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The Heart's Wisdom in Relationships

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Here is another response to a question someone sent me about listening to their heart to know what is true in their relationship. Specifically they wanted to know if when their heart contracts in response to the other person's words, is that a sign of how true the other person's words are or is it a sign of how true something is that is being triggered inside of them. Please note that this response refers to how the opening and closing of our heart shows us how true our experience is. For more about this form of heart centered wisdom, please see the free download of part 2 of my book, Living from the Heart which is available here.

One of the challenging things about our inner knowing is that it responds instantly to whatever is in awareness in a particular moment, and that’s always changing. So in interactions with others and in response to your own thoughts or insights, you are likely to experience a variety of expansions and contractions as words are spoken, thoughts and feelings arise, and conditioned reactions are triggered. For example, while someone is criticizing you, your Heart is likely to contract in response to the relative truth of their criticism. And if, in the next moment, you think, “They’re right. I’m a jerk,” your Heart might contract even more. In contrast, if you compassionately think, “Oh, he just lost his job, so he’s probably in a bad mood today,” this wider perspective might start your Heart opening. So the responses of your Being are as fast as thought, and we can have a lot of thoughts in a very short time. Your Heart is always responding to the words as they are spoken or the thought or reaction you are having in that instant.

When it comes to relationships, it can be hard to catch what is true and what isn’t, as there are often so many reactions in both people that are being expressed both verbally and nonverbally, and your Heart is responding to each one, even if only for an instant. That’s why I often say it matters more what the overall climate of a relationship is like than what the weather is like today. The question is, in the midst of triggering each other all day long, are there also moments of truly expanded love and joy? Which is predominant? The joy and love in just a moment of true Heart connection and celebration can be enough to counterbalance a lot of petty annoyances that may also be a part of being together.

If you are always contracting when someone does something, it might be your Heart’s accurate response to the truth of their actions. The question really is what happens in the next moment. Do you “get the joke” that it isn’t very true and just laugh it off and move on, or are you still thinking about it an hour later? If the latter, then you probably need to take a look at your own conditioning. But that doesn’t mean that if that person is repeatedly triggering you all day long there isn’t something in him or her that also needs to be seen for what it is. You are under no obligation to stay around someone who continually acts without integrity or awareness.

We can also use the Heart in making choices about practical matters, such as where to live or whether to stay in a job. What matters is the overall sense over time regarding a specific direction, not just how your Heart is responding in a particular moment. So when it comes to major decisions, it’s best to take some time sensing the overall climate of your being’s responses to the various options and to your reactions to the various options and any ramifications of each option that you can think of before deciding. At some point, there will be enough evidence in your Heart to know the relative merit of the various options. By the way, your Heart is still working fine if it registers no real difference between the options. That probably just means that whatever you choose in that situation doesn’t really matter!

Inner vs. Outer Guidance

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Q: Can I trust my inner sense of fullness to guide me more than outer signs and coincidences?

A: You can trust that inner fullness much more than any external signs. The challenge is to trust that inner fullness even when it seems to not be there. When you feel empty or contracted, that is also your inner guidance operating. Like the kid's game, where someone tells you you’re getting warmer or colder in pointing you in a certain direction, so you need the moments of feeling dry and contracted to let you know you are “getting colder.”

However, the really wonderful thing about listening inside is not that it gets you somewhere—to the right place or to where you want to go—but rather that it brings you to the fullness of your Being that is already here right now. It turns out that it doesn’t matter that much what happens in life or whether you make the right or wrong choice. What matters are the rich, endless mysteries to be found in the awareness that notices what happens. The value in paying attention to an inner sense of fullness is not where it leads you, but simply what it shows you about yourself right now. You are a limitless source of everything that really matters: peace, joy, and love. All this is available right now and in every moment, even if you end up taking the wrong bus to nowhere!

Note to readers: Please feel free to email me with questions or topics you would like to see addressed on this blog using the form on the contact page.

Become a Lake

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Someone shared this story with me on Facebook yesterday, and I wanted to pass it along:

An aging Hindu master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, he sent him for some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it.

"How does it taste?" the master asked.

"Bitter," spit the apprentice.

The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake, and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, "Now drink from the lake."

As the water dripped down the young man's chin, the master asked, "How does it taste?"

"Much fresher," remarked the apprentice.

"Do you taste the salt?" asked the master.

"No," said the young man.

At this, the master sat beside the young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering, "The pain of life is pure salt, no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things... Stop being a glass. Become a lake."