“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.” ― Howard Thurman
While waiting for a haircut last week, I pulled an issue of HEROINE from the stack of style magazines next to me. The glossy pages flopped open to a quote from Brit Marling called out large on the center of the page: “Are you gonna live a version of your life that is the version that makes other people think you’re the most happy? Or are you gonna live the version of your life that actually makes you happy?” (It reminded me of Warren Buffet’s interesting question of the inner scorecard/outer scorecard.)
The quote struck me and seemed to land in my lap in a way I couldn’t ignore – the way things tend to do when I have a newsletter brewing. Heeding synchronicity, I read it through a few times, slowly. I rolled it around my heart to see how it landed for me now, at this point in my life, and then I reeled backwards through my memory index to find those time where that wisdom resonated.
My rewind landed on many moments, many of them not too grandiose or garnering applause from an audience. The moments where the reel paused in its backward reach were moments in which I had a heart-to-heart with the most intimate part of me – my inner self, the Big Self, my heart, the texture of my inner landscape–whatever you’d like to call it. Those were moments where when I posed a big, hard question to myself, I choose to live for me, and my guidelines, and no one else. Those moments were quiet revolutions marking a new point of departure in my traverse onward through life.
Honing my own ear to my heart has been a storyline of pivotal moments, and ordinary intimate conversations with myself in those times. It’s been a road traveled where the instinct to ask my heart gets more familiar, but the questions and subject matter that prompts the questions are always new.
Everytime you connect with your heart, however, your world shifts. It shifts against the ease of externally determined popularity, towards what you want most (a bit like Captain Jack Sparrow’s compass). Each crossroads is a threshold you can move through, or not. As Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “At any moment you have a choice that either leads you closer to your spirit or further away from it.” If you orient through life with the question of your heart at the forefront, you may find yourself on a different ride than arriving at midlife mildly confused, wondering how you got there, and wondering how to find yourself in greater alignment with the life that is yours, and only yours, to live.
For me, that has meant giving up any semblance of normalcy in the sense that I would fit into the cookie cutter lifeform of status quo. It has meant making decisions that don’t look like the perfect image of what a 25-30-37-year-old “should” be doing. It’s meant breaking out of family and lineage traditions and ways of being and doing. It’s meant calling it when trying to fit into a predetermined box of expectation has felt really bad and sucked me dry of my joy. Mostly, it’s meant staying true in the conversation with my ever unfolding dream for this lifetime.
Heeding the still, inner voice of our heart takes courage, too, as you find yourself alone in your own glorious, but wild, wilderness. Pema Chödrön reminds us that “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
Failing to wait and listen for the sound of the genuine in ourselves, as Howard Thurman notes above, keeps us holding an unlived life. Vulnerability becomes a place we lean away from versus leaning into. We skirt around the places that scare us and shirk responsibility for what holds us back. We deny the thresholds that await us.
In this podcast episode, where we turn the tables as Brad Feld leads the conversation, Brad asks of Jerry: “When did you start listening to your own heart? What does that look like for you?” It’s an inquiry that I offer up to you, my friends–
When did you start listening to your own heart? What does that look like for you?