Monday, September 14, 2009

Seeing with the Heart - An Approach to Living a Meaningful Life

“The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Several months ago, I expressed to a friend my belief that hatred and misunderstandings arise when people see things through their eyes only, rather than “seeing” with their hearts. The friend replied that people should never see with their hearts because emotions only lead to greater trouble.

When I told her that I agreed with her in part, she appeared confused, and couldn’t seem to reconcile my previous statement of “seeing with the heart”, with my standing on emotions. Indeed, it is quite simple – emotions are not born from the heart. We assume they are, as we are taught that if our feelings are hurt, our heart is broken, but in reality the two are not related. Emotions are born from the ego, the arch-enemy of the heart. A pure heart knows little or no ego, and is able to channel truth; ego, on the other hand, triggers false emotions to appease its bruised twin – pride – and tricks people into believing that their hurt feelings, and the illusion they feed, are coming from the heart.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian spiritual leader, once made a statement that really strikes a cord, when it comes to the reason why emotions are often embraced even if their effect on our lives is detrimental. “When sadness comes,” he said, “just sit by the side, and look at it, and say ‘I am the watcher. I am not sadness.’ and see the difference. Immediately you have cut the very root of sadness. It is no more nourished. It will die of starvation. We feed these emotions by being identified with them.”

Identifying with emotions is extremely simple, and whether the emotions are positive or negative, they become a comfort zone it is hard to break away from, since the other side - void of familiar feelings - represents the unknown.

In a very interesting interview, the Dalai Lama said that the first step to enlightenment is to put a rein on emotions by exercising self-discipline. By restraining emotions one does not become dry and unfeeling, but rather has the ability of seeing with increased clarity, without being falsely led by an ego screaming to be acknowledged. “Seeing with the heart” means that one is willing to love without judgment, is ready to forgive and be compassionate, and is open to acceptance of things that would be maddening if seen through the eyes only.

After discussing the difference between emotions and heart guidance, my friend was able to begin healing some painful issues she had dealt with after the break-up of her marriage. She realized that when her husband left, her pride was bruised, and the emotional charge that ensued was the voice of her ego struggling over her loss of control. Several months later, she is doing much better; her anger is gone, and she now enjoys “watching” and discerning different emotions that arise on the average day. Her relationship with her ex-husband has also greatly improved, which is a blessing since they share two children. She sees that their marriage was doomed by mutual incompatibility, and wishes her former spouse well on his new life. She is finally able to “see with her heart.”

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