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.

 

 

Joseph Campbell quoting Heinrich Zimmer

“My friend Heinrich Zimmer used to say the best things can’t be told, because they transcend thought.  The second best are misunderstood, because those are the thoughts that are supposed to refer to that which can’t be thought about, and one gets stuck in the thoughts.  The third best are what we talk about.”  – Joseph Campbell

 

Ubuntu, Yoga, and the Illusion of Separation

Ubuntu is an ancient South African term meaning “connectedness to others”.  It points to the human virtues of humanity and compassion.

Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “union”, “connection”, or “to join”.

Between all the reading I’ve been doing and my recent journey into yoga teacher training, I have noticed an idea that comes up again and again.  It’s the concept that our ego constantly tries to convince us that we are all separate (the ego’s effort to build and maintain any self-identification that supports the illusion of control), when actually we are all interconnected in ways that are beyond our conception.

For instance, having your body tattooed with an image that is meaningful or beautiful to you.  I have several tattoos.  I like my tattoos, but I also see them for what they are: my ego’s effort to qualify the identity it thinks it is.  It’s my ego working hard to define itself, to project a self-image it finds favorable.

The identity our ego insists is real, is of course not real.  It is an illusion brought about by the fact that we exist in a world of forms and so our thinking is limited to forms.  Who we truly are is beyond forms, and is concerned with awareness, not thinking.  When one recognizes the illusion as an illusion, it begins to die.  It dies because its survival depends upon it being thought of as reality.

The power of a yoga practice is that it teaches you to be vulnerable and humble.  From there, you begin to open up.  Stuck places inside you slowly, slowly start to move, like a dam being deconstructed one stone at a time.  Maybe life has hardened you in certain ways, and these hard edges start to soften, as you devote yourself to returning to the practice again and again.  Your awareness increases, and you begin to notice the difference between awareness and thinking.

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human.  Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation.  It speaks about our interconnectedness.  You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.”  –Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“Don’t seek the truth, just cease to cherish opinions.”  -Zen saying

“Our separation from each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.”  –Albert Einstein

“Give up defining yourself, to yourself or to others.  You won’t die.  You’ll come to life.” Eckhart Tolle

“Don’t become too narrow.  Live fully.  Meet all kinds of people.  You’ll learn something from everyone.  Follow what you feel in your heart.”  -Yuri Kochiyama

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

 

Humble Warrior

For many long years, sleep did not come.  Now it is here, a sanctuary, an unremembered temple of well-fed lions. 

Summer comes, undeniable as the needs of body and soul.  We peel away her nightdress, and when she goes we go with her. 

There will still be times we do not feel supported by the earth, and contact with it will need to be reestablished.  There will still be times when pain holds us in its mouth like a whale, and we struggle to light our way so we might see better in the darkness of its belly.

The sun is rising, now, again.  The earth tilts on its axis, and that star is still there, incomprehensible fire of all fires at its center, and the fire moves ever outward, cooling equally, creating a roundness.

We owe our lives to the circumstances of the earth and the sun, to the distance between them.

It is morning and you are held in sleep.  I am held in my usual early wakefulness.  Calm water has eased my burning.  There is soreness in my body, and insect bites on my skin.

I eat up the world, and am eaten by the world.  A humble warrior does not forget to bow to all of it.

How Fortunate, How Small

How small are we, how fortunate to see with eyes the dolphin, the stallion, the bee, being what they are and doing what they do.

To hear with ears the wind across the palisades of mountains and the song of the ocean.

To know with flesh the pleasure and pain of the body, lust and hunger, bleeding and burning.

To thirst with spirit for the very earth we walk on, for an open dome of sky or dense canopy of rainforest.

To sacrifice with courage all that we are, and send an invitation to what we might become.

How small are we, how fortunate.

 

Working With Coyote

In working with Coyote – the trickster who tricks even himself – there can be no rigid thinking, no frame around the picture.  Perceptions are dissolved, expectations are deconstructed.  One must take oneself less seriously, welcome laughter, crack open the shell of one’s own ego.

An open heart is required, and it is like the open road: lending itself to endless possibilities, allowing whatever wants to come next to happen, inviting the mind to loosen its grip on everything it has convinced itself of, softening into fearlessness and deep listening.

The processes of nature, miracles all.  How full of folly we are, how powerful, how small.