By Deborah Rozman
"Follow your heart" have been watchwords for centuries, and with good reason: We know instinctively our heart's intuition yields the highest outcome. But if you're like me, you may have found at some point in your life that following what you thought was your heart got you into trouble. For example, you might have felt guided by your desire to eat another piece of chocolate cake, but then you felt bad afterward. Or you were tingling and your heart beating fast about dating a certain guy, but it turned out to be a bad experience. Why? Because your mind can easily confuse an emotional pull for heart intuition, and we follow that allure instead. It takes practice to discern the difference.
What signals are you listening to more?
I often thought I was following my heart only to discover I was really just following my desire. For example, I got into a relationship that felt very romantic, but the romantic love feeling and my hormones overrode my heart's whispering: "I don't know about this." I learned through trial and error that the lure of romance isn't always what the heart really wants, which is heart resonance. Heart resonance is more fulfilling and less of a roller coaster ride. Likewise, your heart may be talking to you when you hear, "I don't know if I should take the job, even though it pays a lot."
The heart often speaks to us quietly and with common sense. The mind tends to rationalize our desires and reactions. To help you distinguish between how your mind might sound vs. your heart, here are some examples in the same situations:
Mind: How long is this going to take? Damn this traffic! Stupid driver, slowing everyone down. When are they going to widen this road? You pay taxes but nothing happens. She just cut in deliberately! (Give her the finger.)
Heart: Traffic isn't going to move until it moves -- no use getting upset. Turn on the CD player and listen to some music. That woman is really upset. I'll send her some heart.
Mind: Why is this place such a mess? He just doesn't care! Can't stand those kids not picking up. They don't give a damn about me. Where's the remote? Why isn't dinner done? Don't look at me like that! (Blow up.)
Heart: I really don't like the house messy. We need a better plan for keeping the house in order. Let me arrange a talk with Stan and the kids after dinner. No TV or distractions until we've created a plan -- with consequences if one of us doesn't do what we agreed to and rewards if we do. It could be fun if we do it together.
Mind: Who does she think she is? It's not fair she gets the good assignments and I'm left with crap -- makes me furious! He's always sucking up to the boss. There's no way to keep up -- that damn printer keeps jamming! (Slam and break the printer tray.)
Heart: Things are tough. Everyone's running fast and trying to just keep their job. I need to keep my cool and not drain my energy, not get into the backbiting, make sure I take my breaks. My intuition says it would be a good idea to sincerely get to know some of these people better, maybe have lunch once in a while.
Mind: Why don't they have more cashiers? They keep us standing here like cattle -- they know we have busy lives. And the prices you have to pay! They're just greedy. That incompetent mother can't keep her kid's hands off the candy -- someone should teach the brat a lesson (head shaking, blood pressure rising).
Heart: I really didn't plan this right. The checker looks like she's been working 12 hours -- I'll send her some care and a smile. Let me find a good magazine on the news rack I can read while I'm waiting.
In the Mind examples, judgments and reactions are in control and you feel justified being judgmental and angry. The Heart, though, is decidedly different -- softer and simpler. It might take courage to listen to your heart because what it suggests often seems too easy. It might say, "Just let it go" or "It's no big deal," and you may be afraid you're going to let someone get away with something or that the other person is going to walk all over you. It's like two different radio stations, the mind and the heart. When you tune into the heart station, your attitude adjusts and you find responses that are much more satisfying to you and better for the whole.
As I have learned to balance my emotional nature and clear unresolved issues by listening to my heart and practicing heart qualities of self-compassion, compassion for others, forgiveness, appreciation and kindness, I have progressively been able to distinguish intuitive heart feelings from my mental and emotional preferences.
A way to most effectively tune into your heart intuition is by first getting into heart coherence. The Heart Lock-In technique is designed to help you generate and sustain coherence and distinguish the difference between your head voice and your heart:
Step 1: Shift your attention to the area of your heart and breathe slowly and deeply.
Step 2: Activate and sustain a genuine feeling of appreciation or care for someone or something in your life.
Step 3:Radiate these feelings of care and appreciation toward yourself and others for five minutes or longer.
When you catch your mind wandering, simply refocus your attention on the heart area and reconnect with feelings of care and appreciation or other heart qualities. Notice how this extended radiation of care has affected your body, emotions and thinking. As you complete your Heart Lock-In, be receptive to your heart's intuitive guidance. Is there anything your heart would like you to know in this moment? Write down whatever you quietly sense.
It is nature's design that you get your head in sync with your deeper heart intent. You can find a new type of fun in listening to your heart as your command center. The fun is gaining back your power not to go back to the mechanical way -- the old way of the head. When you do fall back, you replace feeling bad about it with feeling compassion for yourself. Compassion will quickly shift you back into coherence. You stop wasting your energy judging yourself or others. You stop those painful feelings churning inside. You release your own energy and power to do the things that matter most to you. You preserve your health and promote happiness in your relationships. While things still will happen that are extremely unfair or unkind and cause painful feelings, you choose how you are going to handle your emotions. Your choices make all the difference.
Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., is president and CEO of HeartMath LLC, located in Boulder Creek, Calif. HeartMath provides scientifically-validated and market-validated tools and technologies that activate the intelligence and power of the heart to dramatically reduce stress while empowering health, performance and behavioral change in individuals and organizations. HeartMath's award winning emWave® technologies monitor and provide real time feedback on heart rhythm (HRV) coherence levels, an important indicator of mental and emotional state. HeartMath also offers training and certification programs for organizations, health professionals and coaches, and a self-paced online personal development program called HeartMastery for individuals.
Dr. Rozman has been a psychologist in research and practice, entrepreneur and business executive for over 30 years. She was founding executive director of the Institute of HeartMath, and now serves on the Institute's Scientific Advisory Board and Global Coherence Initiative Steering Committee. She is co-author with HeartMath founder Doc Childre of the Transforming series of books (New Harbinger Publications): Transforming Anger, Transforming Stress, Transforming Anxiety and Transforming Depression. She is a key spokesperson on heart intelligence and the role of the heart in stress management, performance and wellness.
For more by HeartMath, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.