When we make decision based upon our heart’s desires, we rarely regret our course of action. This, however, becomes a major challenge as we age and build a larger base of experiential references. As we grow-up, the creation of our egos limit our ability to base our decisions on the input we receive from our deeper, more-intuitive, self. This is why ‘Following your heart,’ is easier said than done, and if fulfillment is our goal, we must return our focus to our deeper decision-making center.
Following Your Heart:
Whenever we are faced with a difficult decision and discuss our particular issue with friends and close family members, we are often told to “follow our heart.” When we make decisions with the input that we receive from the voice of our heart, or our intuitive self, we rarely regret our course of action at a later date. Following your heart is good advice for big and small decisions alike, however, it is often easier said than done.
For all of us, it is easy to observe the distinction between the advice we receive from our brains, or minds, and our hearts. The information that we receive from our mental voice is typically built around ideas of competition, scarcity, judgement, and avoidance. The information that we receive from the heart, however, is always based upon compassion, contentment, belongingness, and abundance.
When we make life-altering decisions, the information that we receive from the heart often comes with painful short-term consequences. Although these decisions are almost always life affirming in future, our inner mental voice often convinces us to act in ways that go against the input from our deeper self.
Many spiritual leaders, across a variety of religions, will tell us that our heart is the connection to our divine internal essence, it is our connection to the soul, and when our decision are based upon the input of the heart, we can all but be assured that we are making the right choices.
In the religion of Hinduism it is widely believed that each individual has 7 subtle energy centers that run along their spine called Chakras. Ancient Hindi philosophy tells us that 3 of these centers are physical in nature and 3 are spiritual in nature. What connects the physical and spiritual realms of reality, according to Ayurvedic practice, is the middle chakra, the heart chakra (Also called Anahata). When we are able to keep our chakras open and allow energy to flow freely through them, we experience better health and more importantly higher levels of fulfillment. When our heart chakra is open, we make our decisions, regardless of the circumstances, based upon the life-affirming qualities of contentment and compassion.
If following our hearts produces the most beneficial outcomes when we are making not only life-altering, but also everyday choices, then why does it seem that our connection to our spiritual center is greatly diminished by the thoughts that roam freely in our head?
The Takeover of the Ego:
To exemplify how each of us becomes dependent on our minds to make daily decisions for us, we can look at a number of psychological concepts that show how the ego, or self-concept, comes to dominant our decision-making. It is first however essential to realize that when we are born into this world, our decisions are not based upon the, ‘rationale,’ of our minds. A young 2 or 3-year-old child is basing their decisions upon input that they receive from the deeper, more spiritual, parts of themselves. Let’s first look at how the inner voice in our heads helps us make decisions, and then shift our attention to the creation of the ego.
As we grow from childhood to adulthood we experience the world in a dynamic and vibrant way. Throughout our lives, we are continuously learning from societal influences and past experiences. The experiences that we have are stored as memories in our minds. Based upon our past experiences and memories, our inner voice sends us feedback to help us make decisions in the present and future. This information, or advice, can be regularly observed through internal dialogue in our heads, but often remains unconscious to us. The human brain is so powerful that memories from our childhood still impact our decision-making when we are 50, often without us even being consciously aware of it.
Not only does the sheer power of the mind help us with decisions, it also creates a self-image that is based upon our beliefs, our perceived ‘successes’ and ‘failures,’ and the feedback we receive from the outer world. In spiritual terms this is called the ego, and it is the mentally constructed part of ourselves that is biologically strengthened in a variety of ways.
As we age and experience more life situations, our egos become more prevalent and our decision-making ability gradually shifts from our heart to our ego-driven mind. The inner voice of our minds drowns out our more natural ability to live from the heart. How does this ego takeover happen? Let’s look at 2 distinct ways:
- Conditioning: Throughout our life we are exposed to similar circumstances that cause us to react in predictable ways. Our mind and ego relate our past experiences to our current situations, and without even thinking about our actions, we behave in ways that are supposed to bring us the greatest benefit. Unfortunately, one of the biological functions of the brain is to keep us safe, so when we perceive events as negative, we falsely begin to separate ourselves from those around us and from the deepest parts of ourselves. For this reason, our decisions become centered around safety, competition, and ‘getting mine before they get theirs.’ Developing habits is also largely built upon the ideas of conditioning.
- Societal Influences: Society also plays a large role in enticing our egos to act as our main decision-maker. Advertisement, societal norms, and cultural ideals greatly influence our actions. As young children we rightfully belief that we need acceptance and care from others in order to survive, but this childhood truth loses it’s significance in adulthood. The idea, however, often remains unconscious and causes us to act in ways that are acceptable to society, but in reality are not life-supporting. Furthermore, in the western world, success, happiness, and fulfillment are correlated with outer resources, which are directly related with ego-driven desires.
So if our natural state is one of purity and heart-based decision-making, how do we reconnect with this part of ourselves?
Returning to Your Heart:
In order to reconnect with our deepest nature and begin to make decision from the more life-affirming center of the heart, we need to consciously and consistently make an effort to strengthen our connection with this part of ourselves.
Our connection to the heart is greatly limited by the prevalence of our egos, especially on a everyday basis, and unless we passionately focus our attention on returning to this place, we will continue to experience happiness and fulfillment as temporary states of being that we continuously chasing. Let’s look at two unique ways that we can rekindle our relationship with the deepest part of ourselves:
- Daily Questions: Regularly at Balanced Achievement we publish articles under the title, ‘Conscious Questions,’ and in these articles we look at important questions that we can ask ourselves to get in touch with our deeper nature. Each and everyday, you should take the time to ask yourself important questions and begin to listen to both the heart drive and ego driven responses. You will soon realize which part of yourself has better advice and which part of yourself can increase your levels of happiness and fulfillment. Here are a few examples questions: ‘What do I want in life?’ ‘What will bring me lasting happiness?’ ‘What am I grateful for?’ and ‘How can I improve myself today?’
- Meditation: If you are a regular Balanced Achievement reader, you certainly know how important we believe meditation to be for each and every individual. A regular practice can create massive benefits across every life area. To understand how the heart and ego differ, and to understand how the ego’s desires and decisions are often misguided, you can form a regular meditation practice. By continuously focusing your attention, quieting the mind, and resting in pure-awareness, you will easily be able to see how the information you receive from your heart is of much greater value then the information you receive from the ego.
I hope it is now clear that the best decisions we make are from the input we receive from our intuitive hearts. In order to find more happiness and fulfillment, you should consider making this connection to your deeper truer self one of your most important goals.