What’s the difference between making the right and the wrong decision? Should you use your heart or your mind, i.e., brain? Which body part should you ask to guide you? Let me define the body parts and how each should be used. They tend to work opposite of each other.
The mind is that part of you that calculates, rationalizes, and strategizes using information that you have accepted as truth. It is guided by all the information that has been placed inside your brain since your birth. Some of that information was true and some of it was not true (example: You’re not good enough or smart enough to do that.) Your mind seeks information to support its truths. Then you use your mind to determine and navigate the path, deciding what steps you must take to deal with the circumstances.
The problem with the mind is that it quickly gets side-swiped and overwhelmed by emotions, fears, false information, and misunderstandings. It consistently gives answers without all the facts. And often, emotions affect what you accept as “fact” rather than truth. Objectivity gets thrown out the window when emotions rule. Yet you depend upon your mind to reason through the information of the circumstance and decide on your response.
That’s the key when using your mind—make sure you are responding rather than reacting. Reaction is guided by fear and emotion. When you think there’s a threat to something you have accepted is important, emotions rise and the first reaction is defensive, sometimes aggressive. Reactionary actions seem the most appealing in the moment but they end up bringing the most regret and damage control.
You are smart enough to make the right decisions when they need to be made. But decisions have to be based on reality rather than on imagined and inflated fears. To use your mind properly, you have to maintain control of it by letting the air out of fear and anger. Don’t let emotion rule. The mind has also been influenced by what everyone else has said is important. One of your jobs is to regain control by deciding what is truly most important rather than manipulated by the emotions of others.
One excellent practice when faced with a situation that enflames the emotions is to quickly close your mouth, take a deep breath through your nose. Clamping your mouth shut has a dual purpose. It stops the emotion from escaping without being filtered and gives your brain a chance to regain control. The first question you should ask is this: do I want to respond maturely or like a child?
“Do I want to respond maturely or like a child?”
Children don’t have the ability to reason. They can only react according to surface impressions.
Ask the question a second time if needed. A programmed response might allow you the time to choose to act maturely, “I’ll have to give that a little more thought.”
Then take whatever time is available to use your powers of reasoning effectively.
What are the facts?
What is the right thing to do?
What is the mature thing to do?
What will it hurt to wait for more information before acting?
What will help diffuse my emotion and assist in bringing harmony to everyone?
Recognize that rational discussion, without emotions and based upon what is known, allows everyone to feel like they’ve contributed to a positive outcome.
The heart is that part of you that is connected to your desire for living according to the purpose for which you were created. The heart sheds light on the path you were meant to tread rather than on the path everyone else says you’re supposed to take.
Sometimes we let our hearts get covered over by what’s been put into the mind. The spiritual journey is part of removing those things that have subdued and diminished the heart. But this is where your true power lies. The heart is where your purpose for living is found.
The problem we face is that we’ve been taught not to trust our hearts, being told that the heart is the seat of the emotions. But that’s not true. The mind is the seat of the emotions. The heart is the core of your whole being, the throne on which the Divine Light sits. That Light is specifically meant to shine on the path that guides you to fulfilling your purpose in life.
You can refer to the light as “God” or you can call it “Truth” or you can call it “Brahman” or you can call it “Unity/Wholeness” or you can call it “I AM” or you can call it “Self.” The spiritual life is about learning to listen to that Source in your heart and paying attention to where it is guiding you.
Contrary to the mind, you might want to pay attention to the first reaction of the heart. The Source in the heart reveals itself immediately—and then the mind, affected by emotions and external influences, tries to overwhelm it. The mind often rationalizes away what the heart says is right in favor of programmed agendas.
The difficulty is in learning which is speaking – the mind or the heart. That’s something you have to learn. And you won’t learn it by ignoring the importance of taking the time to know yourself. I think that’s best done through meditation and prayer (self-talk). Remember, the Source is in your heart. You’ve got to talk to your “Self,” to “I AM,” to the Divine Light within you.
I think it was Anthony of the Desert who said, “Know yourself and you’ll know God; know God and you’ll know yourself.” God is within, not in some beautiful place beyond the universe.
Mind and heart are both critical in making decisions. But you must take the time to learn how to listen to each.