Sometimes it can feel like your heart and mind have fallen out of alignment – your heart wants to do one thing, but your logic decides on another course of action.
Some of us choose to listen to our hearts more often, while others tend to be more calculated and rational about the decisions they make. But the fact that we have the capacity to use both logic and feelings has always drawn me to think that we should use both. Instead of viewing heart and mind as contradictory, how much easier would our lives be if we created a relationship between our thoughts and feelings characterized by coherence and balance? The false dichotomy that many of us think we have to resolve would be removed. Instead of choosing between trusting our feelings or being logical, we could choose both.
When I think about what I need in the battle that arises between my feelings and my beliefs, I realize that a big part of that journey requires that I cleanse and ground my heart and mind. If I choose a common goal, it becomes easier to align the two.
The Baha’i writings describe the necessary transformation our minds need to experience to better our individual lives and the world at large:
Naturally, new spiritual thoughts and inclinations must also become manifest. If spirituality be not renewed, what fruits come from mere physical reformation? For instance, the body of man may improve, the quality of bone and sinew may advance, the hand may develop, other limbs and members may increase in excellence, but if the mind fails to develop, of what use is the rest? The important factor in human improvement is the mind. In the world of the mind there must needs be development and improvement. There must be reformation in the kingdom of the human spirit; otherwise, no result will be attained from betterment of the mere physical structure. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
The Baha’i writings encourage us to clean our hearts of earthly and materialistic thoughts:
Cleanse from your hearts the love of worldly things, from your tongues every remembrance except His remembrance, from your entire being whatsoever may deter you from beholding His face, or may tempt you to follow the promptings of your evil and corrupt inclinations. Let God be your fear, O people, and be ye of them that tread the path of righteousness. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah
This can feel very difficult, as we usually describe feelings as things we cannot control or even resolve. But while feelings can be quite overpowering, they can be shifted if we actually verbalize them, access support, and speak back against them when necessary. When I have feelings of insecurity rooted in “worldly things” – such as valuing appearances or status over my spiritual nature or when I feel corrupt inclinations like envy or selfishness bubbling up – I often find that simply admitting those feelings to myself can do wonders.
When that isn’t enough, I can speak back to the negative feeling by assuring myself that things will be okay, and encouraging myself to get through it. When that’s not enough, I bring the feeling up in therapeutic spaces. Whether it be the focus at my next meditation class or the topic I discuss in my next talk therapy session, when feelings become so gigantic that they seem to take over, I try to make sure I address them.
Rather than becoming frozen in guilt over my feelings or shortcomings, I find it much more productive to have an honest conversation with myself and then to keep going. The Baha’i writings warn that when guilt kicks in and we let it fester, we can become paralyzed:
So too is paralysis engendered by guilt to be avoided; indeed, preoccupation with a particular moral failing can, at times, make it more challenging for it to be overcome. – The Universal House of Justice, 19 April 2013.
This process of addressing self-focused or materialistic feelings keeps my mind engaged. As my mind supports my heart’s process, the two naturally become more interconnected and aligned. They have to cooperate when I work through my feelings. As I become more aware of my internal sensitivities and the qualities, my intellect becomes better equipped to propel me toward holistic and spiritual growth. While internal crises never seem fun, I’ve realized that immense growth can come from these kinds of struggles.
We tend to think of difficulties as external barriers put in our path, but they can often emerge from within ourselves. No matter how difficult they are, though, the Baha’i teachings say that through these tests we all have the opportunity to emerge stronger and more developed spiritually:
Not until man is tried doth the pure gold distinctly separate from the dross. Torment is the fire of test wherein the pure gold shineth resplendently and the impurity is burned and blackened. At present thou art, praise be to God, firm and steadfast in tests and trials and art not shaken by them. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha