Mind and Heart - parts 1, 2, and 3
We place tremendous value on our intelligence, how we think, and the function of our mind. We approach life as a problem to be solved. We measure success by income and accomplishment. We have become doers, goers, makers, accomplishers. Many people live each day accomplishing the ‘to do’ list. We wake up the next day and do the same. A year goes by, then ten years, perhaps more before we wake up and wonder what’s the point? It’s a great question: what’s the point? Where has this gotten us?
Furthermore, many of us do this to raise our children. Raising our children in a good way can justify spending years and decades accomplishing our ‘to do’ lists. In this way, we may be passing on an anemic, vague relationship with our heart and life purpose to a new generation that feels emptier still.
In society today, truth and the truth of our heart (fire) are openly and publicly distorted and disdained. Many people no longer engage in a meaningful spiritual tradition, wherever we find it: in a church, the woods, or at the piano. The rise of religious fanaticism and spiritual dissolution are societal mirrors of one another. Both are aspects of a world society out of touch with true heart and genuine life purpose.
The five elements are a road map for reestablishing right relationship with life. They describe the balanced relationship between heart and mind, one that is rooted in every aspect our being.
Our heart governs our reality, either consciously or by default. Our true heart speaks the irrefutable truth of the nature of our essence and life purpose (water). Our true nature grows from a seed of profound goodness. The fundamental purpose of our heart is to see the truth of this goodness, expressed in our capacity to love. We love in a billion wonderful, distinct, personal, and meaningful ways, each aligned with our unique life purpose.
When the truth of our heart isn’t aligned with our life purpose, we are out of balance. We invite illness.
A balanced relationship between heart and mind is this: the truth of our heart invokes or initiates mind to engage. The balanced function of mind is to act on the truth of our heart with intelligence, effectiveness, and clarity. When in balance, mind is in service to heart. We look internally at our true commitments to our self and others as our life compass rather than to external situations and opportunities.
Heart relates to what is happening now. Mind, from our western viewpoint, how we think, however, engages the dualistic concepts of time and space. Therefore, mind thinks about how things work, what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow, and how difficult that situation was, and what might happen if, and how do I go about doing that.
Heart manifests its energy only right now and right here. It doesn’t decide to radiate presence at a given moment or given place. It resides within the potent experience of now (water). Its radiant presence can become ‘conditioned’ by the influence of mind. It can be covered up or distorted. But never fundamentally changed.
We can reestablish balance between heart and mind for ourselves right now. It begins by taking an open and honest look at the truth of our heart with willingness and courage to relate to what we discover. Heart and truth go hand in hand. It’s impossible to relate to our genuine heart and be deceptive or dishonest. It is our heart that sees our confusion and the confusion of our mind. To relate to the depth of our heart, we must clear the confusion that resides in our mind.
To relate to heart, some of us may begin by finding the hard, rubber-like ravages of our forgotten, broken, grief-ridden hearts discarded by our over-active and confused mind. We breathe it back into life. We may need to relate to the wreckage of emotional experience we have put on hold in the nether regions of our experience. Honestly. Courageously. Skillfully.
Finding our heart, however lost or broken, and reestablishing meaningful relationship with it, however simply that begins, we rekindle a relationship with our life purpose. We must summon our willingness to make the changes to our life required to sustain the alignment between heart and purpose.
I want to return to a statement in Part 1:
“Heart and truth go hand in hand. It’s impossible to relate to our genuine heart and be deceptive or dishonest. It is our heart that sees our confusion and the confusion of our mind. To relate to the depth of our heart, we must clear the confusion that resides in our mind.”
I believe this thing – the genuine relationship between heart and truth – is the deepest source of anxiety we are experiencing in our political reality today.
There has always and will always be deceptive nature at play at the heart of political reality. Power and the play for power almost guarantees this dance, to a degree. Great drama and literature and art play out this story of deception again and again. In fact, it is a mark of personal growth to discern where deception lays and name it. Move past it to a deeper truth.
Yet, never in recent history has deception and the manipulation of truth been more blatant and willful in our political reality. When truth and leadership splinter, everyone and everything suffers. We lose our ground and ability to know what and who to trust. This is a recipe for anxiety.
So, dear ones, hold true.
The opportunity – and necessity – is to look within to our internal compass to see where truth lies. Rarely, these days, do we hear truth spoken at the top of the political spectrum. The few exceptions are sonorous! Rather, we are hearing truth spoken in the
continuum of community. These voices have always been there; now we are listening.
Mind and Heart – Part 3
This discussion of heart and mind sheds light on our relationship with meditation.
Meditation begins with an invitation to relate to our mind. Our instruction is to sit and bring our awareness to our breath. By doing so, we discover a mind that carries us to every corner of the universe and beyond. We begin to tame the wild chaos of our mind so that it can find and relate to the rhythmic simplicity of our breath. We slowly learn to stay with our breath. When we do so consistently, we begin to experience a strong, stable mind, free of thought. The traditional path of meditation is to examine our reality with intelligence and insight from the ground of a stable and peaceful mind free of confused and discursive thought. By doing so, we discover the limitless aspect of mind that can ‘think’ about things accurately. This clear mind is not separate from nor misaligned with our true heart.
However, in the modern world, we are so deeply engaged with the primacy of our thinking capacity, that to abandon it for the sake of meditation practice, feels not only impossible, but foolish and certainly unimportant. So many people have said to me, why would I waste my time meditating? What’s the use? It’s too hard! And what about heart? Isn't the purpose of spiritual practice to reconnect to heart?
While meditation instruction initially directs us to work with mind, it is altogether an invitation to rediscover heart. The purpose of meditation is to reestablish right relationship with the true nature of our being: our heart and the inherently stable, true, intelligent, precise, peaceful reality it governs. Ultimately, we discover that our open, loving heart and clear, intelligent mind are united in purpose and function.
Our task as a society is to intelligently address the realities of a 21st century world that has lost a balanced relationship between heart and mind. Because of this misalignment, we are facing radical and rampant political, economic, cultural, and environmental chaos.
Western Buddhists have spent 45 years learning a vast and profound tradition faithfully and successfully. Yet Buddhism can no longer afford to present the profound teachings within its treasury of knowledge in a monastic manner. Buddhism in the west is evolving to be of service to a struggling world. The same must true for all religious traditions. Many religions engage heart, yet abandon in-depth examination of mind and the benefits of clear, rational thought. Worse yet, the heart that is espoused in many traditions is presented in a manner cloaked in fear. These distortions of reality in the name of religion create an effective means of exerting power over masses of people.
What’s to come? I, for one, have my eyes and ears directed to the voices of vision born of the alignment of a joyous, impassioned heart and a clear, intelligent mind looking squarely at what the world needs right now.