Growing up, I used to love playing “Rock, paper, scissors”. It was a fair way to decide who got to go first, which option to go with, and essentially, who gets to run the show. Imagine if every single time you play that game, your opponent beats you. You throw a rock, and the paper covers you. Your scissors are smashed every time. And your paper is consistently cut to shreds.
This makes the game a lot less fun, and it wears you down. You never get to go first. You never have a say, never pick the movie or the restaurant or which hiking trail to walk.
When we are faced with a decision, most of us have a formidable player inside who almost always wins the game, and often we aren’t even aware that we have other parts that are being pushed around. Instead we think there’s only one authority worth paying attention to–the mind. Our heart is there, trying to get our attention, putting in its bid, but it is rarely heard and even more rarely wins the game.
We have fear whispering (or shouting) in our ear, begging us to stay small and not take that risk. We have doubt telling us that we aren’t good enough or worthy of the thing our heart is longing for. We have anger overriding calls for compassion. And for so many of us, the heart is ignored so often that it grows weary. Its voice gets stifled and less prominent. Life starts to feel hard and uninspired. We go through the motions. We let our worries and circular thoughts run around and forget that life is happening all around us.
You see, the mind is very quick. There is urgency in her voice and she is quite insistent on getting our attention. Often she is speaking directly from the alarm system part of our brain, trying to remind us of the best way to stay safe. Because the thoughts and arguments are so compelling, we become attached to them, start to take them as truth. We allow the heart to give up its power, buying into the idea that the mind knows the way.
Inside our heads, we jump from one important thing to the next. Someone just texted you—better see who it is. You don’t want to forget your lunch—jump out of bed and put it out by your purse. There are problems that need solving, tasks that need doing, logistics. And then there are people around you in pain, unknowns and struggles that need tending to—worrying about them might just help.
Meanwhile our heart is whispering to us, beckoning us to find some peace, to stop and look at the sunset, to be present with our spouse or our child or our parents, to pet our cat or dog, to look up at the trees and notice the flowers. To breathe.
The messages of the heart are softer. They can be heard when we slow down and when we pause. These calls often work through our physical bodies, sometimes as a gut feeling, sometimes as an ache or pain. The heart tends to move at the pace of nature, and is delighted when we reconnect with the biological flow around us and within us. The breath links us to now, as does attention to what is actually happening. This is why yoga is such a good avenue toward listening to our deepest truth and longings.
The mind will work relentlessly at convincing you that you have no time to pause and be present. It even has us snowed that games or the internet or television will help us reset and unwind. Those things are still dictated, for the most part, to satiate the mind.
The heart would rather connect with people—it prefers an interactive board game to the computer, holding hands during the television show, taking walks, doing yoga, being outside, having meaningful talks, dancing, physical touch and music.
I don’t want to imply that the mind is the enemy—it’s a crucial and beautiful part of who we are. But it isn’t supposed to win the game all the time. It doesn’t need to call all the shots. Sometimes the heart can take the lead. In fact, once the heart is acknowledged and her advice is followed, you may see that your life starts to become bigger, more joyful and peaceful. You may start turning to her for advice more often. And if you stick with following that advice, you begin to realize that the world is for you, instead of against you. And you will likely catch a glimpse of the divine light that you truly are and see the world through a wider and more compassionate lens.