What’s stopping you from living from your heart? A friend asked recently how to live more from the heart rather than the head. It got me wondering what living from the heart means, and why we don’t all do it.
To me, living from the heart means living authentically and giving ourselves permission to manifest our deepest desires. Staying connected to your heart. It means allowing ourselves to be uncomfortable, because following what we are passionate about often involves doing things differently to the social norm.
Living in a tent is not a normal thing to do in Australia. Usually when I tell people I live with my son in a tent, they look concerned (until they actually visit me and see how big and sturdy it is). I’m still getting people suggest rentals for me, and I’m sure it will continue to happen over winter.
It is very important to most humans to belong to the group. We all like to think of ourselves as questioning individuals, unique and savvy. So why do so many of us end up spending our lives in jobs we don’t like, being polite to people we don’t like, even living with people we don’t like?
In order to avoid the discomfort of rocking the boat, making big changes to our lives or opening ourselves up to potential conflict, we box ourselves in, shut our eyes and pretend it’s ok. The irony is that in attempting to avoid discomfort, we end up creating chronically uncomfortable lives. We also cut ourselves off from growth and experiencing a deep sense of achievement, joy and connection.
This is relevant to sustainable living, because, unless you are a peasant in China, moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle is going to involve some pretty drastic change. Sustainable living means exploring how different you are willing to be from the dominant Western tribe of capitalist, consumerist society.
So learning what keeps you from changing is really useful. Once you learn about another way of living that you would like to try, what stops you?
My answer is: shame and fear. You are probably familiar with fear. I think shame is even more powerful. Shame is a very old emotion. We often don’t even know we have it. When I first started reading about shame, I thought I didn’t have much shame. After I’d read a few chapters, I thought: oh. THAT. There’s parenting shame, body shame, career shame, family shame, pleasure shame, you name it! We even get ashamed of being ashamed!
From what I’ve learnt, shame is an emotion common to all cultures that is designed to keep us part of the group. It’s an ancient physical and emotional reaction to the danger of being cast out of our tribe. When humans feel shame, the muscles in the back of the neck weaken and the head hangs down. The eyes look to the ground. Inside, we might have a sinking feeling or wanting to be swallowed by the floor. Shame keeps us complying to common codes of behaviour, so that we generally act in predictable patterns. It stops us from rocking the boat.
If you want to live your life from the heart; follow your bliss, challenge conventions, forge your own path; expect discomfort. Society is going to pressure you to stay the same as everyone else, and if you deviate, it will pressure you to change back. Shame is one of the most potent tools that keeps you stuck.
The best way to keep something shameful is to keep it hidden and silent. So if you want to live from the heart, share your experiences. Seek out people who will support you. Give yourself permission to have uncomfortable conversations. Be gentle and curious with yourself. Learn more about shame and how it works.
I did this oil painting at university. I’ve put it on display in my tent because I like how it shows this tender space between. I think the reason I want to see it every day is because it reminds me how beautiful vulnerability is.
It was really challenging for me to move to the tent. I’m not sure how things will work over winter. I have lots of ideas. I’m really enjoying setting up this beautiful space and surrounding myself with beauty, things from my childhood, restful colours, special feathers, and objects that remind me of love and friendship.
I don’t have it sorted yet. A question I keep coming back to is ‘how do I want to share my love with the world?’ I don’t have the answer. All I know is I want to keep choosing love. Choosing to live with less impact on the world is an act of love. Parenting more peacefully is an act of love. Donating, giving away and volunteering is an act of love. Washing the dishes can be an act of love! Here’s to peace, love and harmony, and the courage it takes to live life from the heart.