The Mind and the Path Back to the Heart

compulsively-thinking-mind “My mind is a bad neighborhood I try not to go into alone.” -Anne Lamott

I have this habit of believing all my thoughts. It doesn’t matter that I have hundreds a day and that many of them directly oppose each other, I still tend to believe all of them. Being a life coach, I love the way the mind works and find it fascinating to witness peoples’ different thought processes. It’s only when we stop partnering our hearts with our heads that we walk onto dangerous ground.

What are you inclined to experience when you are in your head? My tendencies include going into judgment (for self and others), feeling fear, and a sense of separation. When I don’t fuse my head with my heart, I have a feeling of being all alone in this world.  This feeling of disconnection can lead me down a troubling path where I’m less likely to tap into my compassionate nature.

The beautiful thing about mindfulness is that it offers pathways back into our hearts. Part of Buddhist psychology is to acknowledge “Buddha nature” in all beings. This means opening to the possibility that anyone is capable of waking up in this life (including yourself). When I go about my life with this kind of openness, I can let go of my righteous feelings and have more tolerance for others.  I can see others in a process of learning and growing and let go of my judgment of what I feel they should be doing. I can truly feel that their experience might be a perfect learning tool for them to awaken into something more positive and ultimately healing. I can let go of my desire to control an outcome.  This helps me feel more connected to others.

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us the path back to ourselves. When you are in distress or feeling angry, the goal is not to judge yourself and feel scorn for experiencing painful emotions. Rather, he suggests that we look at our emotions as a crying baby, and hold those feelings with tenderness. What does our reactivity really mean? What need is not being met in ourselves that is causing us to suffer? When we can get past judging ourselves for being human and seek to find ways to nurture ourselves, we experience self-acceptance. The irony is once we experience this kind of acceptance, we are more capable of change. We are able to give ourselves the things we need.

Buddhist psychology acknowledges that “the mind has a mind of it’s own.” If you’ve ever tried to meditate, you’ve undoubtedly watched your mind go into thought after thought after thought. This is how we are in our daily lives, mostly unaware that it’s happening. Using skillful means, we can begin to develop more awareness as this happens. The next time you discover yourself in rapid thoughts, simply label the process by saying, “Thinking, thinking, thinking….”  This simple act of noting that we are having thoughts allows us more presence and the power to choose something different.

Sometimes as a personal practice, I bring my hands together in a prayer position over my heart. I bow my head to my heart, honoring that when I draw these two sources together, I am truly living at my best.

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