen, but your intention is to move through them so that you can live a better life tomorrow.
- Let Tender Thoughts Live – Simply allow whatever thoughts and feelings are freed from your heart to happen, without immediately squelching them. They are only thoughts. You do not have to act on them. Your objective is simply to give them a voice at the table when you make future decisions.
In the next post we will explore how to interpret those strong gut reactions we all have from time to time, on our way to learning how to get the most out of your entire internal compass (see “Who Guides You” post here for description of the entire internal compass.)