Your thoughts and your feelings have a magical relationship that works according to its own rules. Your mind might be able to direct your body to do things and, within limits, your body will obey. Your mind might judge that a certain physical action is right, and another action is wrong. But when your mind tries to tell your feelings what to do, as if they were just another appendage, it doesn’t work so well. And judging your negative feelings doesn’t usually help either. Giving that kind of direction and judging right from wrong might work when it comes to the physical world. It doesn’t work well in matters of the heart.
The simple truth is that the emotional realm responds to a tranquil mind that is willing to understand it. This certainly works among people. Think about the relief it can bring to your heart when you share what you are feeling with someone who really understands you. Even if they don’t “side with you” or agree with you. Just being heard, seen, and understood can put the heart at ease. Psychologist Carl Rogers called it empathic listening. But you don’t have to be a psychologist to listen deeply to what is in the heart of another person and convey simply this, “I understand.”Becoming a Sun pp. 55-56
In my experience, there are not many people who understand this simple truth. So many people don’t have tranquility of mind. And so the waters of their emotional realm are disturbed by their erratic, anxious thoughts.
I’m a sailor, and this state of mind and heart reminds me of some of the places I have sailed—Hell’s Gate, where the waters of Long Island Sound empty out to New York Harbor and beyond. Or Plum Gut and the Race at the east end of the Sound, where the swirling of the water can make you feel like you are visiting the end of the world. The names of these places alone evoke the uncertainty and danger they bring to a sailor.
That’s what it is like when the wind and tide are moving in different directions. And what it is like when thought and feeling are doing the same. And you can’t command that feelings change by shouting at them any more than you can yell at the wind and expect it to change. And ignoring what is happening emotionally doesn’t help any more than it does to ignore the tide as a sailor.
It doesn’t have to be that way. When a person learns compassion and empathic understanding for someone else’s feelings or their own, the waters of the heart calm. The tide changes. Thought and feeling begin to flow in the same direction.
One summer, I sailed with my parents from Cape May, New Jersey through New York harbor to their home in Westport, Connecticut. The wind was at our back for the entire sail, with the spinnaker flying as we sailed north off the Jersey Shore.
We sailed past the Statue of Liberty shortly after dawn with the wind still behind us and the tide turning, drawing us up the East River. I was at the wheel flying wing and wing—the smaller forward sail to one side and the mainsail to the other. We rode the tide and wind past the U.N. It was glorious! Finally, my father insisted that we take the sails down and start up the engine, just before the 59th Street Bridge. That was okay. I’d had the sail of my life.
That’s how it is when we stop judging how we feel, and when creativity flows through our thoughts and invites our emotions to come along.
I hope you’ve had at least a little of that experience reading this blog post.
Every human being is already a sun on the inside—a being of intense love and light. The difference is that some people have the vision and courage to become a sun on the outside. This difference is our human destiny.