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Listen to Your Heart

“Wisdom consists in doing the next thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it.” Meister Eckhart.

I’ve written before about the benefits of having a rule that you will only accept new commitments to which you can say a whole-hearted “yes”. In accordance with this rule, a simple way of finding out whether you really want to agree to something is to ask yourself the question: “Can I say a whole-hearted yes to this?” If you decide that you can’t, then that gives you a straightforward and honest way of declining: “I have a rule that I only take on commitments which I can support whole-heartedly, and I don’t feel I can in these circumstances”.

Today I’m going to spend a little time writing about the importance of the heart in our daily lives. I mean by this the heart in the psychological or spiritual sense, though one doesn’t want to rule out entirely the role of the heart as an anatomical organ. Consider how quickly and sensitively your heart rate and blood pressure respond to your feelings and emotions. We all know exactly what we mean by the expression “whole-hearted” but I think most of us would have difficulty explaining exactly what being “whole-hearted” actually consists of in anatomical or psychological terms. I’m certainly not qualified to talk about what is meant by “heart” in this context in terms of psychology or neuroscience. But the one thing I am sure about is that when we use the common expressions which feature the word “heart”, we mean something which is a combination of our minds, our bodies, our intellects, our feelings and emotions. In other words we are getting near to the core of who we really are or, as the saying goes, we are “getting to the heart of the matter”.

Some similar phrases which we use every day are: “His heart wasn’t in it”; “She put her whole heart into it”; “It was a half-hearted attempt”. The one thing that all these phrases have in common is that they imply that a “whole-hearted” commitment is desirable and a “half-hearted” one is undesirable. Doing things half-heartedly doesn’t produce good results or impress one’s fellow workers, and a half- hearted person is one who is bored, uncommitted and not enjoying their work.

Unfortunately for all sorts of reasons many of us find ourselves in situations where we don’t have our hearts in what we are doing. This is not good for the work or for the other people involved – and it’s not good for us. In this sort of situation the best question to ask yourself is “What is my heart saying?” I have known people who are afraid to ask that question because they are frightened of what the answer will be, but it is a general rule of life that it is always better to face up to things than try to bury them. The answer may be that you need to make a fresh commitment to the situation, or possibly that you need to extract yourself from the situation altogether.

This question “What is my heart saying?” is very versatile. Its usefulness isn’t just confined to finding out what you really feel about a situation. You can also use it for making decisions, for checking out impulses or sudden impressions, or simply for getting directions as to what to do next.

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    You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don't know what was in the newspapers that morning... a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be

Reader Comments (2)

THank you for a very thoughtful post - good for an organisation (we're a charity constantly being asked to do things - particularly good for us) as well as individuals.
Can I ask for the reference to the Meister Echkart quote? It sounds suprisingly modern (and I'm wonderingwhat it is in the original German! - [I'm a theologian])
June 22, 2009 at 22:01 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

I can't vouch for the authenticity of the Meister Eckhart quote. I got it from the book "Holiness" by Donald Nicholl - who I would have thought was a reasonably reliable source. He describes briefly in the book how he organised his work using Eckhart's principle while he was Rector of Tantur, the ecumenical institute near Jerusalem.
June 22, 2009 at 23:44 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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