What does it mean to live from the heart? And why does it matter?
In my experience, every difficulty I’ve ever faced has manifested itself as a rift between my heart and my mind—between what can be known most profoundly when words are left behind, and what presents itself as a seemingly irrefutable conclusion of the mind’s learning. When this happens we tend to look at circumstance as the genesis of difficulty, without realizing that our inability to greet circumstance wholeheartedly is the true cause of our suffering.
It takes but one short-fused moment with a loved one to realize we are fractured down the middle—one cross word, one violent thought if we’re paying attention. We look quickly to reasons, to motivations of self and other, to life’s weighty conditions, when ultimately what we’re feeling is the way our mind’s considerations and our heart’s clarion voice have turned their back on one another. When we are conflicted within, the result is conflict without: a moment or situation that has no solution, a pain that rings like a searing bell and cannot be silenced.
The greatest challenge I think we face in our world today is that of allowing the inner marriage of heart and mind to be consummated within us. It is far from an easy task, for we are emerging from a time in which only that which is externally shareable is considered a valid form of knowing. When our hearts whisper, they whisper to us, and us alone. Trusting this voice is an indelicate proposition. The heart whispers to us from deep within the domain of our individuality, from the sanctity of our own being, and the voice is oh so very tender. The whispers do not withstand the mind’s indecorous demands for evidence and justification. The voice of our hearts, like a seed dormant for centuries in the soil, will wait patiently for eons if need be, for the conditions in which it might emerge, and grow.
The whispers of the heart require the carrier wave of trust, sounded within the echo chamber of peace, to become sensible. Peace is like an amplifier of the truth within us. It builds it up into something we can contact. But if we look too closely, with eyes sharpened by fear and doubt, we puncture the bubble, and it is lost. Looking this way justifies itself.
See? There is nothing there. Just like I thought.
The heart and mind conflict when the mind usurps the heart by proving once again its chosen point of origin, and the beautiful skill and craft required to bring the heart and mind into union is dismissed. We don’t like that there is an art to this, a craft innate to us whose importance we’ve forgotten. We don’t like the idea that bringing heart and mind into alignment requires commitment, willingness and perseverance. We don’t like that it’s at once subtle and messy, or that it adamantly refuses to be commoditized.
We really don’t like that the heart’s liquidity is predicated upon surrender.
The type of wisdom that resonates with me the most is the type that has punctured the bubble countless times, but gotten up again in equal measure, and ultimately learned how to cultivate the delicate touch of awareness that gives the bubble space to wobble and dance. Dennis Ference is a person who carries this wisdom, and one of the great rewards of setting up virtual shop here has been the discovery of Dennis’ writing.
In his recently published book entitled From the Water’s Edge, I find page after page of insight regarding the truest of human arts: the sustenance of the delicate bubble of peace within. If you haven’t read Dennis’ writing, I encourage you to visit his blog sooner than later, but also to consider getting a copy of his book. His blog is great, but for me the book really shines because I can carry it with me to the river, to the city, to the parking lot, to the bus stand, to the stairwell, to the back porch, to the office cubicle, and to the park bench. The words in the book are surrounded by space, and in their brevity you get a sense of the bounty from which they emerge. Dennis recognizes that what needs to be said is actually so very little. The pages—mostly blank—get the proportions just right in my opinion. The space is an invitation.
In the journey towards unifying the mind and the heart, it helps to have a handy collection of bubble starters. When we collapse, we need a point of beginning on which to build. We need a point of entry back into the dance. I think what Dennis has ultimately provided is an unerring set of beginnings. It is then up to us to value and nurture that bubble, to protect it and watch it grow. There’s suggestions from Dennis on that, too, but ultimately the cultivation of that wisdom is what this life is for. We can’t read our way into this. We learn the delicate touch of awareness that enables heart and mind to truly join by spending time with that fragile bubble as we walk life’s tightrope. We learn through life’s unerring guidance how to respond, how to sustain it, how to keep it safe and to help it grow.
Dennis suggests in his introduction that the ultimate value of his words is to trigger a response, and I think he has this right, too, for it is only in giving what is ours to give that we discover what the quiet voice of our heart is really telling us.
Thank you, Dennis, for the light you shine on this path of peace. It is a joy and a boon to call you friend and brother.