True purpose arises with inclusion. Inclusion is much more commonly translated as equanimity, but I prefer the translation inclusion for a few reasons.
Equanimity can be mis-characterised as a static state where we’re slightly detached from the world, totally calm and totally ok with everything exactly as it is, which isn’t a super helpful or true illustration of this boundless state of the heart.
Firstly, nothing is static, including inclusion. The boundless states are all active – they involve receiving the world with your heart and allowing its natural response to flow out of you, moment by moment. Like the blood flow that is being pumped through the heart with every heartbeat. Even when we reach a state of unity with the entire Universe, it is still an active state. Everything is moving and shifting and changing and it takes an active heart to remain open and inclusive of everything as it unfolds.
On a more day-to-day basis, we filter our experience in order to be able to function. We exist separately from the rest of the Universe, so that we can play our role in life. Inclusion is the way in which we open to the world, where we allow things to come into the fold of our experience. The intentions that naturally arise with inclusion are our reason for being here, they are what we are here to manifest.
Secondly, there was a really key idea that became deeply important during my awakening:
‘Equanimity includes the chapter of me’
It’s so important for the state of inclusion or equanimity to incorporate all the things that make you, you. We are each born with our own hearts and it is vital that you validate your own experience of the world and your heart’s desires. Your heart is the key to your individual expression in the world.
Thirdly, our ability to find our purpose relies on our connection with the people and the world around us and have a desire to engage with it. It is vital that we validate our desires; we won’t be able to find our true purpose without doing this.
Spiritual practice needs to incorporate this understanding of desire and purpose, because otherwise it becomes another vehicle for re-enforcing systemic and personal oppression. We are rejecting the part of ourselves that makes us so beautifully human – our reason for being here.
At the heart of inclusion is a sincerity. We feel we belong in the world and we believe in our own fundamental goodness; our emotions and experiences feel valid and we can accept and celebrate our natural response to them. We don’t need to overthink things or be cynical or overly-analytical about ourselves and the world around us. We feel the same about other people.
If we can open our hearts to experiencing the full richness of life and learn to dismantle the defence systems that stop us from responding to things freely, then our hearts will naturally tell us what is important. The clearer our hearts are, the more aligned we will feel with our intentions.
The desires that are going to give us a lasting sense of satisfaction, come from the heart. Heart’s don’t have much capacity for forming complex ideas. They want simple and wholesome things that can be experienced in the moment; listening to them is what is going to help us create a more meaningful world.
Honouring our emotions is how we find our true path in life and honouring our intentions allows us to follow our thread through life, gifting us a sense of confidence that we are in the right place at the right time, even when things are hard. Honouring our emotions and intentions and witnessing and facilitating this in others is the highest form of beauty. This is what we are here to do.
While the other boundless states exist in harmony with other parts of our body, inclusion exists purely in the heart. It is the only place we are going to find our true purpose. With this in mind, it’s really important to do a heart awareness practice before doing these exercises and it’s best if you can do the exercises in a space where you feel safe and held, as this is how we allow our hearts to open.
Arriving in Our Hearts
Start by getting a sense of how your heart is doing. Once you have placed your awareness in your heart-space, you can ask it how it’s feeling and see if you get a response. For example, it may feel happy or tender or sad or tired or open or closed.
In order to be present in our hearts, we need to be able to develop sincerity. Cynicism, judgement and analytical thinking all get in the way of us being in our hearts. If we can open to being in our hearts we gift ourselves the ability to experience our deepest truth – the heart’s inherent knowing.
Arriving in our hearts is incredibly simple, although not always easy. Ultimately it is asking ourselves these questions and answering in the most sincere way that we can:
- How do I feel?
- What are my heart’s desires?
- What feels important in this moment?
- What are my intentions?
Shame is the biggest barrier to sincerity. It is the sense that our feelings and desires aren’t valid. Know that your feelings are valid and that you are worthy of your desires. It is always worth learning more about shame and freeing ourselves from it. I would recommend Brené Brown’s TED talk and books if you want to explore this further.
The brain has a habit of rail-roading the heart and trying to convince it that it is wrong. Remember that your brain is there to serve your heart: to generate ideas and solutions that serve your heart’s intentions. Not to run the show.
Trauma leads us to close our hearts in order to protect ourselves. We refuse to receive certain information in to our hearts and this causes us to form judgements and prejudices against certain information. Rather than recognise this within ourselves, we project it back out onto the world. This practice is about recognising these judgements and consciously dismantling them so that you can receive information more openly and respond with more clarity.
We need to recognise the things that cause us to close our hearts. Notice things that annoy you or frustrate you or make you cynical or aggressive. This is quite a physically intense experience, if we pay attention we may notice a burning sensation or rage coursing through us or a feeling of wanting to physically run away. Learn to recognise this and be able to be with it – this is the process of the heart burning away the layers of judgement. Most people react to it and turn the anger back out to the world in order to avoid feeling it.
Take time, either when it is happening or later on, to peel back the layers. What was the person saying that you thought was wrong or bad? What sensations and feelings does this evoke in you? What is the emotion underneath it that hurts? Or in what way do you feel it puts your freedom to do or have what you want at risk?
Rather than feeding the idea that the situation or person is bad, we can learn to sit with the feeling of the judgements being burned away and find peace with the emotion and/or desire that is arising in us underneath the judgement.
We won’t find these prejudices sat on a cushion. We need to go out in the real world in order to allow the world to impact us. It can be difficult to spot our own prejudices, so it takes an intention of opening to the world and noticing when our defence systems are up. It takes a searing level of honesty and vulnerability to look at ourselves and see the dynamic for what it is.
We also apply judgements to ourselves. If you free-write about your emotions and what you most want in the world you will find parts of yourselves that you are not allowing. Practice sitting with the emotions and sensations that this brings up and see if you can push through the resistance to express you heart’s deepest truths.
Fear is the biggest barrier to burning away our judgements. We feel like the judgements are keeping us safe and if we let them go we will be exposed and vulnerable in the world. We think that if we don’t maintain the walls that keep people away from us, they will be able to ‘get us’. This can hold some truth, but it is worth remembering that our brains often exaggerate the level of risk that sincerity and vulnerability bring us in the modern world and the reward of being able to live with an open heart is huge.
Learning the process of removing judgement from our experience allows us to receive the world more freely and to respond with less hate and more love towards ourselves and others. Speaking our truth, even if our voices shake, can be a really powerful experience and is ultimately how we change the world.
Inclusion is the state where we are most connected and least separate from each other. This makes it the most beautiful relational space to be in when you are aligned and the most difficult relational space to be in when there is conflict.
It’s really hard to separate ‘my stuff’ from ‘your stuff’ because we are so interconnected. Our emotional responses and intentions are so tied up in everyone else’s that it takes practice and skill to be able to include all this and still be clear with ourselves and each other.
We resist including conflict in our experience, because we are tribal animals. We have evolved to rely heavily on keeping the peace at almost any cost because being rejected from the tribe or causing rifts was deeply dangerous throughout most of our history. Now we are physically safer, we can create a more spacious and mature approach to conflict. We can learn that mostly the consequences are not as bad as our brains would have us believe.
In order to achieve inclusion in a group setting or between two people this is what you need:
- Make space to listen to everyone. Make sure that everyone gets an opportunity to say what feels important to them in their experience, and that they feel they are able to speak honestly even if it makes others uncomfortable.
- Everyone needs to feel heard. It is vital that everyone’s emotions and intentions are accepted as being valid.
- Everyone who wants to input to the conversation needs to have the courage to speak clearly and openly about their emotions and what they want. This can feel vulnerable, but it is vital that people don’t fall into blame and control i.e. ‘you should think this/ behave like this/ treat me like this’
- Recognise that it is possible to validate someone’s emotions and intentions without accepting any blame or responsibility for how they feel or whether they get want they want.
- Problem solve together – i.e. how can we achieve a solution together that meets all our desires?
Often a resolution will arise that can meet everyone’s desires, but not always. If not, the resolution needs to include recognising the conflict. This can be a really hard conversation to have, but an example of how a resolution could look is:
‘I understand that you don’t want me to do this because it will upset you AND I am going to do it anyway because it is important to me’
The and is really important. If you use a but in the middle of the sentence, then you are undermining the other person’s emotions and/or intentions in order to make your decision seem easier or more right. If you are using an and, you are including the conflict within your state and explicitly using this to inform your intention.
If this is something that you would like to learn about in more detail, I would recommend the book, ‘Having Difficult Conversations’. It’s a game-changer.
The intention around this practice is to open to ourselves and our experiences. This is characterised by meditating on no-self. Our thoughts and emotions don’t belong to us, they arise in our experience. What belongs to us is how we choose to respond. There are a few practices that help us realise this:
- Notice that our thoughts and emotions are arising and passing without us doing anything, they are being evoked by the environment we are in. We aren’t creating them.
- Notice that we go through emotional ‘seasons’. Sometimes we feel deeply connected to the world around us, other times we feel disconnected. The purpose is to allow these seasons to pass through us and for us to be a sacred witness: giving them your blessing that this is a valid season to be in.
- Notice that we pick up on other people’s thoughts and emotions and they end up in our experience. We are much less separate than we think.
- Expand your awareness outside of your body to include the room and everyone or everything in it. Experiment with expanding your awareness as far as it will go. Notice that you can diminish your sense of a separate self by doing this.
- Use the mantra ‘open, open, open’ to set an intention to keep opening your heart. Allow everything you find inside and outside of you to be included in your experience.
No-self is a really useful meditative concept. We have much less of a fixed, separate self than we typically realise and it is possible to filter our experience in ways where we are only receiving the information that is Universal.
However, it is worth saying that we do have a literal self. Our bodies and hearts are physically separate from the rest of the world and each one of them is unique. They hold the essence of what it is like to be us and they hold our heart’s desires. The more we are able to be present with the direct sensate experience of our bodies and hearts, the more we are able to experience and manifest our true self, which is what we are here to do.
Peace comes from discovering the people, places and feelings that resonate with our deepest sense of who we are. This is our hearts desire and it makes sense to get clear on what these things are.
It also comes from manifesting our life purpose in the world, which comes from our heart’s intentions. Getting clear on what your intentions are is another one of the most worthwhile things that you can do. It is important to remember that hearts like to keep things simple, they can’t hold complex ideas and they aren’t interested in things like strategy and financial pay-offs. You can trust your brain to take care of this once you are clear on your intentions.
Hearts are only ever present in this moment, so we are looking to boil down our intentions and desires to things that can be manifested in a moment. A process that can be enjoyed, rather than a goal that can be reached.
We each hold lots of scripts about what we should be doing, which come from our brains, and ideas of things that we need, which come from our bodies. So when we are discovering our intentions and desires we are looking for ways in which we can be in direct contact with our heart. We are trying to boil our intentions and desires down to single words and images, which encapsulate what our hearts want to experience and manifest.
Here are some ways you can explore your heart’s desires and intentions:
- Think about what you would like to do most in the world, either for fun or for work. Think about how that could be boiled down to a value that you hold. For example, if you want to travel to South America this year, look underneath to get to the value that you are trying to manifest, which in this case could be a sense of adventure. Once you have discovered your value, think about how you can find small ways to start doing it every day. This helps us move away from future-based goal setting and more towards being present with our intentions and enjoying the process.
- Find a list of values or feelings (there are lots of websites that have lists), and choose the ones that feel most important to you. Some examples of values you may want to manifest: creative, fun, relaxed, wild, engaged, fresh, inspired, playful, soulful.
- Create a short list of intentions that feel most important to you. Up to five will allow you to remember them so that you can reorient yourself towards them throughout the day. If you want to explore this in more depth I would recommend Danielle La Porte’s book – the Desire Map.
- When discovering your heart’s desires focus on things that you feel physically drawn to, as opposed to the things you think you like or think are good. What you are drawn to comes from the heart. It could be people, places, activities or values.
- Our hearts are very good at telling us what is important, but they can’t hold a list of items and ideas to prioritise. If you have decisions to make boil them down to a series of simple ‘this or that’ questions and let your heart decide.
- Brains have a habit of rail-roading our heart’s decisions. Our hands have a strong connection to our hearts and can help us make heart-felt decisions:
- Boil it down to two options; imagine that they are both dropping through space and you can only save one of them – which one do you grab?
- Place your options on a table in front of you by writing them down and let yourself instinctually tap which one you prefer.
One of the important things to recognise with intentions is that we never ‘arrive’ at our destination. Our purpose is to create an environment where we are with the people, places and activities that allow us to feel a sense of belonging and to enjoy the process of manifesting our heart’s desires.
I have written a blog post about how intentions fit into spiritual practice, which includes some more questions and resources for identifying your values. You can read it here.
There are two types of impatience – the brain’s impatience and the heart’s impatience.
Brains have fixed ideas and schedules of what they would like to be achieving and when. It is helpful to recognise this as mostly nonsense. Almost all projects change scope and over-run because we can’t take everything into account before we start and things always go wrong in one way or another. The more flexibility we can give ourselves to respond to things in the moment, the less impatient and frustrated we will be.
Hearts don’t have access to the past and the future in the same way that brains do. This is one of the reasons it’s important to understand intentions as values, so that we can be finding small ways to express our desires in the present moment, rather than be working towards long-term goals.
Hearts also really want to feel a sense of belonging and when they don’t have it they are impatient to create the conditions that will change that. It’s really important to recognise this feeling in us when it’s there as it is a signal that things need to change. We also don’t need to respond to its immediate wants and needs. Discipline is the art of choosing between what we want now and what we want most. Sometimes we need to forsake our immediate wants in order to manifest our deepest desires.
The heart’s natural state of inclusion helps us to do this. If we can bring things like impatience and loneliness into the fold, we can become at home with feeling like we aren’t at home, in order to weather discomfort and difficulty on our paths.
Inclusion is vital to helping ourselves and each other find our true purpose in life. Rejecting parts of our experience will cause us to spend our time doing what we think we should be doing, rather than what we really want to do be doing.
We need to learn to validate emotions and intentions within ourselves and other people in order to find our true paths.
The best way to reflect on whether these practices are working for you is to ask yourself these questions:
- Am I able to be more sincere as a result of the practices?
- Inclusion is where we aren’t separate to anyone else so asking the question, ‘Is this allowing other people to be more sincere in my presence?’ is equally as important.
- Am I clear on my intentions? Am I allowing myself to want what I want?
These are the things that will help us find our true purpose in life.