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How Can I Speak From My Heart?

What words will I use? 

Autumn sunrise. The side of a house and autumn trees on the right. Stepping stones lead the eye from foreground to the house. Pale blue sky wiht clouds tinged with yellow and oragne. Green grass.
Sunrise at Evergreen. Let's start each day with the intention to speak from the heart.

When I gave a eulogy last year for my older sister, I didn’t speak from my heart.


I read from typed sheets clasped tightly between shaking hands.


My heart was incapable of speaking. It thumped within my chest so powerfully I suspected it was causing the fabric of my burgundy dress to pulsate in unison with it. And I feared this movement was visible to those in the first three rows.


As I moved through the pre-selected words, there were a few unscripted parts that arose spontaneously, but I didn’t want to forget any of the things I wanted to say about her – how she’d chosen to live, and what she’d achieved.


I wanted to paint a complete picture, to leave the funeral attendees with a heightened awareness of her as a person. Strong. Kind. Gracious. Private. So, I clung to those sheets with a comfortable knowing that what I wanted to say would be said, as long as I could keep reading.


If someone had said to me, ‘Just get up there and speak from the heart,’ it may have worked, but I didn’t want to chance it. Besides, I knew that the complication of my tears and constricted throat would interrupt the flow enough, without throwing in my faulty memory.


However, the principle of speaking from the heart is a good one.


I should do it more.


What Is My Heart?


My heart looks like a lump of red meat the size of a fist. It has walls, four chambers, valves, blood vessels, and an electrical system. It moves blood and nutrients throughout my body.


If it stops beating for more than eight minutes, I will stop living.


I’m only aware of my heart when it’s beating harder and faster than usual. For example, when I wake in sudden fright at a clap of thunder; when doing my morning cardiovascular exercise of walking up and down the thirteen stairs from the kitchen to the bedroom twenty times (rather than going to the gym to walk a treadmill); or when opening a letter personally addressed to me from the Taxation Department.


Apart from these moments, my heart tickerty-tocks along without me noticing it.


But I should take more notice of it. Not because it’s keeping me alive, but because of the gifts it houses, all beautifully wrapped and ready for me to give away.


What Are Hearts For?


Like many people, I think of my heart as a pump, and, in deeply emotional moments, I think of it as the place where I feel things the most.


Episcopal priest and spiritual writer Cynthia Bourgeault wrote in her book, The Wisdom Jesus:


We almost always think of the heart as the center of our personal emotional life. But this is not the way the wisdom tradition sees it. In wisdom, the heart is primarily an organ of spiritual perception, a highly sensitive instrument for keeping us aligned . . .


I find it difficult to speak – and live – from the heart – from this organ of spiritual perception – because I have a habit of operating full-time from my head.


My life’s control room is inside my brain. I assume that my thoughts are correct. I follow their dictates automatically, without questioning their reasoning.


Anything my heart might feel or say is overridden by the over-confident, attention-getting voice of my brain.


When everything is going along normally, I get lost in everyday activities. It is only in deeply emotional moments that I am open to spiritual perceptions that beckon me to go deeper, further, wider.


The Kingdom of Heaven Is In Your Heart


In her book, Bourgeault also referred to the writings of Jim Marion, who suggests that the Kingdom of Heaven, which we’re religiously taught as children is far away, high in the sky, and it’s where you go when you die if you’re good, is something else altogether. It is:


. . . really a metaphor for a state of consciousness; it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from. It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a different place.  . . . what we would nowadays call a “nondual consciousness” or “unitive consciousness”. The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation – not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans.


I don’t go to the Kingdom of Heaven when I die. I come from the Kingdom of Heaven through how I live now.


The great spiritual teacher Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is within me (Luke 17:21). I’m carrying around the Kingdom of Heaven inside me.


The Kingdom of Heaven dwells in my heart. In my heart are the things I long for here on earth: boundless love, endless patience, cosmic-sized compassion, a bottomless well of wisdom, and permanent peace.


Whether one is a mother, a monk, or a murderer, the heart that beats within our chest cavity holds roads paved with gold leading to priceless things like love. That’s what hearts are for.


Love. Patience. Compassion. Wisdom. Peace. It sounds like my heart is a holy vessel.


How to Speak From My Heart


How can I speak from my heart? What does my heart want to say?


My heart began growing before my brain did, so it knows more.


It knows when to be quiet and when to speak.


The funny thing is that although my brain is often as noisy as a jackhammer, my heart is usually silent.


My heart never shouts.


It speaks in whispers, or not at all.


In The Wise Heart, Jack Kornfield wrote:


Compassion is our deepest nature. It arises from our interconnection with all things.


Kornfield again:


When we shift attention from experience to the spacious consciousness that knows, wisdom arises.


My brain creates divisions between me and other humans, between me and “God”, whereas my heart (my organ for spiritual perception) discerns my interconnection with all things, through a viewpoint of Oneness and Eternity.


I can’t prove this scientifically, but I sense it.


My brain keeps me safe in a physical world.


My heart keeps me connected to the spiritual realm.


Speaking from the heart isn’t complicated. It’s simple if I follow this principle:


  •       If the words that arise will cause division, I will be silent.


  •       If the words that arise will promote unity, I will speak.


(Well, I’ll try to live this way!)



Your Heart and Mine


All our hearts have the same timeless ingredients: love; patience; compassion; wisdom; peace.


Let’s allow our hearts to speak more often.


Let’s live what our hearts hold.


If you must give a presentation, a speech, or a eulogy, a typed script may be the best way to ensure you cover the material required. But when you write it, write it from the heart. Then it will have all the ingredients it needs to make it as effective as possible. That’s what I did for my sister’s eulogy.


In the closing remarks I quoted the last lines of the poem, ‘The Summer Day’, by Mary Oliver:


Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do With your one wild and precious life?

Let’s spend our wild and precious life living what our heart decrees, and speaking what our heart yearns to hear us say.


Fresh, unfettered responses from our heart throughout the day is the best way to live.


Let’s spread some love, patience, compassion, wisdom and peace today.


With love, Marlane

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