When was the last time you sat and just… listened? Not to the sounds of cars going by, or the washing machine rumbling, or kids fighting… but to your heart? Or to the heart of another person? It is my humble opinion that THAT is the answer to World Peace but, obviously, it’s much easier said than done. So, as usual, it’s best to start with you and your little world, then work your way out.
The heart is a magical entity. It is full of wisdom deeper than our brains could ever access. Your heart is where your desires, conscience, and empathy live. If given a chance, she can reveal your next steps and illuminate the path in front of you.
So, how to even begin listening to your heart? It’s not something that was taught to most of us, and it’s not made a priority in our culture. In fact, our society produces endless amounts of distractions that keep us from our hearts. We get a dopamine hit much quicker from buying something, scrolling, or getting another iced coffee. None of those things are bad, but too much keeps the heart from sharing her wisdom.
How to Listen to Your Own Heart
- Find a quiet place and time, just for you.
- Sit and breathe. Deep breaths in and out until you feel your nervous system settle.
- Put one hand on your heart and feel the beats. Thank her for working for you, day in and day out.
- Ask her a question. It can be anything.
“How do I really feel about ________?”
“What is the most important thing for me to know right now?”|
“What makes me truly happy?”
“Where do I go from here?”
“What is my life supposed to look like?”
(Make sure you’re not asking your head these questions yet -- Your brain will want to dive into analytics and logistics. There is time for that later, but not now.)
- Wait. You might get an answer immediately. You might feel overcome with emotion. (Laughter and tears are how your heart thanks you for listening.) You might feel nothing yet. It’s all good. Hold your questions in your heart and know that the answers are on their way. It might be spelled out on a billboard for you (although not usually), but most often, it is a feeling. An inner nudging toward the very next right step.
- At least once per day, put your hand on your heart and breathe, and let her know you are still open to her wisdom.
How to Listen to Someone Else’s Heart
Just like your heart is full of answers, so is everyone else’s. Are you in a rough patch with your spouse? Do you have a friend who has shut down? Not sure how to approach your boss? Need to discern whether or not to go on a second date? Your heart and theirs have the right answer
- First get into your own heart by following the steps above.
- Ask the other person a question. Not a surface question, a deep one.
“How do you really feel about _________?”
“Tell me about a time when you were full of joy.”
“If there were no obstacles, what would you do?”
“How does your body feel when you _________?”
- Listen. With your ears, yes. AND listen with your whole body. Watch their eyes. Do they light up or look down? Watch their body language -- is it open or closed? Hear their voice and the emotions behind it. Feel their energy -- does it make you want to hold back or hug them? Is their heart beating fast? Are they nervous, defensive, proud, scared, or happy? When you realize you can listen to SO. MUCH. more than words, your whole world opens up.
- Notice your own heart. Is she guarded or open? Can you feel the compassion pouring out of her? Do you feel any next steps (i.e. Do you need to step back or step forward)?
Why We Need to Do This
Essentially, the heart is the best at wading through all the bullshit. When people say, “Let’s get down to the heart of the matter,” they mean let’s get to the important, dial-moving stuff. Many of us skip the heart and go right to the brain -- we start over-thinking, calculating, making excuses, rationalizing, or stretching the facts. The calculations and analyzing will be useful after the heart has made her decision, but not before. The heart is pretty no-nonsense once you learn to hear her.
Imagine knowing what to do in any given scenario. How much time, effort, energy, and heartbreak would that save? As with any skill, learning to truly listen takes time. It might be very difficult to hear the wisdom at first. That’s normal. Practice will bring progress -- and it will be so, so worth it!
Check out these pieces that will help remember the topic this month.