Every day we’re faced with choices. Life throws us various alternatives in our jobs and careers, relationships, family matters, political choices and on and on. When faced with a difficult decision, how do you choose?

Many of us were brought up to go through some logical process such as weighing the pros and cons and then deciding based on some imaginary scorecard. Our society has rewarded us for “listening to our heads”. We are supposed to be rational beings making rational decisions. In general, there’s nothing wrong with that – but sometimes we’re left sensing that the proper well thought out rational conclusion is simply missing something that we can’t quite put our finger on.

In such situations, we are called to shift our focus to listen to our heart. We know deep down inside ourselves is a wellspring of knowledge that we can tap. This reservoir of wisdom comes from beyond us and transcends all outward logic. We tend to use words such as “our intuition”, “our gut”, “our instinct”, “our higher self” and so on to describe this source. Here, I am calling it “our heart”.

There are times when we should listen to our heads and there are times when we should listen to our hearts. Many times we should consider both sources – a sort of melding of our heads and hearts. Decisions that integrate both usually are the best. However, there are definitely times when our hearts need to overrule our heads.

An Interesting Dream

The other night my wife and I were watching the movie Awake: the Life of Yogananda. I had wanted to see it when it was in the theaters but didn’t – and it just recently became available on Netflix. Yogananda’s An Autobiography of a Yogi was one of those influential books I read early along my spiritual journey when one of my spiritual teachers gave me a copy.

Yogananda was one of the early pioneers in melding science and spirituality. He came to the United States in 1920 with the intention of bringing meditation and Kriya Yoga to this country. He found that linking his teaching with the findings of science attracted more people. He encouraged his listeners to apply logic to what he was saying – in other words, try it out and prove it to yourself. He taught from the heart but used language that spoke to our heads.

One of Yogananda’s key messages was that we can develop a personal relationship with the divine (or God or the power behind the universe or whatever you want to call it)– something I have come to truly know. After watching the movie, I reflected upon both his life and mine before going to bed. This led to a personal question as to the direction of my life. As I drifted off to sleep, I set an intention to receive a message during the night as to what I needed to know at this moment that would be helpful.

During the night I had the following dream – I was playing baseball. I was standing on the pitcher’s mound facing home plate. There before me was a batter, my catcher and the umpire. I was trying to throw strikes but couldn’t hit the strike zone to save my life. I could feel my frustration rising. Suddenly I was aware that there was a woman standing next to me. She told me to relax and to have fun. Something inside of me shifted. I became extremely aware of the placement of my fingertips upon the baseball and could feel the stitches and the leather very intensely. I began to throw the ball with a new awareness. It magically floated and curved crossing the plate as a perfect strike. Time and again I threw these perfect pitches with effortless ease. I turned to the woman and acknowledged that what she was telling me really had nothing to do with baseball – it was about life and learning to let go and listen to my heart. When I did so, things would become effortless. She smiled and nodded.

The dream stayed with me vividly as I awoke the next morning. The message remains clear.

Listening to Your Heart

Much has been written about listening to your heart. There is a degree of irony that these words must employ the head to do the pointing for the heart. Ultimately though, you will know when your heart is speaking to you and what it is saying and no one else can do this for you. The more you practice listening, the more you hear.

Here are a few tips from my personal experience on listening to your heart:

  • Slow your mind down – remove yourself from a lot of sensory experience and be quiet.
  • Let go of thinking about what others want or what you believe you “should” do.
  • Say to yourself quietly, “what is in my highest and best interest?” or “what does my heart want?” or something similar.
  • Simply listen without judgment. Be open to any message, no matter what it is.

Of course, one of the obvious challenges in doing this is in the discernment between messages from your head (coming from ego, the usual mind chatter, etc.) and true “heart messages”. From my experience, the guidance from our hearts tends to have the following characteristics:

Our hearts give us guidance that moves us towards our living on purpose, pulling us towards our life calling, encouraging us to be of service to some greater good.

Our hearts tend to break down our sense of separation from other people and the external world and move us towards a greater sense of interconnectedness.

Our hearts tend to guide us towards love.

Bringing Our Heart to the World

There are many times when our hearts jump to the forefront based on life’s experiences. Many of these “heart moments” come from seemingly large worldly events. Others come from the smaller sphere of events in my personal life.

The tragic terrorist attacks in Paris this past week certainly opened my heart. In months past, my heart ached over school shootings and other similar senseless violence in the news. Yet my heart has also responded to the needs of friends and family and to my own personal challenges.

Ultimately, in such moments, I am called to ask “what would love do?” What is the most loving and caring response in this moment?

Here are some other questions of the heart which may be helpful, especially as we encounter those life choices mentioned at the outset of this article:

  • Is my job or career serving my higher calling? Am I working on purpose? How can I be of service to the greater good more in my work?
  • How can I bring more love to my primary relationship? How can I let go of getting what my ego wants and give freely to them of my love and support with no expectations of anything in return? How can I serve them to live their highest life?
  • How can I assist my friends and family in living the life they are called to live? How can I let go of what I believe I “need” from these relationships and simply bring more love and support to them?
  • Are my choices in entertainment, food, material purchases, how I spend my time and so on…..coming from a sense of fear, doubt and separation or from a desire to make the world a better place for myself and everyone living here?
  • As I listen to politicians, pundits and their political positions on the issues of the day….is what they are proposing coming from fear or love? Is it ultimately harming or helping more people? Is it serving to separate and divide us into different groups or serving to connect us all?

What does your heart say? Are you listening? Are you bringing the message of your heart to the world? It’s time we all listened to our hearts and act on what we hear.

Mark Gilbert

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