During my recent Vision Quest something that had been building for quite some time – my entire life really – came into focus regarding Empathy Rising. Regarding life in general. Heart First. What does this mean to me?
Under the yolk of 3000 years of extreme patriarchy, bolstered by three hundred years of the Age of Reason, there has been an almost exclusive emphasis on the mind as the primary arbiter of life. The heart, the intuition, the realm of the feminine, has been marginalized, even vilified. We are now in the midst of the next major human evolution – the re-integration, and exultation, of the heart.
As with many of us, my feelings, my heart had to be banished to a netherworld when I was young – in order to survive. In the last few years I have finally found the path back to my heart. It has been an arduous journey slogging my way through the maze, dazed and confused. Angry.
I eventually exited the maze only to come face to face with my wall, in all its dauntingness. It is quite the thing to behold. Confirmation that there is indeed an actual wall. My wall has been my faithful companion through it all. Over time, since the wall had to remain in place, it seamlessly integrated into who I was – becoming largely indistinguishable from me. Embedded, as if it belongs and always has.
The wall is there to protect the heart. It’s a hard black shell that surrounds the heart. As I imagine it, maybe it’s also had black spikes protruding in all directions. Sometimes, as with an optical illusion, it’s as if they’re not there. The shell appears smooth, if largely impenetrable. And sometimes the spikes appear out of nowhere like a medieval weapon ready to impail.
Our defense is often indiscriminate, like chemo-therapy. Everything is a potential threat so the safest course of action is to just annihilate it all – just in case – including allegedly ‘good’ things that, let’s be honest, are just going to disappoint again aren’t they? Betrayal again.
So, the shell keeps bad things out. And doesn’t let the good things in. Ever vigilant. On guard. Yet, the more excessively we protect heart, the more we extinguish its flames. We’re so pre-occupied with maintaining this defense that the shell has forgotten why it was placed there in the first place. To protect the heart so it can be safe, so it can shine, so it can enlighten. Because the heart is the most precious part of each us. It is the holder of ultimate joy, wisdom and understanding.
If we need research to confirm this for us when can turn to ground-breaking research done by the HearthMath Institute (warning: there are a couple of potentially disturbing images in the video). Studies reveal that “the information comes through the heart first. The heart then sends a different signal to the brain (which we can measure), then you have a brain response, and then a body response” at which point it becomes a conscious experience.
In other words, replicated research has shown that the heart knows, and directs, our mental and physical responses – about five seconds before the thing has even happened.
So, what does that mean for a species whose collective heart-connections are severely compromised? It means we have limited access to the most important information available to make sense of our lives – and to connect with each other. The result of this millennia of imbalance between the mind and the heart is the dysfunction we see all around us – and within ourselves.
Fortunately, it also means there is a clear path ahead for those with the courage and perseverance to directly engage with the heart. To work to dissolve the wall that keeps us from being who we are, personally and as a species. To live a heart-centered existence.
Empathy is usually said to mean putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; in considering other first. But deep empathy begins with the self. The more connected we are to our own hearts, the more empathetic we can be, within and without.
So, Heart First my Sisters and Brothers.