This perspective of experiencing life through connection (the heart) or meaning and purpose (the shared story) gifts us a fundamentally different way of experiencing the world that changes everything. Rather than taking our own experience as ‘truth’ and cultivating this for our own gain, we realise that we are an inextricable part of a greater whole and naturally want to contribute to enjoying and improving the world.
Life becomes about what we can contribute and open to receiving. We know that there is more to life as a whole and even our own individual lives than we can possibly ever be aware of. Embodying this perspective allows us to open to the mystery of life, bringing it into the fold of our experience. We can embrace the knowledge that we are falling into the unknown together at every moment and enjoying the journey.
We are interested in interacting with other people, learning their stories and working together. We can realise that when we make a mistake or something unpleasant or bad happens to us, it may still be serving the whole.
We can find joy in the phase that we are in, wherever that is, knowing that we will never ‘arrive’ anywhere, we are just continuously expressing our life force – creating more and more beautiful and meaningful connections and getting a deeper understanding of life and ourselves.
Joy is the doorway to this aspect of experience, in the same way that awareness is the doorway to understanding.
To embody this way of being we need to rebalance our inner worlds and our societies. We need less focus on the mind and understanding – the Western Scientific view or the predominant Buddhist Spiritual view – and more focus on the story and meaning of our lives. The joy that we can find in being where we are and expressing that in the world. Together.
This takes skill and energy in the same way that scientific progress takes skill and energy – life is hard and often there is a lot of drudgery – we have to learn to look for and cultivate the things that bring us joy. To learn to open to life in this way. To make the changes to our life that allow this to happen.
In spiritual practice the words and sentiment of: ‘just open to the joy/love that is already there’ should be banned. If it was already there, people would have figured that out by now. Joy is not something we can just choose to embody, it is something that we make space for and cultivate in our lives.
The heart states all need to be actively nurtured in our inner worlds and outer worlds. In the same way that intelligence requires a huge amount of effort and resource to manifest, heart-knowing and opening to life in this way requires that same effort and physical resource. This includes getting rid of or changing things that do not give us joy or that we do not truly love. True love involves killing off the things that no longer serve us.
The things that we are naturally drawn to, or love, are the forces that shape our experience. We do not get to choose what this is – we only get to decide whether to open to it or not and whether to put time, effort and resource into creating the conditions that will help it arise in our lives.
This is also different to a lot of other spirituality, like Christianity and Islam – which would have us deny huge parts of our desires. Our desires are what fuels us. It is of course worth exploring your desires and understanding that sometimes when we can’t get the thing we really want or need we crave stupid shit to fill the gap, but all experience is worthy of your attention and love.
If you are willing to dig deep enough underneath this craving and aversion there is a genuine desire to be loved for who we naturally are, to love other people who we naturally feel drawn to and to contribute to the world in a way that comes naturally to us.
Overcoming the craving and aversion within us requires us to acknowledge that the environment that we are in is not meeting our needs and it needs to change. Either internally or externally, or almost always, both.
Sometimes this means going on a journey through our darkness and pain to reclaim parts of ourselves that have been rejected. Or going on a collective journey to weed out shared problems and come up with solutions. This is messy, but as long as we do it in a safe space then no-one needs to feel bad or guilty about what is inside of them – we are inherently good and any ‘evil’ has just arisen as part of the causes and conditions that have shaped our Universe and our human life.
Mostly what we think of as bad comes from social constructs anyway and if we can unpack our darkness in an environment that is supportive then it is even better. When someone else can love the parts of us that we reject, we skip a whole phase of self-hatred and pain and judgement and the whole thing becomes a lot easier.
Once this contraction is freed up we have far more energy to be true expressions of who we really are, to receive the things that will give us meaningful satisfaction and to stand up for the things that we believe in, even when that is hard.
Ultimately, we are here to experience the world in all its light and darkness. We need to find ways we can relax into the experience and share in it with others, without either feeling like we need to fix or change everything or that we need to check out into nirvana, nothingness or acceptance of how things are.
We realise that we need to create communities that support us to thrive.
When we are valued for the contribution that we make, we feel loved and it makes the whole catastrophe of wading through the mess of a human life worthwhile.
Engaging with the world through the heart is a fundamentally different way of being engaged that takes into account the collective experience. We are part of the whole. We can learn to cultivate this part of experience to help us create a more rewarding and fair life for everyone.