Tell me three times

 Illustration via  University of Liverpool

Illustration via University of Liverpool

Yesterday I had the surprise of running into a friend, Maurice Stevens, unexpectedly. And you know when you see an old friend, and your heart gets happy and you wish you hadn’t waited so long to see them again? Yep, there was that. And when that gift of unlooked for friendship comes at the end of a long, stressful day when you’ve encountered challenges that don’t have easy answers? Yep, it’s especially important.

Adding to that, every time I see Maurice, I remember a powerful lesson he taught me before we knew each other very well. We were at an Art of Hosting training for university folks, and he was opening a world cafe. As he shared the cafe etiquette encouraging folks to speak their minds and their hearts, he shared the line:

The heart is also an organ of knowing.

I was so struck by this because I knew it to be true and also his bravery at making this assertion to a room full of academics just blew me away. It was speaking truth to power in a way that was both deeply confronting and also encouraged us to be more than we were in the moment before he said it. It was powerful for me, and I haven’t forgotten it.

And so I left my friend yesterday mulling over this wisdom again and wondering how it fit into my very full, and a bit frazzled, life.

Today in my car, I listened to the OnBeing podcast—The Magic Shop of the Brain featuring Dr. James Doty. In part of the podcast, Dr. Doty talked about how connected the brain and the heart are. He said, “…deep emotions are expressed in the heart, and there is this … mind-heart connection that is extraordinarily powerful. And we now know through anatomy and a variety of studies that there is an immense amount of neural innovation that comes from the brain stem into the heart, and it is a two way street, and they can have powerful effects on each other.”

The heart is also an organ of knowing.

And I found myself asking the question: What does my heart know now that I need to pay attention to?

This felt like a pretty significant question, so I turned off the podcast and decided to let that question sink in a little without trying to have my brain figure it out too much.

After a meeting, I returned to my car. Knowing I wasn’t ready to continue listening to the podcast, I decided to listen to another episode where I could bring a fresher mind.

So I picked The Intelligence in All Kinds of Life, with Robin Wall Kimmerer. And maybe you can see where I’m going with this, but within the first 5 minutes of listening, Dr. Kimmerer said, “Science extends our eyes into other realms, but we are—in many cases—looking at the surface. And by the surface, I mean the material being alone. But in indigenous ways of knowing, we say that we know a thing, when we know it not only with our physical senses, with our intellect, but also when we engage our intuitive ways of knowing—of emotional knowledge and spiritual knowledge.”

The heart is also an organ of knowing.

It would be foolish to ignore that there is something here for me. Three clear messages about different ways of “knowing” in less than 24 hours? I’m pretty pragmatic, but even I know that there is a persistent tapping on my shoulder right now telling me to listen more closely to my heart. To listen to something beyond the way my brain is trying to sort things out right now.

So… what does this mean for me?

For now, I’ve decided my job is simply to stay with this question: What does my heart know now that I need to pay attention to? And also I need to show some of the bravery of my friend, Maurice, in carrying the question boldly and not retreating into my head too much as I make decisions in the context of unrelenting work and endless to do lists.

The heart is also an organ of knowing.

I’ll let you know what mine is telling me soon.


This post was originally published at Tuesday Ryan-Hart's site.