Who is Driving? Your Head or Your Heart?

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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?

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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?

 

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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
  • timelessness
  • synchronicity
  • love
  • inspiration
  • joy and fun
  • moving forward with curiosity and wonder
  • creativity 
  • expansiveness
  • 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.

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The Black, White and Shades of Grey of Self-Care

Self-care is a trendy topic right now! Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are filled with self-care tips and images to tantelize you into taking care of yourself.

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And I completely agree, self-care is not only important, it is vital to your healing! 

So with all the lists, ideas and prompts available out there why do so many people still neglect themselves?

I believe it is because as a whole our society is too concened with fitting in and too preoccupied by comparison. If the list doesn't fit your lifestyle or the image is in any way intimidating or you do things because they are on a list but don't really work for you, the baby usually gets thrown out with the bath water. Now, not only are you not practicing any self-care, you are likely beating yourself for not being successful at is as well.

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Speaking of bath water...I think it is amusing how many self-care lists contain some form of "take a bath." What if you don't own a bath tub or really dislike taking baths? If bathing is on every list you come across it can be very disheartening which often derails the whole process. 

Don't get me wrong, I love lists and ideas and prompts but that works for me. I am able to pick what I like, combine things from many sources, and create my own self-care plans.

But what if you don't have time, are too exhausted, or don't have the resources to think outside the box? 

Self-care is not a black and white set of accepted practices with one size fits all ideals. Self-care is shades of grey and consists of what makes you happy, refreshed and rejuvenated. So if you have a Pinterest Board full of self-care ideas that you never refer to, a spa gift certificate you never get around to using, or a pile of self-help books collecting dust I have a different approach I'd like to offer. 


Make Your Own Self-Care Plan

I. The first step to figuring out what things revitalize your worn out spirit and make your heart sing is to understand what your soul craves. Answer these questions without filtering them for probability or reasonableness! You have to know what drives your spirit in order to build a self-care practice that has a chance of working for you.

  1. If you could spend the day doing anything, with no time restraints, responsibilities or anyone/thing pulling on your energy, what would it be? 
  2. What do you need more of in your life?
  3. What do you need less of in your life?
  4. What brings you joy?
  5. What makes you feel powerful?
  6. What makes me feel nourished spiritually?
  7. What makes me feel nourished emotionally?
  8. What makes me feel nourished physically?
  9. What makes me feel nourished mentally?
  10. What wild thing would you like to try?

 

II. Once you have a good handle on your desires,  figure out what activities or lack of activities could achieve these results. Be creative and think outside the box. Even if your ultimate desire is not physically within reach you can find many things that will achieve the same or similar emotional, psychological or spiritual results. 

For example: If your answer to #1 was "Tour Italy" and you are unable to book a trip right now, there are many other ways to experience your dream destination. For instance, you could download the free Duolingo app and learn Italian, do an internet search on the history of Florence, peruse a picture book of Italy and make a list of the places you want to see in person, read a novel set in Venice or Rome, or watch movies filmed in Italy like Under The Tuscan Sun or Roman Holiday

 

III. Compile your list and decide how much time is needed for each activity to achieve minimum and maximum impact. Figure out your Good, Better and Best time frame targets. Sometimes you have 5 minutes and sometimes you have an entire day. Knowing how long you need to feel results gives you attainable options. These examples taken from the above scenario illustrate two very different time commitments.

Activity:  Learn Italian     Good: 15 minutes     Better: 30 minutes     Best: 1 hour                                                                                                       Let's say you chose the "Good" goal of learning Italian, but you did it everyday. It's not a huge time commitment and it allows you to escape everyday to a world you dream about. This small thing could result in a huge impact over a short period of time.

Activity: Watch Italian movies     Good: 2 hours     Better: 4 hours     Best: all day marathon                                                                                   Watching movies is more of a time commitment so yo might decide to do that once a week or once a month. Get your favorite candy bar, pop some popcorn and curl up on the couch for a little soul indulgence! There can be something so magical about being lost in a fantasy for two hours or all day. Movies can send us on a roller coaster of emotions which can be very therapeutic!

As a bonus, when you put your energy into something you want and are passionate about you invite the Universe to present opportunities to make it happen.  

 

IV. Now that you have your own unique list of self-care activities and Good, Better and Best time frames, the power to relax, rejuvenate, and revitalize is in your hands!

Click the button below to download the Make Your Own Self-Care Plan!