Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Let’s add a very important piece for the journey that we are making together and that is motivated by the commitment we made to ourselves…”I will not be as before”.

Feeling and thinking: two sides of the same coin

Thought first gives a direction, chooses what to pay attention to, recognizes it, reflects on it, assimilates it, creates with what it has acquired and expands, or has the power to expand; once educated, it can move independently of any external circumstance, nothing can compel or limit it, except what we ourselves give this power to.
It’s well-known that the heart feels, this is its function: to allow us to feel what surrounds us. This adds more data to our experience of the world.
As thought surveys, the heart “stands and feels.” Its position is more static, in the sense that it allows us to “live inside”, to be with things through a feeling in the depths of ourselves. The action of feeling is receptive, it welcomes the stimuli that come both from the outside and, above all, our reactions to those stimuli, and processes them through internal and deep contact. In this sense the heart is a function that is more feminine, in the sense of receptiveness, more so than that of thought, which is more masculine because it reaches out to new objects and fields of thought. It is no coincidence that Mary said to herself, “She kept all things in her heart.” 

Feeling with the heart

The word “keep” takes us to the idea of ‘containing’, knowing how to make space and to contain what comes in that space, feeling it all. But keeping/containing does not mean being attached to what we feel. And here lies the great distinction with the other instrument of feeling, the one that we generally, know and practice much better: the solar plexus. The heart and solar plexus both define precise areas of our physical body, and the corresponding subtle component, that is, the center (chakra), that performs its precise psychic function.
In common language, the word heart includes a wide range of different aspects of feeling, to the point where each type of feeling is associated with the heart. Instead, just as with thought, there are two very different and distinct levels of the same function: one is a feeling aimed at ensuring an exchange with others that is sufficiently reassuring and self-protective, that allows us to have a relational network in which to move safely, whether our feelings find positive correspondence in those around us, or that what we feel serves us to defend and protect ourselves. It is therefore a feeling aimed at ensuring our lives as people who have to adapt to the world by finding their place in the relationship with others.  We all know this kind of feeling well, probably too well.

The feeling of the heart instead begins at the point where we come out of the boundaries of what we naturally need as people and open ourselves to a broader feeling, which has no immediate response in our daily lives. And here we easily see the close cooperation between Thought that shifts the focus to content that does not directly affect our daily affairs, thus expanding our horizon of observation and reflection, and the Heart, which welcomes, contains and hears everything it encounters in that wider space opened by Thought. We can even say that Thought opens the way and the Heart completes his work.

The Heart is our most intimate and at the same time most vital aspect, so much so that on the physical level our life depends on the heart. And psychically, it is what holds our deep nature, who we are at our root, the essence of our qualities and our potential. It also holds the juice, the extract of our long history of human beings.

The heart knows all about us, even what we ourselves sometimes do not know: and it is in our heart and hearts that we can find it. It therefore allows the depth of contact with both ourselves and all that surrounds us. Whenever any event is picked up by our hearts, it is first received and then felt in its depth. So the heart brings together in the best possible way our depth with that of the event or person or external situation with which it came into contact: for this reason it says that it is in the heart that the synthesis between past and future takes place. Where in the past, we mean not the series of events that happened, but everything that is better, in terms of quality, of values, of understandings we have gathered in our long life. This spirit, this synthesis is preserved in the heart, and forever.   For the future, however, we mean again not what our desire projects before us today, but what is superior, even slightly, to what we are experiencing. All that is superior is by its nature even wider: it concerns not only us but all other beings, it responds, as we said last time, to the Common Good, to the destiny of evolutionary development for all beings.

The heart loves everything

We can then see well the magical covenant between Thought and Heart: one opens the “high ways” (as in the mountains there are high paths, so there are also in life) and the other welcomes them deep within, makes them his own until he loves every blade of grass, every flower, every perfume, to stand alongside the image of the high mountain roads. Until you accept and love every little aspect of it.

And here emerges another characteristic of the heart: to love everything, without distinguishing what we like and what we never wanted to live. To love life as it is, in all its manifestations, also those that hurt us the most, and which of course we would prefer to avoid, if we are not masochists. The heart loves everything not because it is not able to distinguish what is good from what is evil, what is useful from what is not, which in fact it knows how to do much better than the mind, but because it knows that everything is part of the great Life that continuously flows and that needs to manifest itself in full, all aspects and nuances , even those we would never want to exist. By loving everything, which starts from accepting everything, the heart opens the way to a truer and deeper vision of things, people and events: and it is from this richer and most complete perceptual dimension that wiser responses can emerge towards what surrounds us; often even better solutions to the problems of living.   

The heart as a collector of meaning

Another characteristic of the heart is that it does not answer questions such as: how much? What? When? That is, he does not like to define and delimit the infinite possibilities. The mind is already quite the way to define and define. The heart keeps horizons open and attracts and collects points of subtle truth that the mind cannot get to see; both about ourselves and others, both about our lives and the lives of others. Behind every aspect of life, whether it is human beings or elements of nature or events there is always a deeper meaning that does not appear evident at a superficial glance. The heart, on the other hand, focuses on that.

It is no coincidence that one of the typical qualities of the heart is compassion, which is the ability to be with all that is. From this “knowing how to stay” we will also find better concrete solutions for our living.

Why we don’t  we use our heart more?

Surely a question arises in you: why, if the heart is capable of so much, do we not use it more, do you not see it in action more often? Because the shift between the feeling of the solar plexus and that of the heart is one of the most consistent passages of human consciousness. In order for the heart to play its part, it is necessary that the reactive responses of the solar plexus, which is always and immediately at the forefront with its automatic ways of trying to defend us and to solve relational situations, calms down and silences, at least for a moment. Which is not easy, because for eons we have reinforced this way and everyone around us adopts the same approach. Therefore, stopping and listening to the subtle voice of the heart requires an act of will that we are almost never willing to do. Sometimes it happens that, precisely when all the ways of the solar plexus and the mind have exhausted their resources without much success, while we continue to suffer, the state of “return” comes and that is: “enough! My emotional reactions to the situation and my attempts to understand cannot take me further.. All I have to do is surrender to something bigger, which is also inside me. It’s always in me, but a me I don’t know yet.” At that point, when we have the courage to rely on a more refined, but also less obvious, sensor, that’s where the “passage” begins.

That said, it seems that it is precisely pain that makes us open to the dimension of the heart: yes, certainly pain has a very important function. Just as joy has. We must become able to alternate them, to hold them both as two doors that open us to the same room: here, the room of the heart with two entrance doors, one pain and the other joy/happiness. Sometimes you enter from one, sometimes from the other, depending on the situations of life. But we must always be ready to recognize which is the door of the moment and use it as such. And above all, not to denigrate one for the other just because one is more challenging and the other more pleasant. If there was only one of them, you wouldn’t have access to that heart room. They should be used alternately. But it is to say that it is usually from that of pain that we begin to pass that threshold, because it is the state of suffering that drives us to seek and seek and again to seek. Happiness nourishes, regenerates, pushes us forwards, but only if we know and are familiar also with the other.

Another image is that of the seed. Let’s take an almond: it is made of two parts and the bud comes out when these two united parts split and the almond splits to make room for the bud to come out: one part of the seed is the foretaste of the new birth, the other is the pain for the loss of the entirety of the almond. The bud needs both, it comes from both. This image also makes us say: when our hearts seem to be broken, something great is happening there, and it can happen even better if we are aware of it and in a wise part of us we look at that process while in emotions we live it to the very end or to the core.       

But I repeat: we are only able to do this when we have already exhausted the other resources, those of common feeling and thinking, after experiencing them all. And when we can rest and let ourselves be guided by a thought cultivated and grown within us, which has made us glimpse the true, immense possibilities of Life. Until we pass that critical threshold, the pain is a very hard teacher, sometimes it is so strong and makes us feel so contracted and scared that we can’t see other ways ahead of us. It is therefore a question of doing two things: using tools to dispose of and mitigate that pain and at the same time look further and higher, to look without discouraging us. Where we no longer find answers to “when, how, how much”, the heart makes its way with what is called the prayer of the heart. This is not a prayer said with the heart, no, this can be there, but it is not only this. That of the heart is a particular prayer, which has no predetermined words to be memorized, which can be expressed with all kinds of language: with the body, with an image, with a request, with a tear… As long as it flows spontaneously from within us. Then even the simplest formula becomes a powerful invocation, and we know that invocation forces the superior to manifest itself.    

If, on the other hand, we already feel that our hearts vibrate within us, it is only a question of expanding their scope of action and influence. A good exercise can be to consciously include new objects of love: for example, choosing one a day, putting them in the heart and loving them. We can do this with people and with things, with animals, with human and natural aspects, with everything in short. In 7 days our hearts will have expanded by 7 points, in a year of 365. But you don’t have to do the exercise for a year: because after a few days of voluntary act, the process goes without saying, because we will immediately feel the benefits and understand how it works.

Laying Questions in our hearts

Another exercise, recommended by Agni Yoga, is to lay in our hearts every question, concern, problem that haunts us. And then wait with confidence, a fundamental quality for the heart.  Our hearts must be called to help, we must be called to create a dialogue with it. Then it shakes and awakens: “finally they remember me!”

As we include new objects of love in the field of our consciousness, it happens that:

  • We become more aware of the exchange taking place
  • This exchange becomes more intense and deep day after day
  • Hearing is more refined, more sensitive, more accurate and more inclusive
  • The joy that comes from this exchange of love flows
  • We become less attached and pretentious to those around us
  • Many of our love ‘needs’ are reduced because love returns to us from many other sources

Some self-checking questions:

  1. Do I hear?
  2. What do I feel most?
  3. Do I trust what I feel? Am I afraid to hear too much?

Above all, several times a day ask ourselves “what do I feel about this and that?”

You see how heart and mind can collaborate: in all these practices one supports the other.

Just to keep in mind the global moment in which we find ourselves, I also suggest an “ad hoc” question: ‘What does my heart feel about death? What do I feel deep in myself? What does the voice of my heart tell me when I can silence the excited voices that express fear of something I don’t know?’ 

Feeling and thinking are two sides of the same coin, the medal of consciousness: they must be wisely alternated in our lives until they become one. Then we will become a thinking heart and a mind that feels!

Marina Bernardi, April 2020