My dear friend and more-than-occasional muse, Mara Neimanis, reminded me today of the importance of “returning to heart.” I took that to mean abandoning my efforts to live from the neck up, rationalizing decisions I’m not ready to make or figuring out answers to questions that aren’t ready to be answered.
When I return to heart, I am aware of the blood coursing through me, carrying its payload of nutrients and hormones and life-giving who-the-fuck-knows-what-else. Even with only this partial physiological information, it calms me immediately. I stand, hand over heart, physically returning, asking it what it knows that my head doesn’t.
The response isn’t immediate, and that makes sense. I’m forced to go deeper than a facile answer, which is the only thing my brilliant mind can contribute. My brilliant heart—my more brillianter heart—has knowledge that centuries of human mystics have uncovered only after patiently living with conflict and paradox, sometimes for decades. In silence. On a remote mountaintop. Revelation comes when head and heart learn to “hammer out a compromise—meaning a promise together,” says Gregg Levoy in his book, Callings.
My task is to create the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual space to promote integrity, the coming together of head and heart and all the other body parts I carry through the world. I wonder what it would be like to be true to the essence of who I am, who we am, in any circumstance, even if that means living with unresolved paradoxes. “Western culture,” Levoy writes, “is hierarchical and patriarchal and finds it difficult to live with paradoxes without ‘resolving’ them in favor of one side or the other.” I understand this—I want my heart to win, or maybe it’s my head—so meanwhile I suffer for want of resolution.
I think about what it would be like to achieve some sort of easy truce between head and heart, and to unite the multitudes I contain so that they all agree, stopping the demon voices, promoting the godlike ones. Levoy writes that “the incredibly small number of people in history who have entered the state of unity and stayed there tend to have religions named after them.” This makes me feel much better about my own multiple personality disorder symptoms.
Hand over heart, I stand quietly and wait for news.
After a time, it tells me “all is well,” and I want to believe it, because I know that when I do, I am in that state of unity. The nonsensical ranting of neighbors and politicians recedes, as does every yet-to-happen disaster or historical catastrophe. There’s nothing left but love, surrender, and a sense of well-being. That’s the only way I can fulfill my purpose. That’s how I will make myself useful in this earthly guest house, where we’re all temporary boarders.
That’s when I’ll know I have returned to heart.