Your Heart Always Knows the Way to Go
I stood on the brink of completing a ten-year journey of challenging work. And as a final requirement for my PhD in English Literature, I handed in my dissertation on “The Function of the Knight in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.” I was more than ready for a break from the incessant and challenging responsibilities of teaching and taking classes, correcting and taking exams, writing papers, and fulfilling my other assistantship duties, and I eagerly looked forward to a well-deserved rest from it all.
So when I was told my dissertation needed significant revision, I heard myself speak some radically defiant words: “That’s it, I quit.”
What did I just say? Those words walked me away from a diligent ten-year commitment, and the promise of a certain, seemingly desirable future, into an unknown, yet substantially compelling world.
From a logical point of view, I was doing something quite irrational, throwing away ten years of hard work and losing many prestigious and lucrative opportunities. This was not like me. I had always been a diligent student who never slacked off in his studies. What was I thinking? I don’t really remember much of what I was thinking and feeling, as that happened well over 50 years ago. But what I do know is that by taking that action that honored the call of my heart, I made one of the most valuable choices of my life. I found the courage to discover a path of freedom and wonder, which our educational systems and our society do not usually encourage us to follow. I definitely lost out financially, but in terms of what is most important in life, I gained tremendously.
For twelve years I lived without a home, without money, and without working. This provided a very different education than I had previously received. It fostered in me a great trust in Life and taught me things I never could have learned in school, or in a more conventional lifestyle.
Occasionally, I’d hitchhike to familiar places where I found old friends who were established and successful in the world, but they didn’t seem to have the happiness, the energy, the excitement, and the joie de vivre that I did. They would often remark about how interesting it would be to join me, but they were plugged into the comfortable familiarity of their daily routines, and joining me was nigh on an impossibility. Their fancy homes, cars, and prestigious jobs held no lure for my joyous and free heart, and my thumb gladly went out to take me on to my next adventure.
I finally returned to a more normative lifestyle, when, out of happenstance, my current wife got pregnant. The challenges of a normal life weighed heavily upon me, as I had to get a job, change diapers, pay bills, and do all the things people do that were the least of things I wanted to do. I longed for the freedom I had on the road, and I wanted to experience that feeling of freedom even within the constraints of a normal life.
So, I began reading everything I could find in philosophy, religion, spirituality, psychology, and the art of living. I wanted to know, not just believe, so I tested what I read. And I ultimately found that freedom is an inside job. Our thoughts create how we feel. Although most people ride with whatever thoughts pop into their head, we actually always have a choice, so why not choose a thought that makes us feel good?
So instead of embracing the frustration I was experiencing in my new circumstances, I began to ask what value was present for me now, what thoughts could I think that felt good. This wasn’t an easy discovery and transition, but I learned there was an art to be learned of mastering the mind, and instead of letting the programmed and conditioned thoughts master me, I learned how to select and implant feel-good thoughts. I through that ability, I discovered there was a gift in every circumstance.
I also learned, after a lot of investigation and practice, how to meditate, which enabled me to enter an enjoyable world free from the bondage of thinking. So much more freedom and power than most people experience is actually available to us, but the ego, the loudest voice in our heads wants the known and familiar, so it battles to keep us fixed on what we are used to. It fights ferociously because its life is at stake. The big question is “are you willing to venture into the unknown, and are you willing to do the courageous work and discipline required to step into an increasingly happy and fulfilling life? Ponder that choice. Would you rather have the same life that takes no extra work, or one appreciatively better that’s going to require some serious work and discipline?
To give you a little taste of the upliftment that waits upon your choice, take a deep, slow breath, then think a loving thought about yourself, about someone else, or about something in your life, and focus on and enjoy the good feeling that emerges. Savor this for a few moments, and then think of something that you don’t enjoy, that frustrates or angers you, and feel the feelings that emerge. You have just exercised your power of choice, and you always have it. The strength of negative feelings and the habit of just accepting what comes up will create challenges in learning how to use this choice potential and claim your freedom. It won’t be easy, but the extreme value of learning this skill is huge in terms of the happiness and freedom it will bring you.
I hope my story inspires you to follow the wisdom of your heart, because it knows the way to go. It led me into a seemingly crazy life, but its wisdom taught me more than my logical mind could ever have guessed it could. If you follow your heart and work at mastering your mind, you will know a better life than most of the world knows, and you will brings forth your thoughts and feelings to contribute to all life.
Blessings on the journey.
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