As one that is both an emotional being and a deeply intellectual thinker, I am in a constant search for the proper balance between the two approaches to life. My natural inclination is to lean into what my hearts says and follow my intuition, but even so this leaning is always peppered with a fair amount of intellectual analysis and strategizing of end results. This push and pull can be limiting and a place I try not to inhabit for very long. Life having the sense of humor that it does, this analysis usually happens in the middle of the night when my mind is more prone to wander. As such, I am a frequent guest of sleepless nights and find solace in the wakefulness and introspection.
Upon reading a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke I was immediately drawn to the first sentence, specifically “O Anxious one”. Anxiety is ever present when I allow my mind to take the lead and neglect the very important role of the heart. The problem being the mind is extremely clever and can come up with a million eventualities before an event has even taken place. If I resist this catastrophizing and allow my heart to lead, I am at peace with the unfolding and feel a sense of calm that the mind does not make space for. This poem is a simple and beautiful way to facilitate a gentle drawing back to a state of equilibrium, especially in moments when the mind stubbornly races along.
I am, O Anxious One. Don’t you hear my voice
surging forth with all my earthly feelings?
They yearn so high, that they have sprouted wings
and whitely fly in circles round your face.
My soul, dressed in silence, rises up
and stands alone before you: can’t you see?
don’t you know that my prayer is growing ripe
upon your vision as upon a tree?
If you are the dreamer, I am what you dream.
But when you want to wake, I am your wish,
and I grow strong with all magnificence
and turn myself into a star’s vast silence
above the strange and distant city, Time.
Rainer Maria Rilke
In addition, the sentence that reads “My soul, dressed in silence, rises up and stands alone before you: can’t you see?” is like home to me. My soul is in a constant interplay with the exterior world, harboring a desire for others to “see” me by searching the silence of what remains unspoken within. This is no easy task. It is as if I am shouting from the top of a mountain to be seen, yet all the while hiding behind a cloud daring to be discovered. I suspect that when another chooses to look beyond my external self, they will begin to see shades of this declaration and be confused by my apparent waiving. The truth is that no amount of intellectual analysis alone will reveal the truths that I harbor. Engagement of the heart requires a vulnerability that is not approached when using only the brain. This heart work requires strength of character, the ability to live in the discomfort of this space and even some grace. It is in the exposing of hidden truths that one really learns about themselves and about others, a lifelong task and one that is meaningful for all willing to dive in and take the risk.
You’ve got to get out of your head and into your heart. Right now your thoughts are in your head, and God seems to be outside you. Your prayer and all your spiritual exercises also remain exterior. As long as you are in your head, you will never master your thoughts, which continue to whirl around your head like snow in a winter’s storm or like mosquitoes in the summer heat. If you descend into your heart, you will have no more difficulty. Your mind will empty out and your thoughts will dissipate….
St Theophan the Recluse
As part of my journey, I continue to search for that balance. Sometimes I lean into my heart as intended and other times I allow my brain to completely run the show. Fascinating how we all choose to cope given any particular circumstance. Constantly striving for this balance, I will be silently drawn to the discovery of hidden truths; the simplicity of this affirmation is humbling. I find comfort in the solitude of this work with the intention to listen to my heart speak in the silence. For me this end is well worth the struggle.