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New Discoveries In Heart Mind

From Of Seeds and Sowers, NAICR’s distinguished newsletter that includes current programs, projects and tele-classes, as well as humor and inspiration. Visit the site to learn more about the work of Barbara Ashley Phillips and Kenneth Cloke.

Let me share a bit of what we’ve been learning concerning the heart and mind. The nearest thing to magic is being in our own heart space. Students are reporting quite lovely experiences happening unexpectedly in their lives, as they take up the new tools used in the programs, which serve to integrate heart, body and mind. Resting in the awareness awakened with the tools seems to offer a kind of inherent peace-making quality that affects oneself and others in a variety of situations.

Some of this challenges well-worn belief systems. It would seem, for example, that we have a mind in the heart. From class members’ experiences as well as my own, it appears that a bodily mind exists and that by its nature it is very different from the part where we customarily do our thinking. It operates far faster than thought and speaks in a still, small voice that tells us what is the most deeply right and true course of action or inaction to pursue. When we listen to that voice, there is a goodness that characterizes the outcome. When we ignore it, there is a sense of having missed the mark. We all seem to know at some level when we are seeking personal benefit above greater good. We don’t get any static from the heart-mind for this. It just keeps on speaking truly. It is not in the “judgment and criticism” business. And it knows no fear. It’s role seems to be connection and discernment.

The ordinary mind is organized differently. It looks to the past to make sense out of the present. It seems to be an organic filing and classification system: taking each element of “now” and interpreting it by something old. Edward DeBono, legendary expert on thinking, says that “the purpose of thinking is to avoid thinking.” That fits with our experience.

To the ordinary mind, the whole comprises a mental map of reality. Things that don’t fit in it, we either don’t see it at all, or we completely discount. An example of not seeing it at all is the reaction of the South American Indians who were reported by Darwin to initially be unable to see the sailing ship at all, seeing only the much smaller landing craft. There are legions of examples of new things that were discounted because they didn’t fit people’s maps of reality the computer, the airplane, the car, the telegraph wire, to name a few recent ones. These are quaint in retrospect, but not so very funny at the time: key survival skills could be laughed out of awareness, just because they don’t fit the way we’ve come to think about the way the world works.

The heart-mind is not wedded to a map of reality. It relishes newness. And it is integrated into the body’s own awareness. Students are finding that

the body not only warns of discontinuity and danger through physiological changes, such as changes in heart rate or breathing. It also reports in a variety of ways on emotional and mental states: feelings of dislike and feelings of love and affection, in others, as well as in ourselves. It seems that there are bodily markers or cues for each of these.

It is easy to demonstrate that what we are thinking impacts others. When there are feelings of dislike or criticism, we’ve found that a person will feel ill at ease, uncomfortable, or stressed in some way. We’ve demonstrated this in paired exercises, where the partner is neither the actual person loved nor the actual person disliked. Just imagining that they are, is enough to trigger each partner’s bodily cues. This is a powerful realization for those engaged in conflict resolution work.

TIP: Any antipathy toward another is instantly communicated, person to person, without any visual or verbal cues. It is rare in our culture to consciously read the language of these communications. Still, the message is always communicated and impacts both ourselves and others.

Consider the very real possibility that twenty years from now, we’ll look back in amazement on these times of ignorance about how integrated mind and body, self and others, really are. Meanwhile, it is vital that we attend to how we are on the inside, while doing conflict management work, because of the immense power that we have. It takes practice to begin to bring a cleaner inner landscape to the process.

What emerges first, is a recognition of the illusory nature of some treasured beliefs. For example, it becomes obvious that to think we can compartmentalize our life to nurture hurts in one arena and be “pure” in others — is nonsense. Only in the most superficial way are we different in different settings.

How we are is how we are.

BOTTOM LINE: How we are on the inside in any process in which we are engaged constitutes a powerful influence on what the participants can accomplish there.


Barbara Ashley Phillips

Barbara Phillips has 19 years of widely varied mediation experience, specializing in complex, technical and sensitive matters. A graduate of Yale Law School, Phillips served as an Assistant United States Attorney and practiced primarily federal civil trial law in Oregon and California prior to becoming a mediator. In Phillips' mediations,… MORE >

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