C H A P T E R 2
Another Way to Sense Your World
World :The Flexibility of Perspective Despite the habitual tendency to look out from your head, it is actually quite simple to move the point where your perspective originates from. Some have suggested that dyslexics have an unusually flexible perspective that moves so freely that, in a sense, they can see words on a page from both the front and back. As a result, they can see letters in their usual order and also from the opposite side, which makes them appear backwards. For a dyslexic, there are benefits to learning to stabilize, or fix, their perspective, where they look from. However, for the rest of us, moving our perspective around can free it up. In many of the therapeutic interventions used in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a person is invited to see himself or herself from the outside. This gives a unique, and often useful, perspective on what is happening.
Without moving the perspective outside the body but simply down into the Heart, you can profoundly alter the shaping of your awareness. The Shift into the Heart The center of your chest, which is next to your physical heart, is often considered the spiritual center of your Being. For many centuries, it was believed that thinking happened in the heart rather than in the brain. What would it be like to experience the world from this energetic center instead of from the head? What effect would that have on your experience of the world and of yourself? Exercise: Try this exercise first with your eyes closed and then open. Notice what you are aware of in this moment: the sounds, a thought, the objects around you. Notice if you are looking or listening or sensing from the head, and notice what that is like. Now gently drop your sensing down into your Heart. This is not a matter of sensing the Heart or feeling what is in your Heart, but feeling your surroundings from the center of your chest. At first, it can be helpful to rest your hand on the center of your chest next to your heart, to help orient yourself to looking from this place. Allow what you are seeing to be seen by your Heart instead of your head. What is it like to sense, listen, and look from your Heart? Pick an object and sense it with your Heart instead of your head. How is that? The key is to allow awareness to flow from the Heart. Especially at first, it’s not important to sense the Heart itself. It’s simpler at first if you just sense an ordinary object, like a piece of furniture, from your Heart. The important thing is where your awareness seems to be located. Because of the strongly imprinted tendency to look from the head and through your thoughts, you may find at first that you are looking into your Heart, or you may be thinking about what it would be like to look from the Heart. If you are just imagining what that would be like, your awareness would still be shaped by thoughts—in this case, a thought about this new way of looking. See if you can do this, if only for a moment—just look or sense from your Heart. What is that like even if it only lasts briefly? Does your awareness open up and expand? Do you sense things in a different way? Most people find that their awareness becomes softer, wider, and more open. This is simply the way awareness flows when it’s not being so narrowly shaped by the mind. Just as a muscle naturally expands when you aren’t contracting it, awareness expands when it’s not being shaped and constricted by your thoughts. Exercise: Take some time to play with this new way of sensing and looking. What do the objects around you look or feel like when you look at them from the Heart? How do you experience other people with your Heart? What are sounds or music like when you listen from the Heart? What about your thoughts? They may still be arising in the usual way, but what if you listen to and watch them from the Heart? Do they seem as important, or are they just passing words and pictures in a large open space? See how the world looks and feels from here. It is another world. Explore this new world. Discover what your day-to-day experiences are like when they are sensed from the Heart. As mentioned, it can be helpful to close your eyes at first when sensing from the Heart. Because the eyes are located in the head, when you are seeing, the tendency is for awareness to locate itself in the head rather than in the Heart. So until you get the hang of looking from your Heart, it might be easier to simply sense objects and people with your Heart with your eyes closed. Then slowly add listening and, finally, looking with your eyes open. Keep checking to notice if the awareness is actually flowing from the Heart or if it has moved back up into your head. If it does, that’s fine—no harm is done to the awareness. But when it does shift back into the more habitual perspective of looking from the head, notice what that is like. Does it stay open and expanded, or does it become narrow and focused, like a magnifying glass or a microscope? Then you can gently move the perspective back down to the Heart and check for yourself what that’s like. Does the awareness open up again and relax? At first, there may be so much momentum to looking from the head that you may only be able to sense or look from the Heart for a few seconds at a time. That’s fine. Just notice what you can about the quality of your awareness whenever it is actually in your Heart. With time, you should be able to extend the time you listen, look, or sense from your Heart. Maybe you will find you can listen to an entire song from your Heart or watch a sunset from your Heart. What if you were to watch TV, wash the dishes, or talk on the phone while looking and listening from the Heart? You may find yourself thinking about your life or planning your weekend, but for a change, notice these thoughts from your Heart. Your awareness can flow from more than one place at a time. At times, it may be flowing mostly from your head, and at other times, mostly from your Heart. If the awareness is flowing partly from your head and partly from your Heart, the qualities of the awareness will be somewhere in between. It might be more open and allowing than usual, but still have a degree of focus and direction.
he Qualities of the Heart’s Perspective Here are some clues that awareness is flowing at least partly from the Heart: The awareness will be wider and more open, the boundaries between the awareness and the objects in awareness will seem less substantial, there will be more of a sense of oneness and connection with whatever you are sensing, and thoughts will be of less concern or not noticed at all. When something is very small, it can be easily overlooked, and thoughts are actually very small realities. Most of the time, you experience thoughts from the head. This is like having your nose up close to a TV screen. The content of your thoughts is right in front of your awareness. When you drop into the Heart, thoughts continue to occur, but you will be experiencing them from down in the Heart. Now it is as if that TV is playing up in the attic instead of right in front of you. This puts the content of your thoughts into perspective. When experienced from the Heart, they are not such a big deal. When awareness is flowing through the Heart, it also includes much more of what is happening. As a result, the experience is much more satisfying. Instead of trying to take life in through a narrow view, you can drink to your Heart’s content. There is a richness and fullness to even very ordinary experiences. If the opposite qualities are predominant, that would mean you have returned to looking from your head. So if the view contracts, the boundaries seem more real, you feel separate or dissatisfied, and thoughts suddenly take up the entire screen of your consciousness, chances are you (as awareness) are residing in the head again.
Exercise: Pick something in your environment and then sense it first with your head and then with your Heart. How are these different? The contrast between the two modes of looking, listening, and sensing will allow you to notice the differences in the awareness itself as it flows from the head and then from the Heart. For this exercise, keep your awareness on the same object, sound, or thought. Then any difference will be directly related to where you are sensing, listening, or looking from and not due to experiencing something different in your environment.
Feelings and Emotions
World:What about the emotions that might arise in the area of your heart? Just as with thoughts or objects in your environment, what matters in terms of your emotions is where you are sensing them from. You can use your Heart to sense, look, and listen to any feelings that may arise and be felt in the heart area.
Exercise: Notice the emotional quality in your heart area right now. Whether it is quite neutral or strongly emotional, just note what that is. What happens if you experience it from the Heart itself? Does that give the emotion more space to expand and flow? Is it as big a deal? Looking from the Heart allows awareness to flow from a deeper place in your Being, deeper than your emotions and desires. Allow the awareness to flow from this deeper place to the unfolding experience of your emotions.
The Contents of the Head
What about thoughts? What happens to your thoughts when you look or listen from the Heart? Thoughts are just activity in the mind, and yet you can hear, see, or feel this activity much in the same way you hear, see, and feel the physical world. However this activity is all in your mind; it is not even as substantial as the smallest physical object. Thoughts are actually a very small phenomenon.
World:Have you ever blocked your view of the moon with just your thumb? Because your thumb is so close, it can block out a much larger object that is far away. Similarly, when you are looking or listening from your head, your thoughts are right there—up close and right in front of you. As a result, they tend to block your view of everything else.
World:Imagine walking around all day with a TV hanging right in front of your nose. You might have a tendency to not see and hear much else than the pictures and sounds on the television. Likewise, when you look from your head, you mostly see your thoughts. Furthermore, the content of your thoughts is magnified because the awareness is so narrowly focused when it flows through your head.
You watch the television of your mind through a magnifying glass. No wonder we become so engrossed in our thoughts. Looking through your head and through your thoughts is a drastically limited view of reality, and the content of your thoughts is often not so pretty. The mind is full of judgments, fears, doubts, and worries. It is filled with negative voices and pictures of what could go wrong. Experiencing life through the busy mind is often unpleasant. Even when your thoughts are positive, they aren’t necessarily what is really happening, and reality can be disappointing when it doesn’t match your positive fantasies. The good news is that it doesn’t matter so much what you are experiencing. What matters is where you are experiencing it from.
Exercise: Notice your thoughts as they arise moment to moment. Now notice where you are noticing them from. If you are listening, watching, and sensing your thoughts from the head, what is that like? How big do they look, sound, or feel? How important do they seem? Now without changing your thoughts in any way, allow your awareness to flow to them from your Heart. What is that like? How big do they look, sound, or feel up there in the head from way down in the chest? How important do they seem now?
World:Because the view from the Heart is so wide and inclusive, something relatively small like a thought, belief, memory, fantasy, or idea can be recognized as small. The content of your thoughts may or may not change, but your thoughts won’t take up so much of the screen of consciousness when awareness includes much more. Thoughts can be experienced as something relatively small, like a bug walking next to the Grand Canyon. Relative to thoughts, the world is a big and limitless place. When you experience your thoughts from the Heart, your thoughts shrink down to actual size. Have you ever tried to quiet your thoughts? Usually you just end up thinking about thinking less. But you can quiet the impact of your thoughts in an instant by simply allowing the awareness of them to flow from your Heart. At times the thoughts will drop right out of awareness. When the experience of the rest of reality is so full and complete, you don’t notice the thoughts, although they continue to occur. The experience is like first seeing the ocean or the Grand Canyon: Your mind falls silent because you are too busy taking in the vastness to notice your thoughts. Similarly, the present moment and its many dimensions can be an experience even vaster than the ocean when you are experiencing it through your Heart.
World:Exercise: Allow your awareness to flow from your Heart to everything you are experiencing in this moment. Unlike the mind, which can only think about one thing at a time, awareness flowing through the Heart can take in an infinite number of sensations, thoughts, sights, sounds, and subtle energies. With awareness flowing from your Heart, notice what you are seeing, hearing, and sensing in your body.
Now also include the flow of thoughts, feelings, and impulses. Add in all of the subtle or energetic ways of sensing you are capable of. Include the simple presence of limitless space and time. Allow awareness to flow to all of these and more simultaneously. As long as your awareness is flowing mostly through your Heart, you will find you can include much more in awareness than usual.
World:Resting in the Heart In many spiritual traditions, the Heart is recognized as the true center of Being. In the way we are exploring it here, you could also say that the Heart doesn’t shape or limit the flow of awareness as much as the head. As a result, you can experience your Being more fully when awareness is flowing through the Heart. Just as you can experience more of the nature of water by immersing yourself in it rather than just experiencing a drop of it, the experience of Being is much more dramatic and obvious when awareness is located in the Heart than in the head. As you play more with this possibility of looking from the Heart, you may find that the Heart becomes a familiar and comfortable place for awareness to rest. While awareness through the head is effortful because of the contraction of awareness, when that same awareness flows through the Heart, relaxation and expansion naturally occurs. The awareness can spread out, expand,
and simply rest from all the effort of focusing and figuring things out.
World:Spiritual books and teachers often suggest resting in the Heart. However, if you are looking into the Heart from the head, it’s not so easy to rest there. It can seem effortful to keep that narrow focus of awareness on the Heart. But if you allow awareness to flow from the Heart, then it instantly becomes easy to also rest in the Heart. There is no effort required. The Heart is where you reside in those moments, and you can only rest right where you are in the moment.
Exercise: Allow your awareness to flow from the Heart. It doesn’t really matter what you are aware of, only where you are aware from. Now simply settle in. Allow yourself to rest here in the spaciousness of the Heart’s perspective. From here, there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. You are Home.