The head versus the heart?

09/06/2011 § 6 Comments

“The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life and humility regarding the human place in nature.”  The Earth Charter, 2001

I hosted another dialogue session last night in Islington. It was a smaller group than before, with five of us from the previous session plus two newcomers.  We had a deeper and more personal dialogue on this occasion, partly I suppose because of the smaller size, and partly because of the continuity from last time. It did have a moment of uncertainty, when one of us had the courage to speak up and say she was tempted to leave. But as so often in dialogue, it seems, this apparent crisis was simply a trigger for us to go into a deeper level of interraction.

What was striking was how every participant had one thing in common – we are all at a stage where we are struggling to earn sufficient income to meet our daily needs and yet we reject conventional or obvious ways of earning money. We feel that we are on a path laid down for us and simply cannot bring ourselves to be “reasonable” in conventional terms and get off this uncomfortable and yet strangely wonderful path.

It is not as if we consider it “bad” to earn a living working in a conventional role.  It’s just that there is something inside us that stops us doing so. To me it is as if I am being swept up by a force more powerful than myself, and I have no choice but to follow it. This is far more real to me than the mundane so-called “reality” of earning a living.

Is this the classic “head versus heart” dilemma, one of us wondered aloud. For myself, I feel it goes beyond that.  It is as if something in the universe, let’s call it a higher consciousness, being aware of the deepening crisis our civilisation is in, has chosen us and others to follow this challenging and rocky path that is full of mystery and uncertainty. If we are right about the scale of the crisis, there will be plenty of other people going through similar or even more challenging journeys in the coming years. Maybe our role is to go first in order to prepare us to act as guides and counsellors for others who come later. In any event, no matter how I rationalise it, I don’t feel there’s much I can do about it, except follow it and see where it leads.

For me, a key part of dealing with such challenging times is to embrace humility. In order to grow it seems I need to take bold steps, whilst being fully aware of how limited my understanding really is. I know intellectually that I am one with the Earth and the whole of the life. But somehow along the way I forgot and started behaving as if I am not. Learning to go with the flow, to trust, to be humble, to feel respect and reverence for the process in all its mystery, is part of my re-training, remembering the truth of my oneness with life. But maybe I am getting too flaky now!

I am really grateful that the universe brought us all together yesterday evening to be reminded that we are not alone on this journey. And I’m grateful to have been shown the powerful tool of dialogue, that allowed us to put aside our fears and daily concerns for a time, to share our feelings in a group and to feel truly heard.



§ 6 Responses to The head versus the heart?

  • Finn Jackson says:

    Thank you for this.

    I, too, am “struggling to earn sufficient income to meet [my] daily needs and yet… reject[ing] conventional or obvious ways of earning money”.

    I also feel that I am ” on a path laid down for us and simply cannot bring ourselves to be ‘reasonable’ in conventional terms and get off this uncomfortable and yet strangely wonderful path.”

    So thank you (all) first of all for showing me that there are others out there who are on a similar journey.

    I am not sure whether “our role is to go first in order to prepare us to act as guides and counsellors for others who come later”.
    It seems to me that our most important role must be to learn to be ourselves, not just act as guides for others.

    Guiding may be the key role for some of us, and part of the role for all of us. But I believe it is better for us to focus on fulfilling our own callings as role models, explorers, pathfinders, rather than focusing solely on counselling others.

    Humility, is I think, part of that journey. Acceptance, Gratitude, and Vulnerability are three aspects of Humility that I find it very useful to embrace.
    But but no explorer/pathfinder/role model was ever completely humble and I think it is important that we also stand for a different kind of energy.

    Last week I heard someone saying that the way forward is to find a way of making a living that enables us to give our gifts, use our talents.

    For me personally, this means finding a new use for the skills I used in my “conventional life” as a corporate planner: designing and implementing strategy, process, and change in a global technology services company.

    On the one hand I am now doing this by combining the structural and process sides of strategy with my own creative emotional and writing abilities, and writing a Movie.

    On the other I am still a bloody good planner, and can offer those skills to anybody in the above group who is looking for a clearer vision/plan/strategy for where they want to go.

    And finally, if there is a group of people like me, who are on a similar path, then I would appreciate being part of the next meeting.


  • Dear Finn,

    The next session is on 29th June in Islington at the Hub, starting at 6 pm. I have reserved you a spot.

    I agree with this. I didn’t mean to claim that the only reason for us to go through what we are going through is to guide others. What I probably meant to say was that there is no doubt a good reason why some of us need to go through this now, ahead of most. This may be in part to leave a trail that others can follow, but there are probably other reasons we can’t figure out.

    Thanks for the comment and hope to see you on the 29th.


    • Finn Jackson says:

      Hi Patrick,
      I have checked my diary and unfortunately have a prior engagement that makes it impossible for me to get to Islington in time :o(

      I agree your follow up comments as well. My own words were also comment rather than critique — responding to, or perhaps adding to what you had already written.

      Best regards,

  • Margaret G. says:

    Thanks for this great post Patrick. I relate to it very much having moved from the corporate hi tech world 6 years ago. There I had a management role – and it was easy to say what I did. But it felt empty. I’m now a freelance action researcher working in service of systemic change for sustainability. Don’t worry if this makes no sense – no-one knows what it means! It is ephemeral and difficult to describe – each day I find I have to try to narrate afresh to myself ‘just what it is I’m doing’ and on some days I just can’t. Those are days I now call void days – I’ve come to try to accept them. They are an essential but scary part of embracing the uncertainty of my attempts to make a difference in the world. They’re the days when, yes, my story breaks down, but it feels different to the emptiness I had in my corporate job. It’s the kind of emptiness that makes way for new ideas or directions to flourish. Well that’s what I hope. But doubt is my constant friend – what if this is all an excuse for ‘opting out’? What if I’ve veered off on a grassy track but found the grass narrowing to a sheep’s track and then nothing at all. So I feel this links to what Finn says. We can’t all be pathfinders – the act of getting lost with dignity is perhaps what some of us are here to do.

  • i don’t know how i found your blog. you are on the other side of the world, but i am very glad i did. i love reading your posts. i struggle with so many of the same questions and your insights are always thought provoking. thank you.

  • Patrick – a beautiful post – thank you.

    And I love what you are saying as well Margaret about the void days – I totally know what you mean and also the space of wondering if I have taken a wrong turn somewhere… And at the same time the still small voice inside that assures me that despite appearances / judgements etc. -all is well and I am on track…..

    Thank you also Margaret for what you have said about the ‘label’ you now use for your work / current vocation – I know what you mean and in some ways its not dissimilar to what I am doing or wanting to do and I also struggle with how to explain what I am doing to both myself and others. We are in the process of redefining value and livelihood – in service of something bigger than simply money to pay the bills but this doesn’t mean its easy and sharing with others on this same path really does help.

    This issue of how we explain to ourselves and others what on earth (literally) it is that we are doing now was also part of our deep dialogue last time – I am looking forward to more deep and authentic sharing, connecting and exploring together tomorrow evening – thank you Patrick!


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