Speaking From Our Hearts
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Dear Still Water Friends,
our discussion groups at Still Water MPC, we often use the phase
“speaking from our hearts.” This Thursday evening, after our meditation
period, we will explore together what the phrase means to us.
Personally, my understanding of what it means to speak from the heart has changed over the years. I grew up in a family in which emotions were rarely talked about. And the emotions that were often exhibited, such as frustration, disdain, and withdrawal, were hardly noticeable to me. They faded into the normality of every day life.
When I was in college and first heard the phrase “speaking from the heart,” my understanding was that it meant telling one’s secrets. Sometimes I did it. Often I resisted—I felt too vulnerable. Mainly I felt perplexed.
Later, especially after some therapy, my understanding of “speaking from the heart” meant giving words to what I was feeling, especially my pent-up negative feelings. When I did, sometimes the results were positive. I felt heard and the situation changed for the better. Other times things just seemed to get worse. My giving words to my frustration and anger hurt others and created more tension and distance. (Primarily, I believe, because as I was experiencing and sharing my feelings of frustration and anger, I tended to oversimplify and blame.)
Mindfulness practice opened the door for me to new ways of understanding “speaking from the heart.” I began to see my heart as containing much more than the emotions of the moment. My heart contains my essence, including my hopes and expectations, and my human yearning for love, meaning and connection. Brother Stendl-Rast (in Gratefulness: the Heart of Prayer) envisions our heart as our taproot:
For me, it is through meditation, through mindfulness, through slowing down, that I have a chance to know my own heart. My experience is that when I really touch my heart, I don’t find anger or blame there—there is tenderness, sometimes sadness, and often joy.
Another lesson I’ve learned from mindfulness practice is the radical notion that I can differentiate the emotions I feel when someone does or says something hurtful from the emotions I use to share what is in my heart. Even when hurt, I can respond with love. In the book Anger Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
Of course, maintaining an attitude of love, even with those who cause us suffering, is not unique to mindfulness practice. It is a deep universal truth, wonderfully expressed in many spiritual traditions. And it is often not easy to do.
This Thursday, after our meditation, we will share our understanding of speaking from the heart and we will identify the attitudes and circumstances that allow us to speak deeply from our hearts and those that inhibit us from doing so.
You are invited to join us and to consider these questions on your own.
Warm wishes for the New Year -- may it be mindful, heartful and joyous,