Who is Driving? Your Head or Your Heart?
The mind is the place of logic and reason and it gives you the ability to collect, organize and store information. When it’s time to make a decision, your mind parses all your past experiences and tells you what to do to be safe. While this can be a good thing is some situations it can also be detrimental as an everyday practice. Making decisions based solely on fear rather than desire, joy, happiness or your highest good can lead to a thoroughly unfulfilling life.
The heart is the place of emotions and feelings, the well from which you give of yourself and the storage area that holds what you receive from others. It is also the seat of the spirit, where your soul resides. It has needs and desires of a different nature. It does not care about what others think, society’s rules, or for your safety. The heart wants nothing more than to be fulfilled.
From a Psychology point of view the heart can be impulsive and immediate-gratification oriented leading to rash, unwise decisions. Conversely, the mind is supreme and all decisions and actions should come from careful considered thoughts.
From a shamanic point of view, Alberto Villoldo, cites the psychological aspects of the heart are love, hope, compassion and intimacy. While the aspects of the mind are reason, logic, intelligence and empathy but also depression, stress-related disorders and denial.
So what does all this mean exactly?
You could reasonably argue that a healthy balance of mind and heart is best and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, Western society, in particular is so blinded by this mind-centered point of view that we are a population of multi-tasking, overworked, highly anxious, dis-eased souls. We are so in our heads, so motivated by fear, so cripple by worry and stress that we don’t even know how to listen to our hearts and what’s worse we are unhealthy and unhappy.
The bottom line is…. fear is a natural human reaction to the unknown but that doesn't mean you need to avoid it, divert course, or give up because the mind is yelling “danger, danger.” The unknown is where adventure lives, excitement breathes and possibilities are born. If you never take a chance, always play it safe and don't listen to your heart you are missing the point of being alive.
How can you tell who is in the driver’s seat?
Your mind may be driving if...
your actions are "should/n't” reactions
your actions are based on what society says is best
fear is a primary motivator
logic and reason are your only resources
your decisions are based on taking the safe route and avoiding risks
all your options are based on reviews and opinions of others
if you do not act on inspired ideas because of “what if…” thinking
you are focused on worst case scenarios
you only rely on your intellect
you are in a constant state of doing
you are preoccupied with knowing the future and wanting certainty
feel safe but bored
"When we are no longer motivated by fear, we understand that every moment is perfect in its own way. We no longer dread what we can't control; we learn to respect the wisdom of Spirit rather than impose our will on situations. This is the path of genuine power." - Alberto Villoldo
Following your heart may feel like...
a sense of trust in something greater than yourself
you have the courage to face fear
a leap of faith
being fully alive
a state of flow and grace
a gentle ease and allowing things to unfold as they are meant to
joy and fun
moving forward with curiosity and wonder
growing and evolving
being present and aware
If you can relate to more of the mind list than the heart list it may be time to stop letting fear drive.
In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert shares a practice of beginning every new venture with a welcoming speech that offers gratitude, acceptance and most of all boundaries to her fear. It's a funny and relatable concept that recognizes our natural human tendency towards fear but most importantly, places the control back where it belongs. I have shared my own spin on this idea many times with clients that are struggling with fear, over-thinking, ruminating, anxiety, worry, and the dreaded monkey mind.
If you are tired of submitting to the fear, try this prayer I adapted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s speech or make up your own.
Dear mind, the heart and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you will be joining us because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life and that you take your job seriously. Apparently, your job is to induce complete panic and fear whenever I am about to do anything interesting. And may I say you are superb at your job, so by all means keep doing your job if you think you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip which is to live the life I desire. And my heart will be doing its job which is to speak from a soul-centered place. There is plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us so make yourself at home. But understand this, the heart and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, so I will never exclude you from our activities, but your thoughts are only suggestions. You are allowed to have a seat and you are allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You are not allowed to touch the road maps. You are not allowed to make detours. You are not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. You are not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else my fearful mind, you are absolutely forbidden to drive. [adapted from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert}
If you do nothing else put your fearful mind in the back seat and take control of the wheel.