By Indira Grace
In Western culture, people are often made fun of for using their heart to solve a problem.
We have given so much power to the brain, to thinking ourselves out of a problem, to a force and fear-based system for responding to life that many do not see a connection between the heart and the mind. If you are not using your smarts, your brain, to deduce, brainstorm, rationalize, realize and ultimately make your decision, what are you even doing?
Now, this is not to say that the American culture does not have some ideas that we should use our hearts in decision making. Hollywood has some great examples.
In Sex and the City The Movie, Steve, Miranda’s husband, cheats on her. There is an explanation, but, to Miranda, cheating is cheating. Her friends encourage her to focus on counseling, and to forgive him. As Steve and Miranda complete couples counseling, she and Carrie are having lunch, discussing it. Miranda states that she now has to make a decision.
As a Harvard graduate and practicing attorney in New York, she knows how to argue both sides of this case. She has all the lists, why she should stay, why she should go, why Steve cannot be trusted and so on. Carrie tells Miranda that she can argue a case and win, but this may have to be decided with the heart. I am grateful for that scene, for it reminds us that in matters of the heart, we should use our heart.
In Buddhism, heart, mind, and consciousness are often used interchangeably.
The most common term used is “citta” which is often explained as “heart-mind” because it involves an awareness—a consciousness—of both thoughts and emotions. Throughout Buddhist teachings, the meaning and use of “citta” has shifted from an ordinary state of mind or mood (before dualistic or discriminating thinking) to “enlightenment mind” or “awakened heart-mind.”
When we are dealing with matters of the heart in Buddhism, we are saying that we are dealing with things—making decisions from—a state of consciousness that involves both the heart (feelings, particularly compassion and love), and the mind (awareness/consciousness).
“Citta” is used in the word “bodhicitta” which takes our focus on heart-mind into a more global aspect.
If we pursue enlightenment without bodhicitta, we do so selfishly. To do so with bodhicitta is to give ourselves direct insight into the absolute nature of being, to be enlightened for the sake of all beings. It is there, from that place of care for all beings, that we are to make our decisions.
When coming from the heart, in matters that are dear to our hearts, we should make decisions that are logical and loving, strong and compassionate, audacious and humble, risky and tempered. “Heart-mind” decisions are made from a place of what is true for you and your path, and what is good for humanity.
I am reminded of a quote by Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
Literally speaking, Thich Nhat Hahn is asking us to walk in peace.
He has many teachings about walking meditations and the energy that is exerted when we walk from a place of being rushed or anger. We leave an energetic footprint similar to the energetic handprint we leave when we slap someone across the face in anger. However, he may also be speaking from symbolism.
Walking is symbolic of moving forward, for movement. When we make decisions, energetically, we are beginning to move in that direction. The more in tune you are with the energy you are emitting, the quicker your decisions become your reality. If we make decisions from a place of peace, of love, we leave behind the energetic footprint of peace and love. We are growing an awareness of peace, of love.
This is the first step in dealing with matters of the heart.
Whatever is important to you, whether it is hoping for a relationship with someone new, a relationship that you have been in for five years, or 50 years, a relationship with your best friend, your child, your parent, your ex-wife or husband, your co-worker, or yourself—all decisions of the heart should start in the “heart-mind.” They should start from a place of what is true and good for you and what is true and good for humanity.If we pursue enlightenment without bodhicitta, we do so selfishly. ~ Indira Grace Click To Tweet
When practicing in Buddhism, we always start with ourselves first.
When we are in balance there, we can begin to move out and into the world around us. The same should be for all decisions, especially, matters of the heart.
We have learned from experience that if we do not follow the stirrings of our hearts, we feel empty, betrayed, lonely; nothing works correctly. As soon as we change course and begin taking steps that are in alignment with what we want, where we should be, everything begins to align. There are few roadblocks, and a few snags in our journey.
It does not mean that it will be easy; it only means that when we align with the matters in our heart, our journey becomes easier.
In Buddhism, we do not distinguish between heart and mind when making decisions. We incorporate both, creating a win-win. When we practice releasing fear, ego, and force and embrace, love, compassion, and peace when making decisions, we know that the matters of the heart are unfolding with more love than we expected.
Editor: Dana Gornall