How to follow your heart… Como seguir a tu corazón

follow_your_heartThis question comes up a lot in my work with clients. People want to know how to connect to their inner guide, how to listen to and follow that quiet voice of wisdom that can tell them how their life is best lived. As someone who has sometimes followed my heart and sometimes hasn’t, I know what both feel like. I can tell you what works for me.

  1. Connect to your body. When you are not listening to your heart and thus, not living according to your values, your body will tell you. My body told me that going to the Mormon church was not good for me. Every Sunday, by the time I left church I had a terrible headache and after getting home I would collapse into bed and sleep for hours. Your body will also indicate when something or someone is right for you at this time. You will feel a lightness, expansion, and a brightness like someone just flicked the light switch on inside of you. Develop an awareness of the sensations of your body throughout the day. Sometimes it can be difficult in the moment when you are with someone to know how that person affects your heart because you are focused on the conversation or your own image. However, take a quick body sensations inventory once you are alone again. What was the impact of that person on your body? These physical sensations will tell you a lot about how that person affects your soul. This is not about logical analysis with your mind. It’s a different kind of knowing. You can do this same kind of body sensations inventory with projects you are working on, books you read, foods you eat… Really, with any choice you make regarding how you live your life. It seems like the most obvious of things to say that in order to follow our hearts, we first need to connect with them, and we do that through our bodies. However, in today’s world we are so used to trying to figure it all out with our minds, we forget about the body’s wisdom and we disconnect from it.
  2. Let yourself obsess. I just heard a wonderful podcast about the topic of learning to be your own guide which so fully reflects my own experience, I have to share. I went to the website to see if there was a transcript so that I could more easily quote from it. Interestingly, there is not a full transcript, but the few quotes from the podcast shared on the website are exactly the ones I was looking for! The producer and I are on the same wavelength. Here is what writer Steve Almond says in the podcast about returning to a more instinctual state: “Children come into the world obsessed — they care about things too much, and that obsession gets socialized out of us. We beat down the voices that care about things too much and that feel too much, and part of the artist’s journey is to say ‘Screw that. I do care about it too much. I am too invested in it. I’m obsessed with it, and I’m going to be honest about that obsession rather than try to lead a safer, more conventional, ‘approved’ life.’ But it’s an emotionally and psychologically inconvenient arrangement.” What does this have to do with following your heart? You may not consider yourself an artist, but guess what? You are, and your life is your masterwork. If you are reading this, you probably care about and want to follow your heart. Following your heart requires obsession which Steve Almond so truly defines as caring and feeling too much. It’s not socially acceptable and it’s not convenient. Most likely, you’re not going to get a pat on the back for it. If you start following your heart, people are going to tell you that you are irresponsible and selfish. They may say it because they are envious, because they really wish that they had the courage to follow their own hearts. Or they may genuinely worry about your welfare. In any case, following your heart requires that you do so in spite of these objections from others that echo fears within your own self.
  3. Set fire to your own nest. The beautiful singer/songwriter India Arie says: “We hear about the phoenix rising from its ashes. In the mythology, the phoenix actually sets fire to its own nest. The thing that makes empowerment a journey is because no one can give it to you. You give it to yourself. You set fire to your own nest. You give birth to a new you.” Your heart will make itself heard. Your body will tell you what you want and don’t want in your life. Whether you pay attention and make choices based on this information is another thing entirely. Following your heart requires fierce courage because there are real risks involved. It’s not the safe way. You may hurt someone. You may hurt yourself. You may get burned when you set fire to that nest. However, I know from experience that what rises from those ashes is stronger and better every time.

The only way you can learn to follow your heart is to do it day after day. I have made some big, bold moves in the past. I’ve made some major life changes in the face of great opposition. I’m always glad that I had the courage to make those changes. And yet, I often find myself stumbling on my heart’s path and losing connection to my heart, my values, and my life’s purpose. We learn to trust our own inner guide by surrendering to its wisdom every day. This is how we create our own sanctuary of inner calm from which we can draw strength and make all of our decisions. This sanctuary of the soul can not be shaken by life’s tempests. Whatever is going on out there, we can always retreat to this space of trust and tranquility.


En Español:

Esta pregunta surge mucho en mi trabajo con clientes. Quieren saber cómo conectarse con su guía interior, cómo escuchar y seguir a esa voz callada de sabiduría que les puede decir cómo vivir mejor. Como alguien que a veces ha seguido a su corazón y a veces no, sé cómo se siente de las dos maneras. Os puedo decir lo que funciona para mí.

  1. Conectarte con tu cuerpo. Cuando no sigues a tu corazón y por consiguiente, no vives de acuerdo a tus valores, tu cuerpo te lo dirá. Mi cuerpo me dijo que ir a la iglesia mormona no era bueno para mí. Todos los domingos, para cuando terminaba la iglesia, tenía un dolor de cabeza horrible y al llegar a casa, me caía a la cama y no me levantaba por horas. Tu cuerpo también te lo indicará cuando algo o alguien es bueno para ti. Sentirás una ligereza, expansión, y una luminosidad como si alguien te encendiera una luz por dentro. Desarrolla una consciencia de las sensaciones de tu cuerpo a lo largo del día. A veces puede ser difícil en el momento que estás con una persona saber cómo esa persona te afecta el corazón porque estás enfocado en la conversación u otras cosas. Sin embargo, toma nota de las sensaciones de tu cuerpo una vez que estés solo. ¿Qué impacto tiene esa persona en tu cuerpo? Esto no tiene que ver con ningún análisis lógico de la mente. Es una forma distinta de conocer. Puedes también tomar nota de las sensaciones del cuerpo con cualquier proyecto que llevas, libros que lees, lo que comes… En realidad, lo puedes hacer con cualquier elección que haces referente cómo vives tu vida. Suena como lo más obvio que para poder seguir tu corazón, primero tienes que conectarte con él y eso se hace a través del cuerpo, no la mente. Pero como estamos tan acostumbrados a intentar solucionar todo con la mente, nos olvidamos del conocimiento del cuerpo y desconectamos.
  2. Permitirte el obsesionarte. Acabo de escuchar un podcast genial sobre el tema de cómo aprender a ser tu propio guía en la vida, lo cual refleja tanto mi propia experiencia que necesito compartirlo. Busqué la página web para ver si había alguna transcripción para así citarlo aquí más fácil. Curiosamente, no hay una transcripción completa, pero los pocos textos que tienen en la página son justos los que yo quería! La productora del podcast y yo estamos en la misma onda. Esto es lo que dice Steve Almond en el podcast acerca de volver a un estado más instintivo: “Los niños vienen al mundo obsesionados—les importan demasiado las cosas, y esa obsesión nos apaga la sociedad. Apagamos a esas voces que les importan las cosas demasiado y que sienten demasiado, y parte del viaje del artista es decir: ‘A tomar por culo. Sí, me importa demasiado. Me involucro demasiado. Me obsesiono, y voy a ser sincero con esa obsesión en vez de intentar vivir una vida más segura, más convencional, más aprobada por la sociedad.’ Pero ese es un plan inconveniente de forma emocional y psicológica.” Qué tiene que ver esto con seguir a tu corazón? A lo mejor no te consideras un artista, pero sabes qué? Lo eres, y tu vida es tu obra maestra. Si estás leyendo esto, seguro te importa y quieres seguir a tu corazón. Seguir a tu corazón requiere obsesión, lo cual Steve Almond tan bien define como el que sientes alguna cosa demasiado y te importa demasiado. No es aceptado por la sociedad y no es conveniente. Lo más probable es que nadie te aplauda por ello. Si empiezas a seguir tu corazón, la gente te va a decir que eres irresponsable y egoísta. A lo mejor lo dicen porque te tienen envidia, porque a ellos les gustaría tener el coraje que tú tienes para seguir a sus propios corazones. O puede que se preocupen por ti sinceramente. De todas maneras, el seguir a tu corazón requiere que lo hagas a pesar de estas objeciones de otras personas que reflejan también tus propios miedos.
  3. Prender fuego a tu propio nido. La hermosa cantautora India Arie dice: “Escuchamos del fénix que surge de sus propias cenizas. En el mito, el fénix en realidad prende fuego a su propio nido. Lo que hace el empoderamiento un viaje personal es que nadie te lo puede dar. Tú te lo das a ti mismo. Tú prendes fuego a tu propio nido. Tu mismo das luz a un nuevo tú.” Tu corazón se hará escuchar. Tu cuerpo te dirá lo que quieres y lo que no quieres en tu vida. El que hagas caso y eliges a base de esta información es otra cosa. Seguir a tu corazón requiere un coraje feroz porque hay riesgos verdaderos. A lo mejor hieres a una persona. A lo mejor hieres a ti mismo. A lo mejor te quemas cuando prendes fuego a ese nido. De todas formas, por experiencia propia sé que lo que sube de esas cenizas será mejor y más fuerte cada vez.

La única forma de aprender a seguir a tu corazón es de hacerlo día tras días. He tomado decisiones grandes y atrevidas en el pasado. He hecho cambios vitales radicales aun con oposición muy fuerte. Siempre me alegro de haber tenido la valentía para hacer esos cambios. Sin embargo, a menudo me encuentro pisando mal en el camino de mi corazón y perdiendo la conexión con mi corazón, mis valores, y mi propósito de vida. Aprendemos a fiarnos de nuestra propia guía interior cuando nos entregamos todos los días a su sabiduría. Así es como creamos nuestro santuario de calma interior de lo cual podemos extraer fuerza y tomar todas nuestras decisiones. Este santuario no se puede perturbar por las tempestades de la vida. Lo que sea que esté pasando fuera, siempre podemos retirarnos a este espacio de confianza y tranquilidad.

Listen. I’m a cat.

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Here and here I talk about different ways of seeing. Now I want to talk about listening. I’m a good seer, but not such a great listener unless it’s music, and sometimes even then I think I listen more with the rest of my body than I do with my ears.

This past weekend I started training to become a life coach. I’m taking classes and certifying through the Coaches Training Institute because I like their Co-Active model of coaching focusing on helping people find within themselves the creativity, power, and energy to connect deeply with others and create the transformation they want in their lives.

This weekend I did the two and a half day Fundamentals course in Barcelona, in Spanish. It was fascinating, but intense and a little overwhelming by the end. As I stay more time here in Barcelona on vacation (more on that later!), I’m slowly processing what I’ve learned. Pondering, practicing, and making it my own.

I’m learning to listen.

There are three levels of listening. Level 1 is when you mostly hear what someone is saying, but you’re in your own head, thinking about yourself. You relate what they are saying to your own experience. You are occasionally distracted from what they are saying by thoughts and ideas related to you and your life. You are judging and evaluating. Level 2 is when you are completely focused on the other person. It’s like when you’re in love with the person sitting across from you at the table at a restaurant, and when you look into their eyes, the rest of the world fades away. You forget about yourself and only think of that person. You listen intensely and completely with the focus of a laser beam. Level 3 is a softer, receptive focus that encompasses your environment and includes all of your senses. It’s when you are attuned not only to what someone is saying, but the feelings behind it and the effect it may have on other people in the room. It’s noticing changes in energies, vibrations, body language. It’s a deep feeling of presence and awareness of the moment.

As a coach, interactions with clients should be at listening levels 2 and 3. Level 1 is not very helpful to the client, though it is inevitable that we go there sometimes. When that happens we need to notice it and get ourselves back to level 2 or 3.

It takes practice to get out of level 1.

It’s hard for me to objectively assess my own listening skills. I think I’m usually at level 1, as I suppose are most people. As I’ve thought about ways to make it easier to listen at levels 2 and 3, it’s helped to remember my father. Dad was unusual and idiosyncratic, and I don’t think he even attempted the kind of polite listening most people do, paying attention in a surface way, but really thinking of other things. He wasn’t “nice.” If Dad was thinking of other things, it was obvious. You could say something to him and he wouldn’t respond. You could say a number of things, thinking he was hearing you or caring, and suddenly he’d say “Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes” in an irritated way, and you would realize it was not the moment to be talking with Dad. However, Dad did a lot more level 2 listening than most people do. It was part of his charm arsenal. The things he said, the way he looked at you, his candor and complicity, all made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to him or at the very least, like you had a special in with him that no one else had.

Dad could sometimes be manipulative, yes, but he was genuinely in love with people. He loved people, but he was also in love with people. Constant infatuation. If he charmed you, it was because he found you charming. I relate to my dad in that way completely.

But I digress, as I usually do when I start talking about Dad. I am most interested in level 3 listening. For some months I’ve been working on being more observant and conscious of energy changes, vibes, body language, and all that they communicate. I’ve been practicing self awareness and awareness of my environment and those around me. I admit that this awareness practice started in part because a friend laughed at me one day for never realizing it when guys like me. I’m always oblivious. So I started playing with that, and it took off and expanded from there.

What I’ve discovered is this: I’m a cat. People have always told me that I remind them of a cat, that I’m very feline, etc. And yeah, I can see it. I love to curl up in a ball and sleep in the sun. I’m intensely curious and that curiosity sometimes gets me into trouble. I’m very flexible. I like to tease. I especially love to tease men, who remind me of dogs. I move in silence around the house. I’m a master of delicate disdain. I’m constantly grooming myself. If it were socially acceptable, I would rub the length of my body against my friends when I see them.

I’m a cat, and when I’m at my best, I’m at my most cat. These past few days I’ve ramped up the cat energy as an assignment for my coaching class. My classmates labeled me Catwoman and my assignment was to connect more fully to that energy. I was amazed at the effect it had on me and others! I had several marriage proposals in the streets of Barcelona, and lots of admiring glances. Many more than usual. But it’s not because of how I looked. It was the vibe I was putting out. The cat vibe! The cat vibe is mysterious and compelling. The cat says, “I really do not give a damn, do I?” If you get too near, the cat might scratch. But she might lick you too, depending on her mood. The cat is curious and wants to check out everything. I walked into an art gallery in full-on cat mode and started looking at the works. I was very interested in several of the paintings and I wanted to ask if I could photograph them. So I asked cat style and was told that absolutely I could photograph anything I wanted to. When I left I purred “thank you,” and the guy, who I think may have been the artist, said: Thank YOU, and I DO look forward to seeing you again soon, I hope…

What does me being a cat have to do with practicing level 3 listening? I realized that when I connected to an archetype, it was much easier for me to practice awareness. I was more conscious of how my body moved and felt, the energy I put out there, and how people responded to me. Connecting to an archetype and harnessing that energy is not about pretending to be something you aren’t. It’s developing more fully a register that already exists within you, a powerful facet you can summon when needed.

How do you listen at level 2 and level 3? What archetype do you identify with and would like to connect to?