A;l my life my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name - Andre Breton

Whatever you do – don’t follow your heart!

How many times have you got the message that if you just follow your heart you’ll step forth into a life of of success and bliss? If you spend much time on Facebook you’ll probably see messages to this effect being posted several times a week. It’s really easy to tell people to follow their hearts, but it’s rather more difficult to do in practice.

Why is this?

Firstly, to follow the heart we need to hear it and distinguish it from things that sound like the heart but aren’t. For instance, when the TV advert tells you to follow your heart and buy that new car, and you get this warm, fuzzy, ‘oh yes, baby!’ feeling, that’s not the heart speaking – it’s the ego. The ego tells you that you really can buy love, but it tells you in such a sweet way you think it’s the heart speaking.

Secondly, what the heart really wants is often not what the ‘respectable you’ wants. The heart refuses to buy into the accepted notions of what is good for you. It wants your good, but not in a way you are used to receiving it. For instance, the call from your heart might want you to live a quieter life with less emphasis on work. But how will your partner feel about the possibility of your lower income? And how will you feel about it? Or your heart might want you to stop putting your family’s needs before your own. If you follow these impulses, you will get some opposition.

Thirdly, when you follow your heart, you step into a space of vulnerability and the possibility of getting hurt. An open heart feels, and it feels both the ups and the downs of life.

So all in all, better advice for most people would be this: Don’t follow your heart – it’s just going to get you into trouble.

On the other hand …

On the other hand, the heart is also the source of your motivation and courage. It is the impulse that comes from beyond yourself that drives you to create something extraordinary with your life. If you don’t follow your heart you will stay with the tribe, the herd, and you’ll never be ridiculed for being different but you’ll die a slow death from conformity and the stunting effects of too much safety.

Following one’s heart isn’t for sissies – it’s a path for heroes. The hero leaves the tribe and follows her instinct moment by moment, letting go of plans and certainties and trusting in what is given. People tell her she’s crazy, and she begins to believe it. The hero doesn’t always make it back home. Sometimes the tale is a tragedy rather than an action adventure. But in following her heart and facing the discomfort of the journey she discovers the pearl of greatest price – her very self.

Your heart is calling to you from your most authentic self, from the ‘you’ that is not you but is Life itself.

The only question is this – do you hear the calling of your heart, and do you dare to follow it?

A quick process for accessing heart wisdom

The heart speaks in stillness. Its wisdom is experienced as a subtle knowing that is deeper than words. To tune into the heart, try this:

  1. Stop all efforts to think your way to a solution
  2. Focus on the heart area and on your breathing, letting the breath be slow, deep and even
  3. As you are breathing in this way, see if you can find any positive feeling in your awareness and breathe more of it in.
  4. Now look at the issue you were wanting clarity on and allow an impression or knowing to arise. What wants to happen?

The heart’s wisdom arises by itself when we stop trying to fix things and think our way to a solution. It comes from beyond the mind and all the things the mind thinks we should have or should be doing.

By Russel Brownlee

Russel is a life coach and author of the book The Discovery of Causeless Joy: How to be happy no matter what happens, available on Amazon. Contact him for personal coaching.