In this complex and challenging world that we live in, it can be easy sometimes to fall into cynicism. It can feel safer to close our hearts and to close our vision of what is possible for our lives. We return to the business (busy-ness) of everyday life and try to do the best we can for ourselves, our family and our friends. But somewhere deep inside ourselves there still lingers a quiet voice, insistently whispering to us. It tells us that there is something more to life than staying safe and comfortable, something more than pretending that the problems that we see around us are not our problems.
Reading the news, we can feel sucked into the unending dramas of the Brexit debate or the dire warnings about the state of the environment. It is easy to become disheartened. It is easy to believe that “this is the way it is” and that each of us as just one person is powerless to make a difference to these huge issues.
I remember as a young person feeling very alone and disconnected in this big, bad world. The stories that I received from my parents and schoolteachers and from society about what my life was about did not inspire me. In fact, they left me feeling isolated and depressed about the prospects for my life. I grew up in a very rationally-minded family and studied science at university. The world I was taught about was one of inanimate matter abiding by laws that were impersonal, logical, and seemingly indifferent to human existence.
Contemplating the vastness of space with its unfathomable array of inanimate planets, galaxies, stars and asteroids, this human life here on Earth seemed neither significant nor meaningful. Consumerist economics sold me the idea that I was a selfish, rational agent, and that the goal of my life was to work hard, make money, buy a house, and die rich. This was not what I wanted to pursue in my life, and some part of me reasoned that maybe the best I could do was to compromise — get a job I didn’t despise too much and live for the weekend, perhaps. But a deeper voice inside me was not satisfied to resign myself to such a life.
I felt a great sense of separation between the indifferent, rational world I was being taught about and the human warmth I felt in myself and in the people I cared about. For a long time, I didn’t know how to reconcile these two worlds – what place did heart have against the backdrop of a rational society and a rational universe over which I seemed to have little influence? Through depression I discovered heart-based practices and began to reweave the thread between these worlds, to feel more directly the connections between everything, from the asteroid to the tree in the park to the friends sitting at my kitchen table. I began to understand that, far from being meaningless, my tiny actions did matter — that smile shared, that cup of tea offered, those kind words — they all made a difference.
As well as feeling more connected to the people around me, I started to experience a deeper sense of connection to the natural world — to feel grateful that the tree in the park is there to offer me air to breathe; to feel grateful that this “inanimate” Earth is below my feet, providing soil to grow food for me to eat; to be grateful that the Sun ceaselessly offers energy to keeps my body and mind alive. This connection to the natural world is something that I have discovered from listening to my body and my heart. This kind of listening gave me the space to begin dropping society’s stories and develop a deeper sense of knowing based on my own experience.
Heart-based living is about rekindling that knowing and, perhaps more importantly, that trust in us that a more beautiful life is possible for ourselves and for society. It means taking the time in our daily life to listen to that quiet voice that is still calling out a little bit inside each of us. It means being prepared sometimes to follow that quiet voice when it asks us to make a small step beyond our comfort zone. It means creating an ever-widening space in our lives in which we can listen tenderly and with dignity to the deepest longings and aspirations of our hearts. We know that to listen and to follow what we hear may bring challenges, yet we also know clearly that we want to listen so that we can continue to engage in what we care most deeply about. Listening to our heart, we can continue to honour that quiet voice and live in a way that makes us glad to be alive.