Follow Your Heart

A common cliche I hear in newage and pagan circles is to “follow your heart.” Unfortunately, this is often interpreted as rushing into something that feels good on the assumption that if it feels good, it must be right. So to follow your heart is to get caught up in your emotional impulses and act without thinking, with the secondary assumption that rational thinking is bad, because it’s left-brain and that’s not spiritual and creative, or something.

Because it makes sens that we would have inherent abilities that we are intended to ignore for our own spiritual evolution. But I digress.

Well, at heartland Pagan Festival, I got the chance to see Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone talk about chakras.

Frequently associated with the ability to give and receive love, as well as inner peace. Oh, and tolerance, non-judgementalism,  and diversity, because those are big now. And whatever else our watered-down understanding of Vedic and Yogic philosophy will abide related to those things.

So you’ll find a lot of stuff like this:

The Heart Chakra is the center for unconditional love, compassion, empathy, forgiveness and tolerance. The Heart is the seat of the Soul. The Anahata nurtures life lessons of love and compassion, self acceptance and confidence, hope and inspiration, and generosity. On the flip side, hate, fear, envy, anger and despair reflect an imbalance of the Heart Chakra. The purpose of the Anahata includes maintaining the connections and ties to those we love.

Or this:

The Heart Chakra is the centre from which feelings of love emanate. It is also associated with other virtuous emotions, such as joy, happiness, honesty, respect, compassion, understanding, and generosity, and with loving oneself in a sincere, non-egotistic way. This is also the chakra through which we connect with others whom we love or have affection towards.

But Gavin Bone said something interesting about the Heart Chakra. It is related to the thymus gland, which happens to rest just above the heart. And this interested me, because of what the thymus does.

The thymus gland regulates your immune system. Put simply, it trains your white blood cells not to attack the healthy cells in your body. If it does not perform this function, then your own immune system can attack your body. Obviously this is not a good thing.

And this got me thinking about the heart chakra.

The thymus allows us to determine what is harmful to us and what is beneficial to us. It association to the heart chakra suggest that the latter has some role in a similar process on an emotional level.

And some more searching on the heart chakra confirms this:

Anahata [the Heart Chakra] is associated with the ability to make decisions outside of the realm of karma. In Manipura and below, man is bound by the laws of karma, and the fate he has in store for him. In Anahata, one is making decisions, ‘following your heart’, based upon one’s higher self, and not from the unfulfilled emotions and desires of lower nature.

So one of the central functions of the heart chakra is actually emotional discernment, or dare I say, discrimination. Following your heart is not about giving in to emotional impulses, but in determining whether the emotional surge you feel is actually leading you toward your best destiny. This may help explain why this chakra is associated with the element of air, which deals with intellect, analysis, and discernment, rather than passionate fire or emotional water.

The advice to “Follow your heart” has somehow lost some of its meaning. Whereas it originally was intended to direct people to assess their emotional states to decide upon a spiritually beneficial path, it is now tossed around as a justification to engage in impulsive and potentially damaging behavior. Much as Crowley’s dictum of “Do what thou wilt” refers to the Divine Will, and not the ego-centered impulses that grip us, following your heart is intended to refer you to your Higher Awareness, which presumably will tell you to take the path that may deny short term desires and impulses, but will ultimately take you to a better and more rewarding place. And also like Crowley’s Law, the dictum to Follow your Heart has been watered down and interpreted as a justification of the very thing it was intended to warn against.

So that stupid thing you want to do in the rage of passion? Follow your Heart. It’s telling you to calm down and consider what’s best for you.

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2 responses to “Follow Your Heart

  1. Ooh, this topic is close to my heart – ha. First of all, I totally agree with you that the essence of the colloquialism to “follow your heart” is to do what is ultimately best for you. I’m just coming to grips with my black/white thinking on the heart and mind, only my thinking is feeling/heart = bad and rationality/mind = good! But as I’ve worked through that, I’ve come to understand the heart and the mind as balancing one another. Whereas the mind is well suited for working with external information, the heart is better suited for internal information. The heart needs the mind to give external context to our body’s physiological responses, which we then label as a “feeling,” whether that feeling is desire, love, repulsion, whatever. The mind needs to the heart to give it internal context, so that it can make decisions that “feel right.”

    To follow one exclusively leaves out the moderating and enriching influence of the other. I don’t think it’s necessarily harmful to experiment with the balance though. It could actually be fun. 🙂

    • We have had a heart=bad mind=good dichotomy imposed upon us for a while, and the newage community is rebelling by pushing a mind=bad heart=good dichotomy that is just as damaging. The heart and mind obviously both work together. And I like the point you make that the heart deals with physiological responses — we love to forget that we are animals and bodies and think that the “spiritual” transcends that. It doesn’t. And whereas the mind likes to pick apart and analyze, the heart works with things running just below conscious awareness or gestalts based upon information that we aren’t always aware of. But it is inherently rational, as long as we understand what its function is.

      The problem is that sometimes our physiological impulses don’t match up with our mental processes, and this leads to confusion. But I’ve found that if my body wants something that isn’t good for me in the long run, my heart pushed me away from it. And I interpret that as conflict, because I was taught to conflate the passions of the moment for what my heart was truly telling me.

      It was all like:
      Passions: “I love her!”
      Heart: “No, that girl is bad news and will only hurt you!”
      Mind: “Body wants sex! I will rationalize what Passion said. Besides, Meme said loyal men suffer for love.”

      I am endeavoring to push the “Follow Your Heart = Do What Thou Wilt” thinger.

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