Too often we cover over the vital energy of heart-mind and feel helplessness and/or hopelessness. We do this to protect ourselves from acknowledging and accepting our darkest thoughts or feelings. Dan began coming to our Zen center 15 or 2o years ago. He was still in a 30-year marriage that had been very unhappy. And during an early retreat at our center, the thought kept coming up for him, “This will never work, this will never work.” We talked about this persistent refrain and how important it was for him to see the situation from his own eyes not his wife’s or adult children or other family members’. As he followed my advice to continually put awareness of heart-mind first, which meant listening to his own despairing voice as it persistently bubbled up during his meditation, he moved toward separation and then actual divorce. He realigned his life and after a period of disorientation, found a steady balance that he had not had for years.
Seeing life through your own eyes not the eyes of a parent, boss, spouse, kid is not selfishness. As we open to heart-mind, we grow and connect with ourselves and others at a deeper level, self-protection becomes less important, as happened with Dan. At the same time, we no longer need immediate gratification. Our socialized false self becomes less prominent. We are no longer hung up on problems from the past in an echo chamber which id continually reverberating. Heart-mind is not ruled by past. It is not dominated by mandates from the family.
I’d like to end these three pieces with 3 haiku to help us open to heart-mind. The first by Issa:
On a branch,
a cricket singing
Our own lives are like this. We are small beings resting on a tumultuous and unpredictable world (with COVID, social unrest, and climate change) floating toward our demise. Can we be fully in each moment, paying attention to and expressing heart-mind?
Here is a haiku by Basho that may help your heart-mind open.
to eat even a rice cake
peach trees in flower
As Basho writes this, he seems to be unfastening himself from a single story about his experience. This reminds me of my examples of Barbara and Dan. Barbara, who realized that her duty and loyalty to parents and brother meant that she was overlooking her deep desire to have her own family; and Dan, replacing his story about his obligation to stay in an unhappy marriage with a more deeply satisfying story.
What is your single story that you are stuck on? We have just ended the most difficult year in our country since I was born during World War II. If you find yourself thinking, “the world is going down tubes,” is it possible to bring in an alternative story?
Here’s a second haiku by Basho:
Two sea slugs
We see the slugs on a winter walk and go, “Ohhh!” As we feel their suffering and the suffering all around, and then, “Ahhh,” we see their connectedness and feel our own connectedness with all life.
When is it heart-mind and when is it ego? Heart-mind never feels helpless and hopeless. Heart-mind doesn’t go on and on with rumination or criticism. Heart-mind doesn’t rationalize. Heart-mind is not captured by waves of emotional turbulence. It simply allows them to pass through, regardless of how strong they are. When we speak from heart-mind, our expression is generally simple, since we don’t have thousands of opinions based on thousands of fears. We’re able to simply be who we are without worrying about being left out, rejected, or not fitting in.
Finally, heart-mind rests in a “don’t know” space, trusting the feelings and images which emerge from it, both cloudy and clear.
Many people have fallen into despair during this past year, a year of social isolation and loss of relationships. Each loss creates a hole in our heart-mind, whether it’s the loss of people, animals, or some other committed relationships. Because of this, I have been counseling people over and over to risk more than in the past, reaching out to others to make new or bring back old heart connections. As Anais Nin says:
And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
By taking this type of risk, you may find yourself acting more and more from your own heart-mind, the heart-mind of the universe.
Tim Burkett, Guiding Teacher