Steps Towards A Deeper Way of Life
Linear thinking and its rationalising objectification provides an important tool for us, helping us abstract our thinking from the here-and-now for analysis, planning, forecasting, scientific empirical examination and material exploitation. This thinking has helped us construct our civilizations. No problem, unless this way of attending begins to dominate and so crowds out our other ways of knowing (sensing, feeling, embodying, intuiting).
The ‘thinking tool’ has a grasping tendency that, if left unchecked, usurps our attention to such an extent that we lose touch of the deeper wisdom within and all around us – we perceive only the abstractions of our analysing mind, missing the wood for the trees.
‘We have created a sufficiently strong propensity not only to make divisions in knowledge where there are none in Nature, and then to impose the divisions on Nature, making the reality thus comfortable to the idea, but to go further, and to convert the generalisations made from observation into positive entities, permitting for the future these artificial creations to tyrannise over the understanding.’ Henry Maudsley
With this come out-of-kilter perspectives that bring us out of conscious attunement with life’s rhythms and wisdom. We begin to find it harder to align with our deeper sense of self-other-Nature. And so our relations warp from the inherently empathic, biophilic, compassionate nature of Homo sapiens into portraying only the self-absorbing egotistic-traits of selfishness, greed, competition and narcissism. So caught up in our own self-reflexive ego-chattering illusions we become, that we increasingly numb ourselves from embodying the deeper intrinsic inter-relational reality of life.
Alas, this is what is happening on a global scale with deleterious consequences for all life on Earth. Any meaningful transition towards a more sustainable and civilized future for humanity needed to involve our re-membering a more balanced way of attending to life: yin/yang, receptive/responsive, open/closed, flowing/specific, dynamic/objectified, presencing/abstract, intuitive/rational, feminine/masculine, and so forth.
‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind its faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift’. Albert Einstein
This re-balancing allows us to contribute to a rebalancing in our organisations, communities, socio-economics and ways of governing.
There are a great variety of ways to enhance a more balanced yin-yang, receptive-responsive awareness in our lives. For example: bringing more stillness into our busy minds by sitting quieting, feeling the space between our heart-beats, feeling the in and out breath in our nostrils, meditating, chanting, drawing, playing a musical instrument, dancing, reading or writing poetry, practicing somatic awareness, yoga, Qi Kong, T’ai Chi, etc. And there are ways to bring this more embodied awareness into the workplace too – hence the work on Steps Towards a Deeper Ecology of Business we explored recently at Ashridge Business School.
For me, I like immersing myself in the natural world, finding stillness within the movements of Nature, along with some gentle T’ai Chi and yoga movements. The more I develop this deeper sense of presence the more noticeable it is when my rationalising, abstracting and often distracting ego monkey-mind interferes and so the more conscious I can be in allowing my rational mind to serve as a useful tool rather than trying to dominate.
Feeling the creative energy within my bodymind helps me re-member that I (like all expression of Nature) am energy. This energetic presence within (and all around me) is receptive and responsive. I can enhance this receptivity and responsiveness by attuning my bodymind through developing what is often referred to as ‘heart-awareness’ due to our bodyminds finding their centre-of-awareness in the heart area.
The Heart – A Powerful Organ of Perception
Much research has been undertaken into the heart as an organ of perception (along with the gut and brain, also increasing scientific recognition that each and every cell in our bodies contains mind-matter aspects with capacity for sentience and memory). The heart is the body’s most powerful electromagnetic sensor and transmitter, continually decoding the vast array of electromagnetic and quantum signals radiating in our lived-in environment. 65% of the cells in the heart are neural cells which are wired into the nervous system, gut and brain.
The heart governs our bodymind’s sensory, neural, nervous and instinctual systems. There is now scientific evidence pointing to the heart perceiving and decoding intuitive information from our surrounds first and foremost (‘direct perception’) and then updating the brain and gut, which then respond to this information – hence, intuitive feelings, premonitions and also ESP phenomena are detected through the direct perception of the heart (see one such scientific study here).
While much of this continual and participatory dialogue with the world around us happens beyond the perceptual horizon of our conscious awareness, as we develop ‘heart-awareness’ we can allow ourselves to become more conscious of this deeper way of knowing. And with this comes a richer sense of perceiving subtle fluctuations in our bodymind’s capacity for knowing – our ‘somatic awareness’ which embodiment activities aim to enhance. Developing heart-awareness, therefore, enriches our intuitive mind and also enriches our embodied ways of sensing and responding with the world around and within us.
Studies have proven that becoming more conscious of our heart-awareness has healing effects on our bodymind: invoking feelings of love through our hearts can shift us from a state of dis-ease towards wellbeing, with hormonal changes and alterations in our brain-wave patterns (alpha, beta, gamma frequencies). As we become more practiced at developing heart-awareness, we can develop what is called ‘heart entrainment’, where our brain-wave patterns become coherent across our left and right brain hemispheres and also entraining within our heart and gut centres. With this comes the immediate benefits of heightened mental clarity, improved decision making, increased responsiveness and resiliency to changes, efficiency of energy use, increased creativity and innovation, along with improved emotions of general happiness, empathy, compassion and conviviality – all important contributors in shifting our organisations towards more resilient, purposeful, joyous firms of the future!
The following heart-entrainment exercise is a simple yet powerful way to ignite this foundation for living with love. This practice requires no credit card only our quality of intention and attention.
Heart Entrainment Exercise (based on The HeartMath Institute, see their quick coherence technique here):
Step 1 – Heart-breathing: focus your attention on the heart. Place your hands upon your heart and use your imagination to feel yourself inhaling and exhaling in and out through the heart, and through your hands on your heart. Spend a few moments heart breathing in and out through the heart area; taking deeper breaths as you relax. This helps shift attention from busy mental chatter into the heart area.
Step 2 – Activate a loving feeling: by remembering a loving memory, perhaps a special place or pet you once had or have, or something you love doing, like listening to a favourite song or the feeling you have when immersed in your favourite hobby, or making love. Use your imagination to conjure up this feeling of love within your heart area, while continuing to undertake the heart-breathing in Step 1. And then allow this loving feeling to wash over your whole body.
Step 3 – While breathing deeply and allowing this loving feeling to fill your entire bodymind, repeat a simple affirmation over and over atleast five times in your mind, or whispering with your lips, or out loud if your situation allows. As long as the affirmation is love-based, it will help shift psychological blocks within you and allow you to open up to deeper heart entrainment. A simple affirmation could be ‘I am able to fully love myself’. After all, we struggle to ‘love thy neighbour’ when we are unable to fully ‘love thy self’, the two are interdependent on each other, and so loving ourselves and opening up to love is vital in shifting our way of relating from fear/control/separation to compassion/nurturing/inter-being.
The Heart-in-Business activities of Thornton’s Budgets in Belsize Park is a good example of bringing this heart-based, soulful awareness into the workplace with profound benefits.
This ‘power of love’ is ‘radical sustainability’ because it goes to the root cause of our unsustainable way of behaving by shifting how we attend to life: from separation to synchronicity, from power over to power with, from ego to ecological/inter-relational. From this foundation an attitude of criticism and condemnation transforms into one of nurturing and encouraging. Our enthusiasm for life becomes infectious.
Compassion can be understood as the active principle which fuels our empathic resonance through love, in-so-doing nourishing and nurturing others. The more we give with love, the more we receive with love.
By consciously opening our doors of perception beyond the narrow-mindedness of rationalistic, anthropocentric materialism we learn to reconnect with the wisdom within and all around us, in-so-doing we gain a deeper sense of intimacy, love and meaning in our lives. This is the beginning of our future, unfettered by yesterday’s logic of separation, competition and domination.
Radical Activism: Activating the power of love; shifting our awareness of the everyday moments: this is the front-line in our transformation towards a sustainable future. Now, more than ever, we need to re-member the profound logic of the heart.
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