Like all of us, I’ve got some good friends who don’t really understand the kind of experiences I’ve had, where they’ve led me, or how they’ve changed me. I don’t know about you, but every once in a while there is an occasion that causes me to try to share something from the spiritual dimension of my life with such a friend, and I do so with varying degrees of success.
When A Course of Love was being published, I didn’t know how I would explain it to my more practical friends, and when one of my first opportunities came to do so, it was revealing.
I owned a coffee shop at the time. We called it a gift café for the spirit and sold good books, stones, jewelry, and incense as well as coffee, pastries and sandwiches. The shop sat on a corner in the central corridor linking St. Paul and Minneapolis, in an area of old industrial warehouses that had been converted to artist lofts and political offices. The clientele from the near buildings was fantastic.
The shop was near enough to the University of Minnesota campuses that it was frequented by a few students, by old friends I had worked with there, and one seriously old friend – a man who’d been a good friend of my first husband and who had remained my friend since my teens.
He came in one day just after A Course of Love’s publication and we sat down for a minute. I wanted to tell him about it, but didn’t want to weird him out as he was a real logical, earth-bound kind of guy. So I started explaining it to him as being about a way to move from head to heart. I said, “You know, I really needed that movement.”
He said, “You?” with a look of disbelief on his face. “When were you ever in your head?”
All kinds of things flashed through my mind in that moment – like a review of our whole history from being “want-to-be-hippies” who gathered in my future husband’s Portland Avenue apartment like groupies around his fantastic musical talent, to the subsequent melt-down experienced after our marriage and the reality of a baby and responsibilities hit us, to all of the non-logical, “not good for me” decisions I made in the years that followed.
I felt kind of embarrassed and challenged and didn’t know how to explain myself. To my old friend, the “head” was the mind and the mind was logical. The mind caused you to make good decisions, to take care of business, to navigate the practical world with success. At all of those things, especially during the time we were closest, I had been a failure. I also could see that he thought being “of the heart” was the way I’d always been and was the cause of my many poor decisions and the floundering I did in my early twenties. To him, being of the heart was being led and undone by emotions.
I can’t remember now where the conversation went from there; only that it was short! But it was kind of a good conversation to have had in those early days. It got me wondering about what I actually meant and how to convey it.
I’ve achieved no eloquence in this regard and I remain baffled on the finer points, but the aim of wholeheartedness helps a lot. Not too many people confuse wholeheartedness with being emotionally driven. It’s a distinction that’s hard to describe but being wholehearted might conjure up notions of maturity and emotions honed by the wisdom of the heart, or even simple realness as opposed to posing or melodrama.
Jesus said, “Love gives reason its foundation,” and I like that. The reason of the practical mind devoid of love’s foundation is what I’d say has caused many of the problems we’re facing in the world today.
But it wasn’t my practical mind that A Course of Love came to release me from. I probably was led by emotions that fed my mind a bunch of material to use against me. When my friend made that comment, I could see he didn’t know how much my mind had tortured me as I’d gone about life, not so much even making decisions, but simply falling from one circumstance to the next and then being full of recriminations and those “figuring it out” thoughts that get you nowhere, especially after the fact.
I felt most often like a very loving person who gave and didn’t receive, which in looking back showed me my deficiency came from not letting myself be known. Relationships were my downfall because I didn’t face my own needs and desires within them and so didn’t really share of myself in a way that allowed the intimacy I longed for.
Relationships still test me, which is why existence in union and relationship, as well as the practice of dialogue feel so essential. For me, as for many of us, bringing the expansiveness gained from spiritual experience – which is so often a solitary and inward movement – outward into relationship, is where attention needs to be given.
What “moving from head to heart” means and feels like is probably different for each of us and I could, as usual, go on and on. I was simply remembering this story today and thought I’d share it and invite your sharing.
Mari… Something you said at the end about relationships really aligns with what has been on the surface for me the past several weeks. I was (just like last summer when the kids were gone) going through old stuff, and I found one of my journals from college. I opened up to a page where (you’re going to laugh) I stated my *goals* for the year. One of them was, “to not be afraid of relationships.” I felt a sweet sadness when I read that…. the kind of sadness that had a lot of compassion in it… it’s something that I, too, still struggle with … I’ve tried to identify what it is, and I know that – at least in part – one feeling relates to a fear of “what if I end up hurting this person, or letting this person down.” It shows me how much I was an absorber…an empath… someone who would morph into what I perceived other people needed me to be. Anyway…thanks for this. 🙂
As goals go, “not being afraid of relationship” seems like a good one!
I know just what you mean about morphing into what you perceive that people want you to be and going into compassion in a way that has you worried about disappointing or hurting someone. It’s what makes this way of the heart so tough, so rigorous in a different way than the way of the mind. We meet our need to be true over and over in relationship. Like dialogue, it’s a “practice” that takes self-knowledge and courage, and that gives it too. It’s so hard for me still, especially when it seems as if it will bring conflict, to say what I mean! But when I do, my courage grows. So far it doesn’t really seem to be getting any easier, but maybe it is. It also doesn’t seem as if it’s ever going to be a “done deal”…but I could be wrong! I’m definitely still practicing.
One thing I do know is that sharing helps. Thanks for sharing.