Topography of the Heart

10 Jul

Despite often being accused of having strong intellectual defenses, I am nonetheless a big fan of the heart. In fact, in Chinese medicine, the heart reigns supreme over the brain and is said to house both the mind and emotions. They refer to it as the Little Emperor.

Here in our Western world we are told to trust our minds not our hearts and are led to believe that the heart can get us into a lot of trouble. Perhaps. But if the heart so misleads us why does so much of our vocabulary reflect its intelligence? i.e. heart of the matter, heartache, change of heart, heavy heart, faint of heart, light heart, etc.

I know that for myself the heart is a mysterious creature that I can’t seem to get away from. Every time I want to leave it at home for the day, it follows me like a dog who won’t leave my company. In fact, in many ways it is like a dog: loyal, vulnerable, forgiving, fierce and protective of those I love.

In therapy, when clients are often stuck in their heads and not making progress towards talking about what is really going on, I’ll often ask, “If your heart could speak, what would it say? If it was sitting here right on the couch with you, what would it want to talk about? How old is your heart and what does it want?” And inevitably that is when clients start to cry. Because their hearts actually have a lot to say but have been ignored and censored.

I’m not saying the heart is always right. We have to develop a wise and discerning heart. In Ezekiel 11:19 it says, “I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and ordinances and obey them.” We have to cultivate the heart in a God like way so that it knows what it is doing.

My heart hasn’t always led me in the right direction and yet more often than not, it navigates fairly well. It yearns for God and beauty and joy. It desires connection and vitality and to give and receive love. It also knows when it has been hurt and when it needs rest and to not be over-excited. I thank God for my heart. Despite my over zealous mind and ego, the heart represents the compass of my life. If we traced the topography of our hearts, I think we’d find ourselves in vast, wild and beautiful terrain.

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