Are You Operating from Your Head or Your Heart?

Last weekend was the final ‘official’ training day of my coaching course.  I quote ‘official’ because I’ve made such a connection with the ladies on the course that we know it’s not the end of a chapter but rather the beginning of new one and many ideas were brewing on how we might take this understanding out into the world.   But I’ll save that for another blog post.

Anyway, we were all sat together reflecting on the following quote by Jack Pransky, one of the first generation teachers of this inside out understanding that I talk about.

‘All we are is love, peace and wisdom and the power to create the illusion that we are not’

I’ve seen this quote many times but this time it came down on me like a ton of bricks. There are only two ways from which we operate in the world: either from our head or from our heart.  I saw it more simply and deeply in that moment than I ever have before.

I don’t mean that we live our lives solely from one place or the other. For a start that’s just not possible – our lives are a continual string of moments, brought to life by the creative power of thought which is served to us either through our intellect (head) or our wisdom (heart) and we go in and out of both all day, everyday.

All of nature is powered by the same intelligent life force, but unlike the rest of the animal kingdom which survives on instinct, us humans are thinking creatures, born with this amazing gift of thought. Life is a game to be played and to join in and make the most of it; we need to operate from both head and heart.  We need our heads to plan, analyse, achieve, and concentrate on tasks.  We need intellectual knowledge and skills to do our jobs (I don’t know about you, but I’m going for the surgeon who knows a thing or two about anatomy rather than the one who relies on Devine inspiration to guide them), and we need our heads to store information and memories that we can recall in certain situations.

However, a life lived too much from our head means we are in a constant state of ‘doing’ – always striving, always searching, always wanting:  we get burned out, stressed, anxious, impatient, depressed, intolerant etc. which leads to all sorts of unwanted behaviour and consequences.  We don’t see the world favourably and we react rather than respond.  It’s a fragile place to be and when these feelings show up, it’s a great sign that we need to slow down.

But, underneath all of that intellectual thinking is our true nature – the peace, love and wisdom that Jack refers to in his quote.  Always there, ready to serve us when we need it.  It’s constantly working for us even in the everyday moments, like when you need a pee or when you need to eat or drink:  you don’t consciously need to make those decisions.  You just get up and pee or make a sandwich.  If you have to think about whether you’re hungry or not, I guarantee you, you’re not hungry!  Wisdom moves through us all the time in the most subtle of ways, helping us to make ‘no brainer’ decisions that we don’t even realise are decisions!

Of course when we get quiet enough, our wisdom brings us those insightful light bulb and life saving moments too, which is why we’re always told to keep calm in a crisis.  Have you ever seen the blockbuster film Sully? It’s based on the true story of Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who performed an emergency landing of his plane on the Hudson River back in 2009. It’s the perfect example of a man using heart over head in an emergency situation when he had only minutes to make a crucial decision.

Shortly after take off a flock of birds struck the plane, resulting in failure of all engines.  He was ordered by air traffic control to return to La Gardia airport.  He ignored those orders and landed on the Hudson, saving the lives of all the 155 passengers and crew.  A flight simulation later showed that normal procedures for engine loss are designed for cruising altitude and not for situations occurring after take off.   The simulation also didn’t account for the human element of the situation – the time needed to understand and assess the situation. Therefore if Sully had returned to the airport, it’s more than likely that they would never have made it, and we all know how that would have panned out. He didn’t let his head get in the way, he let life flow through him and he did what occurred to him to do in that moment. Thank goodness.

Whilst most of us will never find ourselves in Sully’s situation, it’s still super useful to get an understanding for which mode we’re operating in when situations present themselves.  I’m not saying that Sully consciously thought about how he was operating, ‘Hmmm these thoughts, are they head or heart?’ As far as I can tell that’s not the case!  When emergencies occur, as long as we have a clear head, wisdom will guide us naturally into doing the best thing without our involvement, and quite often after such events, people look back and can’t quite believe their actions! Life moved through them, propelling them into action without conscious thought involved.

But in our everyday lives, we can listen to ourselves and notice our feelings. When your child spills a drink – is yelling the right thing to do at that moment? Are you teaching them anything meaningful if you do that? Maybe step back from your thinking and see what shows up for you!
Same with work colleagues, partners or any human relationships in fact – if your head to head with another person, there’s gonna be friction – a battle of wills. Two people, face on, both of which are locked into their thinking because it looks so solid and real to them.  It’s going to be impossible to find a resolution.

On the other hand, if you are heart to head, at least one of you will be in your wellbeing which means compassion, understanding, listening; and you have a great chance of drawing the other person towards those feelings too. Have you ever noticed that happen before? I see it all the time in my kids. Only last night, my son was having a paddy as he didn’t want a shower – he just wanted to play Minecraft. He threw a wobbler, ‘ you’re the worst parents ever,’ ‘you don’t love me, nobody loves me,’ ‘I’m going to run away!’ You get the picture.   Seriously, it was like something had possessed my sweet, kind and loving little man. But I never rose to it. I never met him head to head. I stayed calm. I talked to him, even though he continued with the insults, but I knew that wasn’t his true nature speaking, just a bunch of revved up thinking coming out in the form of words. We cuddled and I said, ‘How about you have a shower, get in your jimmy jams and you can show me how to play Minecraft?’ His response, ‘OK Mummy!’   You see, when we don’t buy into other people’s stories, and show up in our own wellbeing, that’s the best chance we’ll ever get of helping them fall back into theirs.

It doesn’t get any better than two humans connection from the heart

Of course the real magic happens when two people are just heart to heart. It’s the perfect connection and doesn’t get any better than this. Two people in a good feeling, working collaboratively, in the flow of life.  Solutions and resolutions are effortless.

So next time you find yourself in conflict with another or are feeling stuck in a particular situation, give yourself a moment to reflect on whether you’re in your head or your heart, and if you’re not sure, look for that clear, quiet ‘knowing’ feeling.  You can be sure to trust that!

I hope this was useful. See you next time.

Jo x

2 thoughts on “Are You Operating from Your Head or Your Heart?

  1. Karyn says:

    dear Jo. Thank you for posting your understanding of the 3 principles . Have so much more clarity now. Your gift is in your ability to explain that which is simple and yet so difficult to comprehend for some.

    • Jo Smith says:

      I appreciate your comment Karyn. I’m so pleased you saw something in my words. Thank you for taking the time to post and please feel free to get in touch anytime.

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