The Art of Relating in Heart-based Communities
“Explore the most fierce and complex aspects of existence from the calm and simple quiet of the heart” Catherine Ingram
Have you ever considered how intelligent a heart is? When I first started singing lessons, my teacher and I would analyse a song — line by line. This allowed me to learn lyrical nuances and practice my vocal techniques. Yet, when it came to singing the whole song, I struggled with remembering and applying all the techniques — I felt disengaged with the song. I was in the head, thinking about singing the right way, the way we had practiced. My teacher said to me “Lan, it’s good to practice the techniques, but when you are singing a song, just sing from your heart!”
In those moments when I sang from my heart, I experienced the awakening of another form of intelligence. A heart’s intelligence. With this intelligence, a higher level of awareness arises from the heart and my relational experience of the world changes. I become not only open to connection, wholeness and harmony but also simple heart-qualities reveal themselves to me.
Nonetheless, revealing the hearts intelligence is not without effort, especially when I am habitually operating from just one intelligence — my head! Current emerging adult developmental knowledge identifies there is an intelligent connection that exists within each of us — a flow of energy and information throughout our entire system, especially through the head (mind intelligence), heart (emotional intelligence) and hara (belly/gut intelligence) centres.
As we bring more attention to, not only each of the three centres but also the integration between them, a transformation begins. Our thinking becomes more deeper; we realize how interconnected we are in the world; we become sensitive and responsive, and we learn to thrive within a changing world. But I believe, it is the heart that is the main catalyst for integration, because it is the true centre of human wisdom.
That is why being in heart-based communities of practice supports me to co-create the conditions to activate the heart. These communities are likened to a field of spectacular flowers. For it is in seeing and holding the blossoming fullness of that moment — that the whole world would appear as beauty unfolding.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone, the shell cracks, its inside come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would seem like complete destruction” Cynthia Occelli
The Path Retreats community believe that the path from the head to the heart is all about moving from separation to connection. They do this in service of revealing and integrating the truth of who we are.
Alima Cameron, Path Retreats certified leader, reveals through the art of deep authentic relating, we are safely held to move through our minds, with all its beliefs, fears and conditioning — to our heart, where we can feel connected with ourselves, connected to others and connected to life. It’s a place of belonging to the human family in this extraordinary world, including all of its darkness and lightness. This can only happen when the heart opens.
This path to the heart is firstly a seven day process, which I experienced in 2013. This process gave me a direct and visceral experience of connecting to the heart of just being me. The process of experiencing ‘being me’ is transformational because it focuses on exploring my thoughts and feelings about my past and future but only to the extent of expressing it in my connection and aliveness in that present moment.
This form of exploration to show up (how I express my inner-world to the outer-world in this moment) is not easy because we are called to move beyond the status quo. One has to really long for the heart to be broken open. And when it does, wisdom arises — an ‘innate knowing’ through lived experience of who I really am.
From here, ongoing work with the community (walking the path) is all about integration — the evolution of the whole person. Samved, Path Retreats certified leader, elucidates, now that we have experienced the foundation of our being, we can begin to shake the establishment. In other words, be ready for the deep dive into the embodied experience of the whole of our intelligences: my ego structures (head), my emotions and feelings (heart) and my grounded showing up (belly).
Through this integrated experiential practice, sometimes called shadow work, I re-claim (bring out of the shadow), parts of me that were not allowed, disowned, dissociated and inaccessible, — and from this space, a sense of ‘wholeness’ emerges. Wholeness experienced here for me, is neither a feeling of lacking in who I am or a wanting for something I am not: for myself, for others and for the world. I not only embody but also realise the completeness of who I am, in connection with the larger truth.
“We are all profoundly interconnected and part of a whole, but it’s a truth we have forgotten. We are born into separation and raised to feel divided from our deeper nature, as well as from the people and life around us. Our deepest calling in life, is to reclaim wholeness, within ourselves and in our connection with the outside world”
As human beings, living in a time-space, moving from a past, in a present, to a future, we can sense into and trust our being (integrated intelligence head/heart/hara) more than our limited ‘knowing’ (head intelligence). Exponentially, ‘knowing’ is changing so fast, we can’t always predict what will happen, because everything is essentially part of a larger truth that is complex and emerging.
Dr Erin Evans, Complexity Strategist, states that ‘the fundamental approach to working in complex environments is that we need to match our level of inner capacity for sense making and understanding with the complexity of the external world. With increasing complexity we need to draw on intelligence beyond head intelligence, which provides cognitive perception. The heart intelligence is required for the subtle, ambiguous information that will otherwise disorientate and potentially overwhelm us if we are not attuned and aware of how to make sense of it.’
Accordingly, head-heart sense making is a continuous effort to perceive connections from which thoughts and emotions arise, in order to anticipate ‘unknowns’ and act effectively. Otto Scharmer, founder Theory U, guides us to know that when we feel disconnected/fragmented (not feeling whole), it’s harder to see the future that is emerging and thus he believes:
“the change that will make a difference is the transformation of the human heart”
Therefore, the awakened intelligence of a heart, is in itself so powerful because it leads the path to a more integrated intelligence that ultimately supports the capacity to envision and transform the future as it emerges.
Did you know that the power of the heart is the strongest force of all — even stronger than our brain. According to the Heart Math institute, the heart is full of neurotransmitters and has one of the largest electromagnetic fields in our body. In fact, when we relate from the heart there is an increased energetic awareness of the heart’s intelligence to establish connections with the world.
This connection in essence is called ‘entrainment’. It refers to a natural phenomenon in which one entity resonates synchronously with another in response to its dominant frequency of vibration. In physics there is less energy used when two objects are entrained with each other. In other words, we expend less energy when we are in harmony with surrounding energetic frequencies. With this efficiency, I have more energy to cultivate connection, co-creation, collaboration with the living systems in which I am part of — and in doing so, entrain to the heart of humanity.
Why do I make meaning like this? For me, as part of my ever-expanding model of reality, being conscious and aware to choose what I pay attention to and how I construct meaning from experience gives me a sense of connecting to this intelligent living system.
“Being human is hard work. We are vulnerable to countless sorrows and losses. We try to find solace in any way we can, but there is only one sanctuary. It is there, even as you read these words.” Catherine Ingram
What do we see when we do pay ‘attention’ to our heart’s intelligence?
In Catherine Ingram’s community we meet to ‘explore the most fierce and complex aspects of existence from the calm and simple quiet of the heart’. In this heart-based sanctuary, we discover that ‘attention’ from an entrained heart foregrounds qualities like — care, compassion, softness, vulnerability, tenderness, genuineness, resilience, kindness, sweetness, discernment and love. Which in turn supports our capacity to hold more of the complexity of our environment when these inherent qualities are present in our relationships with family, friends and colleagues — much like an ‘easeness’ of experiencing a quality of being with the people around us.
An example of this in the workplace is when our team decided that instead of doing Kris Kindle at Christmas, we started giving ‘humanity awards’ to each other. This appreciation of the human qualities we see in our team mates, is a form of feedback where we express/reflect how we are experiencing each others humanness. This can be transformational because “the human mind work best in the presence of appreciation (The Thinking Environment).”
Ultimately, like the complex structure of a flower just being a flower, it is also becoming a flower — an unfolding to reveal its real purpose. So too, when we habitually live life without connection, wholeness and harmony (our becoming), we forget to see the gentle qualities that are innately within us (our being). It is for these reasons that I believe, the awakened intelligence of a heart is the deep centre of human wisdom.
Do you have a supportive practice community to help activate your heart’s intelligence? How does an open heart show up for you?
Here is a little video about the Heart by Michael Leunig, Australian Mystic.