Whirlwind: How The Heart Is Wiser Than The Mind

There are times when our thoughts sweep us away.  We get caught up in the whirlwind of the mind’s magnetic pull, and something needs to happen to reel us back to the moment we’re actually in and what is happening there.  It could be something small: we have forgotten the bread in the oven, or we’re stopped at a traffic light, being honked at because it has turned from red to green.  It could be something heavy that stops us in our tracks: someone has passed away unexpectedly, or our spouse wants a divorce.

Miniscule or massive, either way we are being brought back, slapped, woken up, snapped out of auto-pilot mode, our train of endless thought barreling down the tracks with no conductor at the wheel.  When we take up a practice that requires discipline and presence such as yoga, meditation, or simply deep-breathing, we start to cultivate our awareness.  Cultivating our awareness leads to the realization of just how much power our thoughts and emotions have over us.

We slowly begin to be less eager to always be doing something, to fill up every waking moment with whatever meets the approval of our mind and its current content.  We start to explore the space in our mind instead of the content of our mind, and in doing this we begin to find peace.  Stepping out of the arena of incessant thought and obsessive emotion is like stepping out of a whirlwind.  Part of us is always still in it, but we can learn to be less swept away by it.

This is how the heart is wiser than the mind.  When we say “I realized I had stopped listening to myself”, we are usually referring to our hearts, not our heads.  When we let the content of our minds become less important, we give ourselves the gift of working towards peace.  Take the time, make the time, take stock of what’s in our hearts, slow down, pause, consider, notice.  Then, too, we can start to be of greater service to others because we are truly taking care of ourselves first.  Without nourishing our own hearts and spirits first, our potential to spread joy and healing to others will likely be limited, interrupted.

What we decide we “know” becomes just another set of shackles within the cage of the ego, if we hold the knowledge rigidly.  The mind would have us follow it, mile after mile, down its many roads: desire, fear, justification, assumption, grudge, addiction.  It wants desperately to hold on, to feel like it knows something, to be right about things, to endlessly nurse its wounds, to rave about all the sources of its pain and hurt.

If we hold the knowledge loosely, though, we can simultaneously benefit from it and release it.  We can make our minds flexible, make our beliefs pliable, liberate ourselves from all the things we were once so certain about, the stuff we believed to comprise the sum total of our life’s potential, our very identity.  We can open doors, remove blockages, step out of the whirlwind and return to our awareness: simple, calm, uncluttered, lucid with breathtaking clarity.

And the heart knows that to be at peace, it must ignore the ravings of the mind.  When we learn to listen better to our heart, our heart learns to stop listening to the mind.  We lead with our heart and we see that the rest just sort of takes care of itself.  The movie of our life begins to change in tonality and theme, because once we accept ourselves for who we are, we allow our projector to change.  And that’s a beautiful thing.

 

 

A Passage On Writing From Natalie Goldberg

Excerpt from “Thunder and Lightning” by Natalie Goldberg:

“I never escaped being a monk!  The morning gruel, the frost on the bell, bare feet on frigid floors, all have been mine.  Except that my meditation position has been a bent body hovering over a notebook with only my right hand moving across a blank page for hours at a time.

I know no one wants to hear me say how hard writing is – quit while you can.  In the Japanese monasteries they warn you not to come in.  In fact, you have to prove your sincerity and mettle by sitting outside the gates day after day before you can be admitted.

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi once sent an energetic but uppity San Francisco Zen Center student to a monastery outside Kyoto.  They had him sit for five days outside the wall, and then he was called in for an interview.  The teacher handed him a paper and pencil: ‘Write your name.’  He did what he was told and handed it back.  The teacher looked at the paper.  ‘Please continue to sit.’

After five more days, he was called in again.  ‘Write your name.’  He wrote his name and once more was sent outside.

The eleventh day, the twelfth day – the same.  On the thirteenth day, the Zen teacher again asked the young American to write his name.

He picked up the pencil, put it to paper, paused, looked up, looked back down, looked up at the teacher.  ‘I can’t.  I don’t know how.’

‘Good.  You’re ready to enter.’  ”

 

Field Row’s End

I am thrilled to have this poem appear in the current issue of The Cape Rock literary journal from Southeast Missouri University.

 

Field Row’s End

Ox turns at field row’s end –

onions, tomatoes, zucchini and dill.

 

The luminous strands of March

get up, get ready, to work, to begin.

 

Get up, get ready, to work, to follow

the arc of the world, the slope of the light.

 

Dirt beneath thumbnail,

knees imprint the soil.

 

Clods of mud smear rubber boots

and we, the workers,

 

anchored to weather

with its moods, whims, dictations.

 

We, the workers,

fastened to the ox and the engine of his breath,

 

fastened to the fields,

splashing around in our patience,

 

working until it is no longer work,

but who we are and what we do.

 

Tuning in to the stillness of evening,

we have become the work itself.

 

We are the field, the ox.

We are the onions, the mud, and content to be so.

 

Watching attentively, listening closely,

we view ourselves as if through a microscope,

 

our metronome held in the bone-basket of our ribs,

its momentum not yet interrupted.

Siddhartha Considers Emotion

“He pondered this feeling which completely filled him as he slowly made his way.  He pondered deeply, sinking down into the depths of this feeling, as through deep water, until he reached the point where the causes lie.  For to know the causes – so it seemed to him – that is what thinking is.  And only in this way do feelings become knowledge instead of being wasted.  In this way they become meaningful and begin to radiate what is within them.”

-Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

 

Calm Glimpse

The sky
is always there.
The sun
is always there.
Storms come and go.
Clouds come and go.

 

Wheel

I stand on the mountain, one vast expanse of energy sweeping across the cosmos,

reverberating gratitude to the world that has sustained my physical form.

A life force unharnessed, a spirit no longer in battle against itself.

Having endured beyond tangible decay, I simply am.

Now every dawn over every land reveals itself to my sight.

Now every star’s ocean-sounding breath wends its way into my hearing.

Now every water flowing in every stream and fountain

that has ever been, or will ever be,

has become available to the mouth of my heart,

which is also the mouth of the Great Spirit

that chews, swallows, and digests

all creation and non-creation,

all being and non-being

in a wheel ever-turning.

Light My Way

May my heart light my way.  May it come into a place not unlike the narrow line that exists between water and fire, a pocket of stillness where both forces are within reach.  Then I could learn their ways, how to call on them, how to let them enter me, how to recognize which one is called for.  Then I might discover how to refuse nothing, yet also how to hold on to nothing.

May my heart find peace.  May it find a way to be supported by the great net of life – the embroidery of things – and not lose itself in the intricate mesh.  Then it might remember to bow more readily, honoring what support it has already found.

Having lost my way many times before, may I more easily recognize those paths and not start down them again.  May I light my way instead of losing it.