The Work Of Being Your Self
Head versus heart: the classic conflict of reason or logic versus emotion or feeling. Sometimes, it is emotion spurring us on and reason that holds us back. At other times, it is reason urging us to act while our feelings put on the brakes. Feelings lift us to the heights of joy, take us on wild rides of passion, crash us into the depths of despair and hold us hostage to our fears and worries. Learning to tame emotion and use our reason is one of the primary tasks of maturation. We use reason to figure things out, to see beyond ourselves, to assess the consequences of actions, and to make conscious choices. Reason is cool, considerate, and objective. But it can also be stern and detached. Left unchecked, it can become a hypercritical tyrant that kills our love of life and turns us sour and cynical.
We must create a working relationship between head and heart in order to soften our reason and harness our emotions. For many, the quelling of emotion leads to a life lived from the head, disconnected from the greater self and passion suppressed. We may need to swing the pendulum the other way in order to balance over dependence on one side. The journey from the head back to the heart has been the major task of my poetic work.
Phil Cousineau’s book, “The Art of Pilgrimage,” inspired the Poem Sacred Relics. Cousineau offers tips for turning all travel into a spiritual pilgrimage and opening the heart to the sacred in everyday life. I wrote this poem in 2002 when travel for work was becoming a big part of my life and a wedge in my marriage. It gave voice to a calling I could not name challenging me to engage more deeply with life. It has served as a knock on the door of the heart for many others facing transitions, giving courage to make the journey down the stairs and open to life once again.
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I do not know when
I lost my footing on the earth
or when I moved upstairs
from the heart
to the lofty places
where ideas dance.
I do not know how many steps
I must take to make the pilgrimage
back to the holy land.
But I do know the longing
for something that cannot be named;
the missing of something unknown
as if the day calls me,
calls me out to play
because I was once eager
to go outside.
I once knocked
on the doors of friends
I once moved in my body
as if I belonged there.
But here I am now
in the middle of my life
with duties to be done
and chores to be completed
while the pilgrim comes uninvited
knocking at the door of my heart
bringing sacred relics of the life
I have not yet lived;
ready to take me, even as I am
if I am willing to find my way
down the stairs and open myself
to life once again
Questions To Ponder:
What do you long for or yearn for in life? What dreams of the soul have you traded in for the life you live now?
What are some things that you once did spontaneously that you have stopped doing? Why did you stop?
Who (or what) is the pilgrim knocking at the door of your heart? What is now calling you to a deeper presence in the world?
Please share your comments below!
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