Mind and Heart

Recently, I’ve been working with colleagues on a revision to the Wise Democracy Pattern Language. We are about to publish a 2.0 card deck which will soon be available for purchase, unlike the previous version which was only available in a do-it-yourself, download-and-print format.  
It’s been a real pleasure to be working on this as part of a great team. One tiny piece of this much larger project has included exploring revisions to the “Working through feelings” card, given some feedback expressing a preference for “Working with feelings”. After e-mails back and forth on suggested revisions to the card itself, further inspiration came through. And as my teammates have encouraged me to share what I wrote more widely, here it is!

To go meta for a moment: emotions are a HUGE field of learning these days. I’ve not kept good track of it, nor really synthesized what’s out there yet, but studies have shown that people can’t even decide on basic things when cut off from their emotional brain centers! So the whole myth of “cold reason” being good for much of anything, is going through a major shift: the appearance of lack of emotions doesn’t mean they are not present, only that they may be running underground and disguised…
heart mind copy
All that, added to things like confirmation bias, etc. means that we are going through a major re-evaluation of the role of thinking in our behavior. “I think, therefore I am” might be more accurately  amplified to read,
“I think, therefore I am… subject to telling myself lies, to protecting my sense of a separate self, to feeling superior or inferior to others, to trapping myself in a world of my own limiting beliefs…”
Many have pointed out how the mind is a great servant but a terrible master. Meanwhile, the mind has projected its own shadow into the heart, accusing emotions of being “irrational”, “unstable”, and “dangerous”. And yes, when our heart is in the throes of painful feelings, and our thoughts are running amok creating enemy images of “the other”, disastrous consequences can happen, for which mind and heart are both responsible.
Yet our hearts can also be the doorway of compassion with self and others, and a place where we witness the tortured forms of our anger, fear, sadness, and  shame… and begin to hold space, for the transformation of the cultural-and-familial wounds that are embedded in our feelings, while also being imprinted into the cognitive structures of our minds…
The mind in turn, can serve to support the  deeper understanding of our hearts, and the two really can work together, honoring the “negative emotions” as valuable “trailheads” that can open up into great healing, transformation and expansion. As we do so,  we uncover our capacity to feel a healthy, protective, non-violent anger; a life-affirming sadness; an alert and energizing fear; a grounding and reconnecting shame — along with a much deeper joy than we are usually able to allow ourselves, when living within cultural-and-familial constricted emotional spaces.

Yet at the same time that science is reaching the limits of rationalism and describing them in great detail,  old myths persist. Just as racism, eurocentrism, sexism, etc. are still around, “rational-ism” has not yet disappeared…
Another great example of “rationalism discovering its limits” is in Michael Pollan’s amazingly well-written and inspiring book, “How to Change Your Mind”, where he (or one of his interviewees, I forget now) points out the delicious irony of top-notch scientific research, serving to show us the limits of the rational mind. And yet, from another perspective, this is “old news”. Hinduismn has taught for several thousands of years, that the path of “jnana”, or knowledge, starts with the mind, yet ultimately points beyond itself…
Lovely to celebrate, old truths being discovered in new forms!

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave any comments below. 

2 thoughts on “Mind and Heart

  1. Sounds like the analysis coming out of bicameral neurology. McGilchrist, Julian Jaynes, tied to Positive Psychology and positive deviance. All about non-violent communication between languaged Left and intuitive Right. Congratulations. All good, timely, significant awareness for facilitating effective communication looking for WinWins, left with right, left through right, rather than settling for WinLose.

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