How do we know which way to go? How do we know what voice to listen to? How do we know who or what to trust?
In order to find True North we must talk about four things: mind, heart, body and soul.
The mind is that chatter box up in our head that never shuts up. It’s that background noise that so many of us hear. It spits out words all day long. Judgements, fears, criticisms, comparisons. ‘I like that, I don’t like that, I want that to happen, I don’t want that to happen.’ This is the mind’s job, it’s what it does. For most of my life, I had no idea that my mind wasn’t me. I thought that this critical, panicky, stream of words came from me. I thought it was me. In my classes, we practice removing ourselves from identifying with the mind. Meaning, that we understand that we are not the mind itself, we are the one who can watch the mind. The most important thing to understand about the mind is that the mind just is. It’s not personal. We don’t have to control it and we definitely don’t have to listen to it. The mind just says stuff and the more we understand that it’s a nonsensical little chatter-box, the easier it is to drop behind it.
The heart is our feeling center, it is what makes us capable of allowing or dis-allowing our feelings. Emotions come in a full set, we don’t get to pick and choose the ones we want to feel. We either open our heart to all emotion or we close our heart to all emotion. When we close our heart, we shut down the full expression or natural life span of our emotions. And we close our hearts all the time, any time we think we can’t handle a feeling that is coming up. Whether it’s anger or jealousy, heartbreak or joy, when we think it’s too intense, we close our heart and shut down our experience.
We all know what it means to close our heart and what it means to open it. Try it, check in right now, is your heart open or closed? You can feel it. Place your hand over your heart and close your eyes. Is it open or closed?
We close our hearts all the time. When we decide we can’t handle something, we close our hearts and try to distract ourselves. We might turn to shopping, or drinking, over-eating. We might turn to drugs, or cheating on our spouses. These are all symptoms of the greater problem of closing our hearts, of being unwilling to feel our natural emotions. Of being unable to handle our hearts.
People say follow your heart, but for the purposes of finding True North, we don’t want to follow the voice of the heart. We are not our hearts. The voice of the heart is intertwined with the voice of the mind depending on how open-hearted you are ready to be. Your mind doesn’t want something and it closes the heart. Your mind wants something else and it opens the heart. Do you see that we can’t really follow the heart if it’s still so connected to the mind?
So maybe we should listen to the voice of our body?
When we close our heart, our body starts to get involved. It takes that emotion that we are refusing to feel and stores it for later. This energy pattern, or samskara, can be stored as discomfort and eventually can become chronic pain or illness. When you’re in a yoga pose that is particularly uncomfortable or challenging, become curious and receptive to what’s stored there. You can ask your body questions and listen to what it says. It has a voice, and it will speak to you and offer insight. When we begin to listen to our bodies and open our hearts, we open ourselves up to the entire set of emotions. We don’t just open up to love, we open to rage, despair, heartbreak, grief and sorrow. We open our hearts to everything left unfelt. When we open our hearts and allow ourselves to feel what’s been stored in our bodies, the emotions run their natural course and then they let go of us. That energy gets converted through emotional release, heat and breath, so that it’s no longer stored in our bodies. Get behind the mind and practice bringing yourself into your body, so that you can open up a conversation with it, letting go of anything that’s no longer needed.
And this is our practice: to get behind the mind, to open the heart and to stay with the body. From within this space, we begin to heal. We let go of our past, we let go of the pain and suffering that we have endured and we open up the space to hear a distinctly different voice, the voice that points to True North, the voice of love and compassion, the voice of truth, the voice of the soul.
This is where we find True North. For some of us, we might even call this: God.