"So I'll be bold
As well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart." --Mumford & Sons
A couple of weeks ago I saw Tsoknyi Rinpoche speak at NalandaWest in Seattle. One of the main themes of the talk was heart vs. head. He talked a lot about how what he teaches in the West is the very opposite of what he teaches in the East.
In the West, he tries to teach us to open our hearts. In the East, he needs to teach his students how to use their heads.
In Nepal and India, for instance, he teaches his students about "healthy fear." This is apparently an unknown concept to them. They do not fear germs and disease and dirty water. And thus, health problems stemming from these hygiene issues are rampant.
In the United States most of us are fortunate enough not only to be aware of the necessity of cleanliness and good hygiene, we also have access to plenty of fresh, clean water with which to wash and keep clean.
What we need to learn is those skills that come from an open heart - kindness, compassion, love. We are too much in our heads, always doing what "makes sense" and not necessarily what makes the world a better place.
He suggests, like Mumford & Sons, that the world would be a better place if we all used our hearts, alongside our heads. He calls it the Heart/Head Handshake.
I have heard this from other spiritual teachers before, that becoming a student of the spirit does not mean setting aside the physical world completely. We still need to take care of business - set boundaries, speak our truth, take care of our physical needs - but to learn to do so in a way that also takes the heart into account. With kindness. With love. With compassion.
This isn't easy. It requires patience. It requires good communication. It requires a willingness to take a little less and give a little more. Or sometimes to give a little less and take a little more, if that is what is needed in the moment.
It requires tuning in and being present and listening to The Universe. It requires, in other words, meditation. That time we spend in our hearts. And the more we can do this, the more we can teach our heads to shake hands with our hearts.