H Is for Heart

As difficult as it is to define what having a Heart MEANS—it is fairly easy to discern when someone is missing one. “Heart” as a metaphor has come to stand for all that is most human and flexible in us, with natural potential to connect instantly with other “people of Heart.”

As Mark Twain said, “When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain.” But we also need our brains—to sort out issues, and to contemplate.

I have blogged in this series previously on: A Is for Attitude; B Is for Balance; C Is for Create; D Is for Dialogue; E Is for Eye; F Is for Flight and G Is for Good ... !

So now it seems right to go straight to the Heart—for a short meditation on what has the potential to change our world for good.

The Dalai Lama has said it so simply and profoundly: “It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good Heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.” (As naturally “as leaves to a tree”—as Keats famously said that poetry ought to come—if it is to come at all.)

BUT of course, loving others is never that simple. When someone affronts us, often we can feel a tightening in the chest, the need to put on armor and shield our Heart against further hurt. Perhaps even to attack back. Even a “good” Heart has its seasons, its vulnerabilities, its gaps through which the arrows of hate can slide.

Aristotle considered the Heart “the hottest bodily part”—unlike the “cold” brain. Most women seem to understand this. In fact, my Heart is most usually activated by the sight or story of someone else in trouble, burdened, or being abused and dumped on. Like a small animal recognizing its “kind,” my Heart responds in sympathy with a sort of electric zing—an immediacy that the brain can only envy and struggle to find reasons to support.

Jesus said that “where your treasure is, there your Heart will be also.” And it’s fairly easy to ask ourselves what is central and most valuable to us—tracking it, to find our Heart also lurking there. Such discovery might even give us a shock, and lead us to get our brain engaged—to try to shift the center of power to a more beneficial spot.

But here the ability to give advice about the Heart breaks down, since, besides being warm and pliable—the Heart is also the most personal center of who we are and what matters to us. It defines for us whom we love and what we most want out of life.

No one else (not even a lover) knows your Heart as you do.

Can we learn to cultivate the Heart like a garden, keeping it supple and fruitful and connected to others in unbroken ways? The Sufi mystics even today are sometimes referred to as people of “Heart,” and spiritual vision to them is seen as “the Heart’s eye.”

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in “Turning Point”: “Work of the eyes is done, now go and do Heart work on all the images captive within you.”

Garden ... soul’s eye ... fountain ... small animal ... circle ... flame ... conscience ... core ...

What images of Heart speak to you and challenge you to find and claim your own treasure?

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