Listening through the Heart


We’re going to explore the difference between listening through our conceptual filtering system and listening through the heart. We’re going to explore the difference between listening through the intellect, which is listening through our descriptions, and listening through openness. We’re going to explore what it means not to want anything from ourselves but simply to be, simply to accept. At the same time, we’re going to explore how this is done without denying anything. There’s a part of us that pushes hard. There’s a part of us that is always thinking. There’s a part of us that always wants something more.

We just allow ourselves to come into the heart, the area around the heart and to experience what’s there. Allow what’s there to become an instrument, something we don’t understand. We don’t have to understand it. We’re just going to sit with it.

It’s important to see that in our normal day‑to‑day experience, it is very hard to draw a distinction between a feeling which moves through us and the strands of explanations that we enwrap the feeling with. We have come to the belief that our explanations and our feelings are the same thing. We don’t always see that a feeling invokes a particular explanation almost as if it were a habit, and that the explanation and the feeling are not the same. We’ve learned to respond in trite ways to very deep feeling‑tones.

We’re going to begin to understand a way to disengage the description from the tone of the feeling. To do this, we must start with the humble and dignified understanding that we do not know the meaning of anything. We know what we’ve been taught to believe. We know what we think keeps us safe. But in the end, there is nothing but mystery. We’re here to disengage from our descriptions.

As we think about our inner life, we notice how much time is spent in arguing, arguing with ourselves. “I should be somewhere else. I should be somebody else. I should have done it differently. I shouldn’t feel this way.” There’s an undercurrent of argument in our experience. Just notice that. There’s an undercurrent of anger and self‑hate.

Let’s observe our inner life. It’s safe to experience mystery, to not know and to accept that we don’t know. It’s safe to spend some time listening from the heart and not explaining from the intellect. It’s safe to know what it is we really want. It just takes a little while to do this. The descriptive mechanism suggests we want one thing while the open, deep heart wants something else. Let’s sit with those two desires.

As we make this journey together, we will come to the understanding that our goal in terms of process is to look at what’s there and not try to identify it. There’s something moving through us. There’s something in the body. There’s something subtler than the body which feels like the soft tone of feelings. There’s a wanting inside and there’s a way in which we describe this wanting to ourselves. There’s a longing inside of us, a simple longing inside of us. Sometimes this longing feels as if it seeks some very ancient experience. Sometimes what it wants feels very near, sometimes it feels distant. There is an ancient longing in the heart and there are words that explain.

Become aware that the heart, too, has consciousness. The area around the heart has consciousness. It can listen. It can expand. It can become aware. As we allow the heart to become aware of feelings, we notice that it does not argue. The heart does not create moments of despair. It does not point fingers. It does not seek to exert pressure. It does not suggest that we should be somewhere we’re not. It simply accepts. We’re here to accept and therefore to listen through the heart.

Just explore for a moment this thought, “I don’t really know what I am. I only know what I think I am. I don’t really know what I am. I only know what I’ve been taught. I am here right now and this is all there is. There is nothing else. There is this breathing. There are these feelings.” We feel unsafe if we’re not constantly explaining the meaning of what passes. For the most part, we have come to believe that these explanatory thoughts are objective facts ‑ the way they describe it is the way it is. We think that our descriptions of our feelings are the feelings themselves.

We have allowed ourselves to identify the mechanism which interprets as the experience itself. We’re not always sure there’s a difference, particularly where there’s pain. There’s a kind of psychic glue that binds the inner experience with the thinking about it, so it’s not always clear that they are two different things. The thinking actively describes. It is involved in making images. The heart, and the experience of consciousness in the heart, receives and has no images to inflict upon the world.

We have to recognize as we explore this that we are not talking about what’s ugly and what’s beautiful. We’re not talking about what’s good and what’s bad. We’re looking inside. We’re journeying through ourselves in such a way that we find a slight distinction between this wanting, this feeling‑tone, and a mechanism which describes. Often, our motivations for doing in the world are a response to an interpretation of a feeling rather than to the feeling itself. We are committed to the absolute, factual nature of our own constructs. We have built constructs around our life experience. We use ideas, ideologies, beliefs to get a handle on what always changes, on what we don’t understand.

Copyright 1993: estate of Stephen Robbins Schwartz

Leave a reply