Becoming a Heart-ist

Colorful mandala like drawing

Have you ever needed to face or do something and you didn’t know where to begin? Or were handed a project that you didn’t know anything about? Or were given a life challenge and wondered how you would get through it?

The truth is something of this nature comes up in our lives every day. If we get tangled in fear and decide we just can’t do it, our lives continue on their familiar routine route and we ignore the inner niggling tickle that inevitably arises in a louder form at midlife signaling the need for some change. I talk to people every day who are facing a crisis in their marriages, relationships, at work, or in their families, that point to the need to pay attention to something that’s been avoided for a while… sometimes a long while.

In the aftermath of my husband’s health crisis in late January facing the primal and visceral truth of life and death, I found myself pulling back from him as if I could mitigate the hurt and grief of loss when the time comes. When I sensed and saw what I was doing, I realized that I was facing a life challenge and I didn’t know what to do. I figured it out. I needed to move in – close – move toward the not knowing, move toward being fully present and to move toward what love asks in every moment – to face the other with “full frontal” energy and spirit.

When we let ourselves know that not knowing – the unknown – is the doorway to our creativity we become life’s artists or what I call heart-ists. And if we see the unknown as the path of discovering who we really are and what we’re capable of, we transform fear into excitement as we breathe our life into what’s possible. (Fritz Pearls, a renowned psychologist of the last century, is memorable for saying that “fear is excitement without the breath.”) Breathing fully, then, is a first line of action toward bringing our creative energy to any challenge.

When I told myself the truth of what I was ignoring and discovered the fears lurking underneath the distractions I engaged in, the fear state shifted to an easy flow of energy and a palpable sense of freedom. Facing truth through being willing to discover what is real joins with breathing to generate vitality.

David Whyte, a favorite poet of mine, was approached by a corporate executive after giving a talk several years ago. The man wanted to invite him to come to work in the corporate world. Whyte was surprised as he had no experience with this world nor was particularly interested in joining it. He asked the man, “What for?” and was told that he had the language that was needed in corporate cultures to speak to the territory that this culture was entering – the territory of relationship – and they didn’t know how to navigate it with the language they were using. So rather than saying, “I don’t know anything about that”, Whyte entered this world as a consultant to the leaders of many corporations. Now 20 years later, he has worked with the leadership of several dozen international companies, organizations, and religious organizations. Saying “no” would probably have kept him writing his wonderful poetry and books at his Northwest home. Saying yes to the unknown took him to unimagined places sharing his poetry and insights and in turn, his experiences have inspired him to write even more spectacular poetry. He tells executives, “You cannot choose the artist or the pragmatist inside of you. You need to have space for both.” I think this means that saying yes to the unknown, which can kick up a great deal of resistance, is essential to expressing the creative whole of who we are.

In Whyte’s poem, Everything is Waiting for You, he speaks to this doorway of creativity even in our familiar every day routines and surroundings.

“Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.”

If I’m awake, aware, alert, there will be discovery even in routines and familiar environments. When I was traveling a lot by air, coming home and seeing the familiar landscape of my city and the surroundings from above always gave me a new view on things if I was open to discovering and seeing it. And this spring as I stepped out my front door one day last week, I encountered a Mallard pair of ducks with a Wood duck in tow. They had scoped out a space under a bush right next to my door to lay their eggs. Every morning we see the female Mallard sitting on her nest with the Wood duck sitting in front of the bush as if a sentry protecting the precious process behind him. – a familial environment with unfamiliar residents.

May your conscious breathing into life and truth uncover your creative power to discover what you are capable of in the challenges and unknowns of everyday life.