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meditation

Unlearning everything you know

Unlearning everything you know

Nowadays even a Masters degree doesn’t grant you a round of applause. It seems like the pressure is only increasing to acquire as many degrees, diplomas and certifications as possible in order to stay competitive, sharp and ready for an unknown tomorrow. However, when it comes to heart intelligence what we actually need to start doing is unlearning everything we’ve been taught.
Have you ever noticed what an awareness children have about their bodies from a very young age? Even before being able to speak, children have an incredible capacity to sense through smell, touch, temperature and sound. Their ability to rapidly connect with other children is incredible when compared to the amount of time it can sometimes take adults to connect. As we get older, mainstream schooling focuses our attention more and more on our cognitive capacities, placing emphasis on intellectual intelligence over emotional and somatic intelligence. As a result, we start interpreting the world around us only through facts, judgments and rational thinking. We start losing the capacity to really feel and sense our surroundings through our hearts. In fact, most of us completely shut off our physical sensing capacity and spend time in busy cities, crowded subways and packed elevators trying to pretend that we are completely alone.
Despite the fact that many adults go decades without using their heart’s intelligence to navigate their worlds, this capacity to physically connect remains intact and ready to engage whenever we allow it to. In order to start feeling again, we actually have to unlearn the educated tendency to process everything through our rational minds.
One way to get a sense of how powerful that connection can actually be is to stand on a subway platform and just notice all the people around you. Notice the direction they are facing, how far they are from you, and whether they are sitting, standing or leaning against a post. Also take note of the patterns that groups are forming: are people standing in a straight line, in a circle or clump, individually or in pairs? Who is still and who is moving? While you bring your awareness to all of this notice what feelings arise in your heart. Does your heart automatically respond to some people more than others? Do you feel a tingling in some places or discomfort anywhere? What images and pictures come to you while you take in all that is around you on the platform? This simple but profound experience of extending your awareness beyond your own bubble while simultaneously staying mindful of what it is feeling may give you an incredible sense of how powerfully your heart relates and connects to what is happening around you. While it may not be able to communicate through words, it does express itself through feelings, metaphors, sensations, images and other methods unique to you.
If you bring this subway platform sensitivity with you to other parts of your life -- when driving in a car, when walking down the street, when entering a room full of strangers or when waiting on line while shopping -- you may begin to notice that there is an automatic and natural connection that your heart has to everything going on around it. In fact, your heart is always connected whether you allow yourself to notice this or not. It is the most basic aspect of being human. This connection isn’t something that needs to be improved and practiced. Rather, when we unlearn the habit of rationalizing everything and begin suspending the mind’s constant chatter we start to notice the richness of experience that our physicality can take in and process. With time even the most simple of shapes, gestures or movements from people and beings around us invite us to notice their incredible beauty and the feelings and intelligence they provoke in our hearts. And if we notice our mind trying to jump in and analyze all of that heart intelligence, best is to try settling it down and putting it temporarily on hold. There are already enough other moments in which to process our worlds through our very educated heads.

Is silence the golden rule?

Is silence the golden rule?

Ask any parent of a teenager and they are likely to agree that they often have better conversations with their child sitting next to them while driving a car than across from them at a dinner table. Or how many of us have ever experienced that it's easier to resolve a conflict with our partner when taking a walk together in the woods rather than sitting at home? Why is that? 

According to Arawana Hayashi, Shambhala Buddhist teacher and co-founder of the Presencing Institute, "The eyes are the easiest escape from the body". What she is referring to is our body's natural capacity to be mindful of ourselves and aware of others--in other words connected. The problem is that for many of us, we have completely lost touch with the variety of ways in which we can sense and connect with what is going on in the world around us. As a result we rely heavily, and at times exclusively, on visual stimulus to connect. While the visual world is beautiful, many of us use our eyes to project our inner thoughts onto the world that we then end up seeing, rather than seeing the world for what it is and allowing that to shape our reflections about it. 

We have completely lost touch with the variety of ways in which we can sense and connect with what is going on in the world around us.

The above examples represent situations where other forms of communicating actually allow us a deeper and more meaningful way to relate to and understand another person. These are situations in which side-body and back-body "listening" take priority over exclusively listening through our eyes and ears. In a way, it's almost as if changing our orientation from both facing each other to both facing forward opens a deeper listening capacity within. There is something profoundly basic and beautiful about two people side by side both sharing a common forward view whether sitting in a car, walking amongst nature or staring out at an ocean view. This shared experience has the capacity to unlock additional sensory "antennas" that we can use to actually feel another person during conversation.

Silence...has an amazing power to bring to surface all the somatic feelings that we otherwise miss while remaining attune only to our heads.

But what does that mean to feel another person without physically touching them? Take a moment to reflect on the last time that you felt that someone was standing behind you before you could actually see them, or when you felt a warm rush in your heart while listening to a friends story, or had a strong sense in your gut that someone wasn't telling you the truth: these are some of the ways in which our bodies use felt sense to speak to us. For the most part however, we have completely blocked our body's attempt to communicate with us in all instances except for when we are feeling ill. When sick we become hyper-sensitive to our body's needs and how we are feeling. Yet outside of this situation so much of our communication is interpreted and influenced through thoughts from our mind. And while there is value to the information registered through our brains, there is also a world of body intelligence that many of us are completely ignoring. 

For those interested in reconnecting to their bodies there is a golden "trick" that allows us to rapidly jump from being consumed by our mental chatter to beginning to feel our body's natural sensing: silence. Silence, through meditation or even simply between two people during a conversation, has an amazing power to bring to surface all the somatic feelings that we otherwise miss while remaining attune only to our heads. Although initially silence may make us uncomfortable and provoke even more thoughts, with a bit of practice the conscious use of silence can allow us to let our thoughts go and bring our attention to our feelings. Suddenly we notice different parts of our bodies speaking to us through gentle movements, new sensations and even uncomfortable reactions. If after some silence we then consciously speak and listen from our heart and gut, rather than from our minds, we may find ourselves connecting in ways more meaningful and authentic than we usually do. 

Remember, in the end it's not about one over the other, but rather honoring the beautiful communication between mind and body that we all have the natural capacity to experience.