I think we all have the capacity to know what is best for us and to listen to our own inner wisdom. I call this listening to our own inner wisdom heart listening.
Many of us are out of practice. We spend a lot of our time overriding our hearts and letting our minds lead. We push our bodies beyond the point of exhaustion because this is what we think we should do.
A Personal Account of Heart Listening
The decision to leave my 20 year practice in the health professions was like that. I had invested years of training and was good at my job (I call this the shoulds). But as I walked to work each day my stomach was churning and I felt a heaviness in my body. When I received my second wake up call in a year in the form of breast cancer I knew I had to listen to my heart going forward.
What does listening to your heart look and feel like?
For me it feels like my heart is a bit lighter. It gives a little leap when something is right for me. When something is not right I feel a heaviness in my stomach or across my chest. This heaviness is not to be confused with the butterflies or heart pounding fear when I’m taking a big step.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference but here’s what I find helpful. If I’m feeling butterflies about a decision but when I think about how I will feel when I’m through the decision and on to the result it feels light and thrilling, then I know it is just the jitters.
If I feel butterflies and when I think about the outcome it feels heavy or it feels like something I should do I know it is not a good decision.
Learning to Listen to Your Heart
How do I become a heart listener? Becoming a heart listener takes practice. Start with small decisions. When you have a decision to make how does your body feel? Where do you feel this decision in your body?
For example, when I read about a workshop on Writing and Yoga last January my heart gave a little leap. I had a feeling of lightness, almost giddiness. I had just finished radiation for breast cancer that week. There was a snow storm in the forecast. My stomach was clenched at the thought of having to drive several hours there and back.
But when I visualized being with a teacher I adored in a room full of women writing and doing yoga I felt so happy. I knew I just had to be there.
Heart Listening Leads to Creative Exploration
Since then I’ve been working step by step on listening to my heart and my body in all of the choices I make. That workshop was the beginning of my writing and imagining my whole, new life. It was also the impetus for my Healing Mat series.
As a contemporary rug hooking artist I use my rug hooking as a way to process the emotional work I am doing. My first heart-themed mat was called Love Letter. It was about letting go of the pain of my scar and accepting it lovingly into my body. This mat is featured in my book One Loop at a Time.
I’m currently rug hooking a series of mats on the topic of heart listening. My first mat in this series is Self Portrait of the artist, becoming soft, flowing and resilient, heart open, blossoming, yielding, heart listening.
My second mat is called Heart Ripples, hearts opening like ripples in a pond, reverberating. It was inspired by the generosity of several of my female mentors. I have several other designs in my sketchbook as I explore what it means to listen to my heart.
I would encourage you to consider using an art form as a way of learning to become a heart listener.
Other Pathways to Heart Listening
What are the benefits of listening to your heart?
Fewer shoulds and more opportunities for joy.
Less pushing yourself to work harder and harder because that is what you do.
When you are listening to your heart, there is an ease, an excitement. You can still be working hard but the heaviness is not there.
Do you have to leave your job and change your whole life to follow your heart?
Of course not. Heart listening can begin with saying yes to a lateral move that excites you, or saying yes to taking a few minutes each day to take a photo of something beautiful. It can be saying no to yet another request to be on a committee.
Heart listening can be as simple as choosing to spend more time with the people in your life who make you feel valued and appreciated. It can be choosing to spend less time around people who are negative or who make you feel less than.
If you are woman who is interested in exploring your creative side as you learn to focus on becoming a heart listener, reach out to me. I’d love to connect with you.
How do you listen to your heart when it comes to making decisions? Can you think of a time when your heart was trying to tell you something? Did you listen? What creative outlets do you find open your heart to opportunities for joy? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Note: This blog post was previously published on SixtyandMe.com in November 2016.