Living From the Heart
The Cyclical Nature of Our Beings
We live in a very mind-focused society. The mind reifies experience and creates fixed ways of seeing and experiencing the world. One of the symptoms of this type of society is that people believe they see things objectively correctly.
There’s actually a huge range of assumptions and fixed concepts that society’s understanding of the world is built on that are wildly far away from the true nature of reality.
The mind can err towards being like an on and off system. Awareness can be very black and white, as if we are either aware of something or we’re not, we know it or we don’t.
The heart in comparison is more inclusive of experience. It allows us to connect with things that are more nebulous and uncertain. When we connect with our hearts, we can have some level of understanding of lots of things, without explicitly knowing them.
With practice we can learn to drop into our hearts and include more of this way of being, rather than being purely in a more rational mode.
Part of the difference between these two ways of operating is the world-models they create.
Our minds create one that is of a directional line; the way it makes sense of time and experience is that we are continually moving in the direction of something.
We’re expected to be consistent in a very linear way – to show up for work at the same time, to be the same level of productivity, to want the same things from one day to the next – and ideally, we are always improving our circumstances because this is what makes us feel better.
When we see a linear graph, a downward trend feels bad to us. So we want to avoid it.
The heart in comparison is more cyclical. It is more in tune with nature, and presents a different way of being to us that is just as much what life is like.
When we are connected to this cyclical way of being that the heart creates, we can move more freely through the different seasons of experience. We aren’t going anywhere necessarily, we’re just present with what is here in this moment and are able to accept it’s place in the wholeness.
From the excitement of spring, to the openness of summer, to the death of autumn to the dark of winter; every moment has a part to play in the story.
This also creates a more inclusive way of being where we are able to be present with a wider range of experience because we aren’t judging certain things as good and bad and shutting them out if we don’t like them. We are aware that the current season we are in is exactly that – just a season and we can allow it to move through us.
In order for this to work we have to embrace the ability to connect with what is in experience, without being judgemental about it.
This allows us to be capable of being with the darkness and challenge of life, because we don’t reject it or turn away from it in the same way. We can see that things like anger, depression, sadness or other modes of being are there to give us an important message in life. We can make space to listen to what they are telling us, without believing the mind’s fixed ideas about what that means about us and others.
There is a sense of respect and sacredness held for all types of experience.
One of the realisations of Buddhist mindfulness practices is emptiness. One of the outcomes of this realisation is the understanding that the way we look at the world, creates the world. It’s a realisation that holds a huge amount of value in it, but it’s important that it is understood as a subjective experience rather than an objective truth about reality.
By this I mean, it can open doors to whole new ways of looking and being in the world, but it’s also false in a wide range of circumstances. The way you look at or understand a car coming towards you is not going to affect whether or not you get run over by it, for example.
A more inclusive version of this realisation is interdependent origination. Rather than assuming that it is our minds that create our experience and therefore by changing our minds we can change our experience, it assumes that we are a mind-heart-body-soul where everything is arising interdependently together. Both within our individual system and how that connects to the entire Universe around us.
Changes we make in any part of the system, will impact all the other parts.
It is interdependent because it recognises that everything relies on everything else; it is a complex eco-system of different things arising at once and if you change one part of the system it will impact all other parts of the system. Rather than being linearly dependent, i.e. one thing depending on another thing.
We connect to this interdependent nature by becoming present with what is in experience for us in this moment, whatever that is, while also recognising that this moment is connected to all other moments in time. It is simultaneously embracing the simplicity and complexity of life.
If we really lean into this world view – that everything relies on everything else – cause and effect completely collapses and this opens up a radical sense of compassionate presence.
Experience and the Universe couldn’t be any other way than it is now – everything is in its right place, which gives us more capacity and willingness to feel the feels and meet experience, whatever it is, without turning away from the painful or difficult parts.
This sense of compassionate presence is the base that this more cyclical nature of being is built on.
The best way I have found to represent this is through the seasons. I find it beautiful and pleasing how our way of being can be described in a way that it is a reflection of the nature that we are inextricably a part of. Each of the seasons corresponds to a different part of our experience.
While nature is more fixed in the way it moves through the season – we have a bit more flexibility to move in and out of different seasons at different times. We aren’t on a fixed schedule; however, I have found that cultivating some kind of balance between the different seasons tends to lead to much more presence and connection.
Here are the different seasons that we can be in.
Spring – Mind: Growth, curiosity, play, creativity
Summer – Heart: Connection, enjoyment, sincerity
Autumn – Body: Cutting away what needs to die, destruction, protection
Winter – Soul: Journeying deeply in, darkness, visioning
One of the problems is that people typically only operate in one or two of the seasons. They have learnt certain ways of being and try to apply it to everything in life.
Through awakening we can learn to operate more freely in the different parts. We are rewiring our systems to be more open to the different parts of us, which gives us more freedom in how we respond to something.
When we get stuck using a limited model of the world it causes us pain. We tie ourselves in knots, because we can’t respond to a situation in the most effective way. Developing our capacity for compassionate presence, means that we can connect more openly with a wider range of experience.
Most modern cultures, including Western Capitalism and a lot of spiritual practice, focus heavily on Spring and Summer. They are trying to create a world where everything is always growing and feeling good.
Autumn and Winter, in comparison, don’t get as much air time. People are terrible at saying no and getting rid of stuff that doesn’t serve them anymore. It’s very rare to have deep hibernating rest and the kind of deep visioning and thinking that arises from the Winter state. People are too busy doing new stuff and ‘being productive’. They are expected to be always on in the capitalist society.
We increase our ability to be in a wider range of seasons by breaking through the barriers and limitations that are keeping us in the fixed way of being and looking.
One of my favourite mantras is,
‘Burn down the barn, so you can see the moon’
I am a huge believer in cutting away the things in life that aren’t serving us any more. In order for me to be able to do this in a clean, compassionate way this has taken a huge amount of integrating shadows. Clean anger and ability to say no requires us to be really clear about how we feel about things and be able to be present with that without creating projections or judgements.
I am also a huge believer in deep rest and introspection. Taking time to really listen to what is coming through in your inner world. Cutting out hours of the day dedicated to reflection and attuning with ourselves – not with any expectation of what state we should be in or something we should be achieving (a lot of meditation practice is actually Spring and Summer) – but with a radical sense of being willing to be present with whatever is there.
Bringing ourselves back into balance – cultivating more ability to be in the Autumn and Winter modes – feels vital for both individual and planetary wellbeing. I believe that it is the key to a better future for everyone.
My practice guides and whole being awakening allow you to feel into these different aspects and open up parts of yourself.
An example of these different ways of being can be shown through a simple meditation instruction.
The classic instruction of ‘letting go’ can mean completely different things from each of the different ways of being.
Spring – Mind: Letting go of the controlling mind and allowing ourselves to be open, curious and playful
Summer – Heart: Letting go of ideas of right and wrong and connecting with the emotional reality of what is here, whatever that is
Autumn – Body: Recognising what needs to be let go of and doing what needs to be done to allow it to pass through or remove it from the system
Winter – Soul: Journeying deeply inwards to find the deepest parts of us that need to be let go of
None of these is a better or worse way to let go of things, it just depends on the context and scenario that you find yourself in. And what is important is increasing the capacity to be present so that we are able to act in wise and skilful ways for the benefit of us and others in a wider range of circumstances.