head and heart
head or heart
Growing up we are conditioned to believe that decisions are made by either heeding to our rational, logical thoughts or, by tapping into, and following our feelings. I was never once told that it was possible to live from a place of connection - of uniting both my head and my heart.
Western society prides logic over emotion and so we learn to prioritise rationale thought over love and passion. This meant that for many years I ignored my heart. I became a lawyer not out of a love for being one but because it was a sensible career to pursue. It would pay well; providing financial security and social respect. During the (soul-destroying) application progress for legal training contracts I felt awkward and dishonest because I was always at a loss for an answer to the question - 'why do you want to be a lawyer?' My carefully curated and heavily rehearsed answer was impressive and logical - it also lacked conviction and passion.
For years I ignored my heart until she eventually stopped feeling entirely. I guess I only made it as far as I did in my career (and so far off course) because of this ability to numb difficult and uncomfortable feelings; the downside was that it meant that I also never fully experienced joy during this time. I would pride myself on being an intellectual - knowledge, accreditations, qualifications, and achievements meant everything. But life felt empty.
Everything in life is in constant flux and change, and so it was inevitable that my heart would only go ignored for so long. During 2015 she violently flicked the ‘on’ switch and it floored me (literally). I could feel again, it was all-consuming. The only way that my head could process the physical and emotional plane of hopeless depression was to meet it with even louder thoughts that sounded off constantly (and destructively) inside of my head.
During the recovery from burnout and my breakdown I booked a three-month trip to India and enrolled on a yoga teacher-training course. This action came from the heart. It felt so right even though my head convinced me that it was a reckless financial move and that I wasn’t good enough to become a yoga teacher. A further test arose in the form of another difficult decision – a 'big deal', life transforming fork in my road...
For years I had dreamed of buying a farmhouse renovation project in the French Alps and I had applied for legal positions in Geneva because that was the sensible thing to do in order to fund ‘the dream’. A month before leaving for India I was offered the ‘dream role’ heading up a legal team for an investment bank, we made an offer on a farmhouse, and it was accepted. What to do? To proceed would mean that I would need to cancel my India trip and that felt so wrong. But India was always going to be there and it doesn’t mean that I can never become a yoga teacher, right? My heart felt heavy at the prospect of moving to live alone in a tiny studio rental to work a 100+hour week for a company that only gave me money in return for these sacrifices. The renovation project would consume years of my life and curtail my freedom in ways that would feel oppressive and suffocating. And so over the course of a weekend I declined the job offer and revoked the offer on the house. This was the first major life decision that I made that completely followed my heart. It didn’t make sense to many people in my life at the time but that didn’t matter because they weren’t walking in my shoes along my path.
I went to India and continued to live from a place of connection to my heart. If something felt right, I did it. I was learning the importance of cultivating healthy feelings and my thoughts became more healthy as a result. I qualified as a yoga teacher and began teaching immediately. I loved what I was doing but the longer I was there more I felt that something wasn’t quite right – something was missing. For years I had been a ‘thinker’, an intellectual, I had exercised my brain and all of sudden it had been relegated to a couple of hours of reading books each day on the beach between yoga classes. I wanted to use my mind and share my thoughts.
Head and heart
It took some time to figure out how I could marry the two – my head and heart – until the idea of THE RESONANCE COLLECTIVE visited me last summer. An energy therapist recently pointed out how inspiring it is that I have managed to create a career that allows me to work from a place of love whilst also utilising all that I have learnt (and continue to learn) in order to help others. I use both my head and my heart in the decisions that I make and in the work that I do.
To be governed predominantly by the head without observing our emotional terrain does not always prepare us for the messy world that we live in. The world isn’t an orderly logical place. Things often don’t make sense and life has a tendency to descend into utter chaos every so often. If it were logical then life would always be fair and we know that life isn’t always fair. Sometimes you cannot think your way out of a situation. Our heads can argue in favour of almost anything. Our minds will find many rational reasons as to why we should and shouldn’t do something, and so our thoughts can often hinder our ability to make a decision. However, my heart is always able to come down in favour of one side of an argument.
If in doubt I will now almost always follow my heart because life is ultimately experienced as a culmination of ever-changing feelings. Most of our actions are governed by a desire to feel a certain way according to our priorities and so I have found that ignoring my heart in favour of logic has often resulted in suffering of some kind. When I listen to my heart I find that I experience and enjoy more of my desired feelings – I feel more calm, empowered, grateful, and happy.
I am not saying that our thoughts are useless, quite the contrary. The reason that humans have evolved to be the ‘superior species’ is largely down to the development of our remarkable cognitive brains. Our minds can stop us from making dangerous decisions but in a Western world of few threats to life, I believe that it is time that we learn to listen to our hearts more often.
Are you governed by your head or your heart?