We can continue to analyze the worry and fear that lives in our endlessly processing brain, or we can let go and move into the heart. We have been trained to be brain-centric, so this is not always easy.
Moving into the heart is a practice, a practice where I will be a forever student, but it’s worth my energy, our energy, because it offers peace.
Worry doesn’t help anything and fear can only help us in a moment (as a body/mind indicator to pay attention), but staying stuck in fear just negatively skews our judgment and perception.
Endless brain attention on a worry/fear is a useless activity; not to mention a drain on the mind/body/spirit. Letting go and shifting into your heart, even momentarily, separates you from your thoughts – then you can notice they are indeed just thoughts, not reality.
Countless numbers of wise and great teachers have explained the importance of shifting from head to heart, but I like to use author Martha Beck’s descriptive language – the idea of “dropping in” to the heart. Mostly because it feels doable, literal, a real shift rather than a concept.
When you drop into your heart, you feel instead of think. Instead of being focused on past experiences, future worries, or “what could go wrong”, you are just here, now. And you can feel you are OK, you can feel that all is OK.
If you go back to your thoughts they will of course tell you differently, but your heart is smarter. Your heart is you.
The more you practice “dropping in” (it can be through a practice like meditation or prayer, or just in everyday moments), the more it will happen naturally and the more heart-centeredness will spread into other areas of your life.
When I started this practice I actually noticed that my sternum was physically sore – as if things were opening or maybe old wounds were being healed. I still occasionally feel that gentle soreness and I use it as a reminder – to keep opening those spaces, to keep working the wisest muscle in the body.
There are times (days, sometimes weeks) when my mind takes over and I lose the practice – I get lost in thought and forget that my mind is not really the most efficient problem solver (as Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”)
I even question the idea of having a problem and then “thinking it through” – not because I don’t honor the abilities of the brain, but because core answers don’t come from brain processing, they come from feeling.
If you are truly struggling, you need quiet, not more thought. You need stillness so you can “feel” what to do next. It’s an essential exercise in trusting yourself.
And when you trust, you remember to breathe, to “drop in”, to release your processing brain even for a moment, and feel what I can best describe as hope – that even when you are sad, grieving, afraid, angry, lonely, there is always a place to go.
That “hope” is not always necessarily just an idea for the future, but an idea for the moment. It’s a moment of transcendence and grace, where you realize you can shift down into your heart, the real you, the part that is connected to the greater wisdom, and REconnect (because when you were a kid, you were there all the time) to that feeling of peace.
It’s nothing you need to find outside yourself, you have it, and you have always had it. You just have to bring your attention back to it (as Glinda said to Dorothy, “You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.”)
Thinking likes to think, so it may feel threatened by your desire to drop into the heart and feel. It may tell you the mind is more powerful and the mind should stay in charge.
Unsure? Try this:
Point to yourself right now.
What are you pointing to?
See, you know.
Cathy Cassani Adams, LCSW, CPC, is the author of The Self-Aware Parent, the host of Zen Parenting Radio, a columnist for Chicago Parent Magazine, and a blogger for Chicago Now. She’s a self-awareness teacher and yoga instructor in her community, and she teaches in the Sociology Department at Dominican University. Find Cathy on Facebook (The Self-Aware Parent or Zen Parenting Radio) and on Twitter (@selfawareparent or @zenparenting) and on her website www.cathycadams.com.