The world wide known idiom “listen to your heart”, often accompanied by “allow your heart to guide you”, is a meaningful piece of advice for life. But what exactly does it mean? In this article, I will give my very best to explain what it really means to “go where your heart leads you.” Also, I’m going to show you how you can listen to your heart and what you can do to enhance the ability to follow your intuition. But first of all, it’s important to understand the underlying basics of the concept. What does it really mean when people are suggesting to follow where your heart leads? After all, the heart is just an organ and – unlike the brain – cannot think and ponder at all, right?
The heart, your intuition or gut feeling – no matter how you prefer to label it – is so much more than just an organ or a mere feeling; it’s the creativeness of the universe speaking right through you. It’s the essence of many people’s spiritual and emotional wisdom and a valuable guidance from deep within.
Feel free to jump to How to listen to your heart to skip the basics
Table of content:
What does it mean to listen to the heart?
Why is it so important to listen to your intuition?
How does the heart/intuition make itself felt?
How to listen to the heart?
In the old days, the heart was thought to be the seat of emotions, where noble and gentle traits such as kindness and compassion were stemming from. Ancient philosophers and scientists such as Aristotle and the Roman physician Galen considered the heart as the seat of thought, emotion, passion and reason.
Language is slow to adapt to scientific knowledge, so whenever a person tells you to “listen to your heart” it basically means that you should try to listen to your feelings and emotions (that the ancient believed to stem from the heart), instead of using reason and logic of the intellect. It also means that you should try to become aware of your feelings and trust them as inner guidance that ushers you through life, rather than trying to suppress this stream of inner wisdom.
When I was younger, I misunderstood the concept of listening to the heart as becoming overly emotional or sensitive, hence suppressing any logic and reason, allowing panic and animalistic behavior to take over. This is not what “thinking with the heart” is all about, quite the contrary. It has nothing to do with panicking, becoming unreasonable or irrational and the like. Instead, it is all about calmness, inner peace, and the tapping into the “universal wisdom” that is located within each and every one of us, allowing it to guide you through life.
Since the very beginning of adolescence, we have become accustomed of finalizing a decision by using the rational tools our brain provides, namely logic, reason and rationality – especially when it’s a life-changing decision that needs to be made. But not every rational and calculated decision fits your needs. And not every decision that is based on logic has taken the importance of your personal wellbeing and happiness into account. Au contraire, logic and reason can fool you into believing that a given decision is the best for you, leaving your heart outvoted behind. Just imagine the severe consequences for a person that changes jobs in order to increase his salary (rational and logic thinking), when his heart clearly knows that it will require him to leave his beloved family, go abroad and work overtime daily. The heart doesn’t care about money, luxury and the collection of tangibles. But it cares a lot about your (and your family’s) well-being, happiness and your personal/spiritual development.
The mind is capable of the most beautiful creative works of art; it’s the root of brilliant scientific theories and the origin of inventive solutions for complicated problems. But, the mind is also caught up within the boundaries of this physical life and the drama and fear that come with it. It can be hopelessly out of touch with your true essence, the source of wisdom emanating from within and the knowledge of who you truly are.
Your true heart is not subject to chaos or limited by pain, fear and neuroses, but is joyful, creative and loving. Some believe the heart can be too uncertain and even misguided, but that is the head talking! It is actually a source of great richness, and this wealth is one that cannot be squandered or lost. It is the core, the essence of your being, a reservoir of joy, powerful love and infinite compassion that lies within you.
Ed and Deb Shapiro, in Listen Up! Why Being in Your Heart is Better Than In Your Head
Whenever you’re facing a decision, it is your mind that will come up with a reasonable conclusion, whereby it is creating a strong bias against any suggestions that come from your intuition, thus labeling them – superficially – as irrational and unwise. And this is exactly the reason why it is so tempting to listen to the rational mind, as we are attuned to meeting rational and reasonable decisions. Taking a seemingly illogical decision is frowned upon, even though it could turn out to be the best for you.
On the contrary, when listening to the wisdom emanating from deep within, you will begin to experience unexpected but supportive synchronicities, things will show up when needed and lessons will be taught once you are ready to perceive their contents, always accompanied by the knowing that your heart will always take care of you.
Messages from the heart do not come down the path of the red carpet, accompanied by trumpets, trombones, and fireworks. Instead, it’s a profound realization or spontaneous but grounded thought emerging from deep within, providing a greater understanding of a given subject. In many cases, the language your heart chooses to speak makes itself felt as a subtle hunch, gut feeling or a sudden thought concerning a given event, a person or your life. But there are a lot more ways your intuition can communicate to you, for instance through bodily sensations, for example when your stomach ties up in a knot.
A decision that is being made based on your intuition will – in many cases – feel like “the right thing to do”. You simply know it from deep within in a state of peace and tranquility. There is no need to ponder the pros and cons. You simply know. And – surprisingly – the implementation and realization of such a decision will often turn out to be amazingly effortless, like floating with the stream of a river. That feeling is what I call “going with the flow of the universe”.
Following one’s inner guidance does not come with pressure, pain, anxiety or a burden. There are no repercussions if you do not follow your inner voice. On the other hand, the ego (also rational thinking) might do exactly this; it may place a burden on your shoulders, accompanied by the fear of failure and pressure.
Now that we cleared up the basics on the concept of listening to the heart, we can now focus on the many possible ways to allow your intuition to guide you through life.
#1 Quiet your rational mind
The rational mind can be seen as a parasitic frequency that hampers the process of tuning into your intuition. It distorts, hijacks and – most important of all – it judges the messages emanating from the heart, as it has a strong bias against these advice, labeling them as irrational and illogical. In order to tune into the frequency of our hearts, we have to give the rational mind its well-deserved break, especially in the initial phases of learning how to listen to the intuition. Once you are accustomed to the way the heart makes itself felt, it’ll become easier for you to differentiate between rational thinking and your intuition, hence making it not necessary anymore to calm the rational mind down in order to listen to the heart.
There are many ways to calm down the mind, thereby allowing you to decrease the influence of its rational and critical thinking. One approach would be to occupy the mind, by chanting or thinking a mantra, over and over.
The word “mantra” is derived from two Sanskrit words. The first is “manas” or “mind,” which provides the “man” syllable [editors note: “man-” = “to think”]. The second syllable is drawn from the Sanskrit word “trai” meaning to “protect” or to “free from”. Therefore, the word mantra in its most literal sense means “to free from the mind.” [A] Mantra is, at its core, a tool used by the mind which eventually frees one from the vagaries of the mind.
Repeating a mantra inside your head (or aloud), for instance the popular mantra OM (spoken “aum”), allows you to occupy the mind with its sound and vibration, which thereby facilitates the understanding of the massages from the intuition. Mantras furthermore aid you in focusing your thoughts and serve – in many cases – the purpose of accessing the knowledge within. You are not required to have any special skills to apply mantras. Just place yourself in a comfortable chair or sit in the lotus position on the ground, inhale and exhale deeply and try to relax your body as much as possible. Focus on chanting/humming the mantra (or thinking it within your head), over and over again, until there are no interrupting thoughts from your mind. Just enjoy the state of inner calmness and peace, once you calmed your mind down.
Excellent mantras to occupy the mind:
- OM – “Aum” – the sacred syllable representing the source of life
- OM MANI PADME HUM – the mantra to awaken the intuition
- OM SHANTI – the mantra for (inner) peace
There are many more ways to quiet the mind, besides mantras. In general, anything that aids you in becoming relaxed and calm so that you can contemplate or let your thoughts wander is just fine! For some, taking a long walk in the park or a bike tour through nature is such an activity, others prefer listening to calming music.
Just when you were surrounded by silence and calmness, your mind engulfed in stillness, without expecting anything, intuition will make its voice heard. It could be a sudden thought that pierces your mind or a gut feeling evolving from within.
Taken from The truth is within
Another excellent way to calm down the mind that can be used in combination with a mantra is meditation, which brings us the next point.
#2 Practice meditation
Meditation is such a fantastic way to get to know yourself better and it’s much more than just a technique for relaxation, as many consider it to be. There are as many different meditation techniques as there are a dime a dozen. Luckily, it doesn’t take years of practice of the most complicated techniques for you to improve your intuition. A simplistic meditation in the lotus position, or on a comfortable chair, for 10-20 minutes a day is sufficient.
How to practice meditation to develop intuition?
- Sit down in a comfortable upright position
- Make sure that your spine is straight
- Focus your attention on your respiratory organs
- Feel the natural flow of air entering and leaving your body
- Allow your mind to calm down, while you focus on breathing
- [Optional] Begin to vocalize the mantra of your choice
- Watch as your mind begins to ease, enjoy the inner peace
- Enjoy the tranquility and go with what feels natural to you
- If a thought begins to arise, think and contemplate about it
- If a certain scenario/day-dream begins to unfold, follow it
- Remain in the meditative state as long as it feels right
Practicing meditation aids you in recognizing and strengthening your intuitive senses, allowing you to access the stream of inner knowledge from deep within. But in order to access this stream, it is important not to force anything, while in the meditative state, which leads us to the next point.
#3 Go with the flow
The title of this paragraph – “go with the flow” – emphasizes how important it is not to force your intuition to make itself felt. Instead, allow things to unfold in a natural flow – just like you would allow a flower to unfold without making the (doomed to fail) attempt of ripping it open. There is really no need to force anything to happen. Forcing things is counter-productive, as it is more likely to cause mental barriers than it will encourage your heart to speak up.
You should also not expect your intuition to suddenly speak up in a crystal clear voice, beginning to guide you through life from one day to the other. That’s not the way things work. Having too high expectations will only make you become disappointed, if nothing “significant” happens, when trying to listen to your heart. Expect nothing, but be open to anything.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Your intuition will make itself felt, but it might not be the way you expected it to happen. It will communicate in a subtle and calm way, sometimes in the form of an unexpected thought or idea. Also, messages from the heart can be profound realizations that come with a feeling of peace and calmness associated with it.
#4 Notice the messages from your heart
Your heart has spoken to you all life long and it will continue to do so in the future. But if you do not contemplate on the advices it gave you and what kind of positive benefits emerged from following its guidance, you will simply overlook the fact it was your “higher-self” guiding you. Therefore, it’s so important to take a note every time you’ve followed the guidance of your heart and it turned out to be an improvement in your life or whenever your intuition was right about something. Doing so, will allow you to discover a pattern that all messages from within have in common, the unique way YOUR heart makes itself felt to YOU.
Further recommendation to notice the messages from the heart:
Keep an intuitive journal where you note not only the times you’ve successfully followed your intuition, but also where you write down intuitive thoughts whenever one crosses your mind. The log can include anything, from a sudden hunch about an upcoming event up to guesses about a certain situation. Make sure to also log the physical sensations associated with these strokes of intuition, for instance if you feel discomfort or pleasure, anxiety or joy, etc. Keeping a log will allow you to strengthen your trust in the intuition.
When I commenced to tap into the wisdom emanating from within, I began – slowly but surely – to follow the guidance of my heart, without even realizing it. It was a sudden thought about eating some more vegetables here and a hunch about a person’s intention there. Overall, nothing special, but in the end it always turned out to be a great improvement for me when I followed my gut feeling.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched but are felt in the heart.”
Nowadays, I eat a lot less meat (twice a week) and a lot more vegetables; I meditate daily and stir my creativity wherever I can. But what is so important about all these changes is that they came without a struggle, without a fight and without me having to force myself. All of them came with a quick, but profound realization and all of a sudden I changed a year-long habit from one day to the other, having gained an even deeper understanding of what’s right for me and what’s not.
#5 Trust in your intuition
Intuition can be best described as the knowing of something, without knowing how you came to know it. You just know. Your intuition can be the gut feeling that warns you about a seemingly friendly person (that turns out to be dangerous), the hunch about an upcoming event or even the precise knowledge of what time it is, before looking at the clock. It’s not so important to know or understand where these (and similar) knowings come from, but it’s important to acknowledge the validity of it and to trust this source of information.
But who am I to tell you about the strength of intuition? Go find it out for yourself! I encourage you to challenge your intuition in order to discover its underlying strength for yourself. Challenging the intuition is so simple and does not even require you to turn your life upside down: simply come to a decision as usual (by using logic) and compare – at a later date – where your intuition would have led you. So, the next time a decision needs to be made, contemplate about it, listen within for some time and write down in what direction the guidance from your heart/intuition would direct you. Afterwards you can meet the decision the way you are used to, by using logic, reason and the intellect.
A month later or so, see where logic and reason has led you and compare the result with the direction your heart would have led you. You need to find out for yourself what result would have been the best for you. There is a lot of trial and error involved with this, which gives you the chance to figure out what happens when you follow your intuition and what the result is when you ignore its guidance and choose the path that logic suggests instead. Experiment with this and discover what astonishing outcome can be accomplished when meeting a decision that makes use of both, the guidance of your heart and the intellect, which brings us to the next important point.
#6 Don’t disregard the intellect
The above advices (especially #1 Quiet the rational mind) may come across a little negative against the intellect. I’m very well aware of this, which is why I have chosen to stress out the importance not to neglect the role of the intellect, when trying to listen to your heart. I know this sounds like a contradiction in itself (oxymoron), but please allow me to explain.
The advices named in the above (#1, etc.) can be considered important exercises that support you in the initial stages of learning to understand the language from your heart – a phase in which the logical mind is more harmful than helpful. But the more experienced you become, the easier it will be for you to understand the way your heart speaks, allowing you to differentiate between your ego and your heart easily. Hence, there is no reason to keep the intellect suppressed. In general, the intellect shouldn’t be dismissed at all.
If you were given two powerful tools (here: intellect and intuition) you wouldn’t drop one of them, right? Without the intellect, you couldn’t understand the messages emanating from the heart, without the intuition (or emotional aspect of the mind) one cannot utilize the full potential of the intellect.
Still, if we look at our society, it becomes distinct that people tend to polarize to the extremes, which is, in this case, either logic or intuition. This also means that there is a growing number of people who reject either the important role of intuition or the role the intellect plays. The number of scientists is growing and with it grows the number of people who solely rely on logic, reason, and evidence. On the other hand, the numbers of those relying solely on their emotions or believes for guidance is increasing as well. Unfortunately, both sides are extremes that neglect the one or the other, which is why I personally prefer the middle way.
#7 Get creative
Many say creativity is the expression of the soul and I wholeheartedly agree with that. You can think of creativity as the gateway to a realm of life that is way beyond the intellect. Imagination, creativity, inspiration and sensuality are all trait that can be attributed to the heart, figuratively speaking. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to encourage the heart to speak up is by engaging it in a creative way.
It again doesn’t matter so much if creativity is just the expression of your heart or even of something much greater and powerful, but it is a fact that creativity doesn’t emerge from the intellect. The great painters such as van Gogh, inspiring composers such as van Beethoven, stunning musicians, and artists that made you speechless with their wonderful creations have used many tools ranging from creativity and imagination – rationality, logic and reason are none of them.
By engaging in creative activities – no matter if you draw an artwork, take photos, make music or create a masterpiece – your heart will speak through you. Creative works will strengthen your connection with the heart and will allow you to discover the things in life you are really passionate about. For further advice on how to stir creativity, please see the article Ways to Enhance Creativity.
#8 Listen to your body signals
Your heart can make itself felt as a sudden thought that seemingly appears out of nowhere, but for many people, intuition manifests in body signals as well. Just remember the last time your stomach tied up in a knot without a reason, preceding an accident of yours. Or, the sense of peacefulness and joy, when you were going to meet a decision that you knew – from deep within your heart – was right for you. The feeling of calmness without a need for justification to yourself and no pondering of the consequences; you just knew it was the best for you.
Your body is capable of translating the intuitive messages that are sent to you from the heart. It gives intuition a voice to speak with, in a basic way that is easy to understand. When your intuition, speaking through your body, wants to let you know that “something is not right”, it will manifest as the “knot in the stomach”, a feeling of sickness, inner distress or tightness in the chest, but can also make the throat feel as if it was constricted. On the other hand, when going with the flow of intuition and when the things you do are right for you, your body will signal that too. For me, it’s the sense of peacefulness I notice when finally meeting a difficult decision, or the inner knowledge that I’m doing the right thing – without a doubt. But it also manifests as joy, an increase in motivation and energy, enhanced creativity, synchronicities in your life or – what many describe as – the feeling of going with the flow of the universe.
Listening to your body and thereby connecting with a “spokesperson” of your intuition will give you access to a very powerful source of information that you would have otherwise disregarded as “just another annoying bodily sensation”. Especially when you receive “something’s wrong” messages, you should really pay attention to what your heart has to tell.
#9 Follow spontaneous & intuitive thoughts
I’m sure every one of us knows the feeling when a spontaneous thought pops up that makes us all excited and energized about a certain idea. But a couple of minutes later, doubts begin to surface and – from one moment to the other – the rational mind has regained control of the situation, by giving you a dozen reasons why you shouldn’t follow where the intuitive thought would have led you.
I say, have the courage to follow your intuitive ideas. See where they lead you. Be spontaneous – not every action needs to be thought through, especially if the outcome is minimal without risks involved. If you get the sense to take another route to work, do it! If you feel you should call a friend, by any means do it! Allow your intuition speak through your spontaneity.
#10 Ask yourself a question and see who answers
… you’ll be surprised by the spontaneous answers that pop into your mind when asking yourself a question. An occurrence that happened way too often to me to be a mere coincidence is that I got up in the morning, asking myself what time it is. And right before I could make a guess or estimate how long I slept, I had a feeling what time it is. I just knew it was 10:47, there was no guessing involved. Immediately thereafter, I got up, had a look at my alarm and was shocked to see the exact same time displayed on my clock – there was not even a minute difference. If I had the feeling it was 10:47 the clock would show 10:47, not 46 and not 48, but 47!
You can also make use of this “spontaneous answer by intuition” thing, by asking yourself (or more precisely your intuition) a question and by listening to the answers that pop into your mind. You will notice that – once the question is asked – a dozen of thoughts, ideas and answers will cross your mind, but this is not what we are looking for. Instead, search for the inner knowing as soon as the question is asked. If you’re very experienced with this, the inner knowing will indicate for a split second earlier the answer to your question, before the ego trashes these answers with doubts, accompanied by your rational mind.
Here’s an example
You want to see if your favorite football team is going to win today, so you
- Ask yourself the question
- Wait for the spontaneous answers to show up
- Within a split second, you know that the team is going to lose
- Another hundredth of a second later, you’re not so sure anymore. Doubts will begin to surface, all the rational pros and cons will cross your mind until you’re entirely confused.
The difficulty lies therein to differentiate between the first initial thought (= the knowing) and the answers provided by the rational mind, etc. (= the rational guessing). Note that the process described in the above happens within a hundredth of a split second, so it takes a lot of exercise to differentiate knowing from the ego, or rational guessing.
You can train this skill, simply by allowing your intuition to meet unimportant decisions in your life, for example by asking yourself “Should I take a Coke, Pepsi or a glass of water for dinner today?” Pick the alternative that immediately pops into your mind – you can’t make a mistake here. But always try to ignore the doubts from your ego or rational mind that will surface, like “You never drink a glass of water”, or “Everyone else drinks Coke n Pepsi for dinner, don’t be such a maverick!”
Have the courage to go where your heart leads you! If your feelings indicate you that something doesn’t feel right, listen to it. Don’t allow others and peer pressure to take control over your life, forcing you along a path that is not meant for you. Do not shy away from listening to your feelings. Listen to your heart and you will always know what is right for you and what not. Have trust in your intuition, your inner voice and the instinct of your body.
The guidance of the heart is available to everyone, wherever and whenever you need it. The instigation of the dialogue with your heart can be though at times, but the more experienced you get, the deeper your connection with your intuition will become.
“Everyone has intuition. The more you acknowledge it, the stronger and more accurate it gets,”
Start looking inside of you for the answers to the questions you have asked yourself all life long. There are some questions about life that everyone can only answer for himself.
“The only way to get what you really want, is to know what you really want. And the only way to know what you really want, is to know yourself. And the only way to know yourself, is to be yourself. And the only way to be yourself is to listen to your heart.”
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