Listening to My Heart

I haven’t been posting to the blog much in the past couple of weeks.  I also haven’t been taking photos (something I’ve come to truly love). Instead, I’ve been driving around the Portuguese Algarve looking for a cheap apartment to rent.

Why would I do this, you ask?  How does this fit with traveling the world?  Excellent question.

The easy answer has to do with the Schengen visa problems I wrote about recently.  Having a residence in Portugal would allow us to stay in the EU for longer than 90 days.

But the real answer is more complicated.  We’ve been driving around the Algarve focusing on property to rent instead of the wonderful castles, the long stretches of pristine beaches, and the fabulous food because, once again, I allowed my mind to bully my heart into shutting up.  And my heart did what it was told.

So, before I knew it, we had talked ourselves into doing something that is completely antithetical to what this year is supposed to be about (travel, discovery, adventure).  An apartment in Portugal solves the visa problem, yes, but….I don’t want an apartment in Portugal.  I don’t want to live in Portugal and go out on trips to other places in Europe.  If I had simply stopped all the thinking I was doing (and gone out to do something I love?) I could have avoided a lot of pointless, frustrating activity (and the mental gymnastics that led to a week-long headache).

Fortunately, I came to my senses.  And I’m grateful for the experience (now that my headache has lifted), because I realize that it is just one more object lesson on an issue I’m struggling with: my uneasy relationship with my own heart.

My mind and my heart haven’t been on speaking terms for a very long time.  Chalk it up to years of relying on my thinking abilities to solve problems, to creating endless lists and excel sheets instead of art, to suppressing my desires and longings because I needed to get things done.   I’ve allowed my head to rule my life for so long that my heart has to be coaxed — carefully, slowly, painstakingly — into speaking.

The best example I can give is the What I Love section of this blog.  For awhile, I couldn’t think of anything that I was truly, completely passionate about.  How sad is that?  Making the decision to spend 2 years doing things I love was the easy part; identifying what I wanted to do was really difficult.  Ironically, the fact that I couldn’t think of anything pushed me forward.  I knew that I was in danger.  When the heart won’t speak and there is no deep, penetrating longing for something — anything — its a very bad sign.  I knew I needed to wake my heart up, before it withered and died completely.

For me, meditation is a good way to coax my heart into speaking.   Quieting the mind and suspending rationale thought is, of course, at the core of a meditation practice.  My meditation practice is evolving and it takes different forms in different places.  Right now, we are in Portugal, and I try to start each day on our patio, which does not have a clear view of the ocean, but is filled with the sounds of the many different types of sea birds.  I begin by listening closely to the birds, because I can’t think and listen at the same time.  I remind myself that if I can’t hear the birds, I can’t hear my heart.  From there I go into traditional meditation techniques (focusing on the breath, etc.).

I won’t lie:  It is very, very hard for me to do.  And it is very easy to blow off (usually this happens when there is something that needs to get done, like looking for an apartment that I don’t want to rent in Portugal).  But when I win the struggle with myself and complete my practice, I find that I am calmer and happier for a long time afterward.  I’m also clearer about what it is that I truly want and need, deep down in my soul.

Peace and clarity make it a whole lot easier to have a happier day.

And with that final thought, I am off to ride my bike.  When I get back this afternoon, I might just whip out my new oil paints.  And if I’m really lucky, I’ll reach one or more of my children by phone and there will be piri piri chicken for dinner.




  1. Susan Kilday says

    “I can’t think and listen at the same time.” Booya! You are so right!! I never thought of it this way, yet it makes sooooo much sense. Duh!

    Big breathing, less thinking. Listen to your heart, Nan. It knows what our head cannot.

    My quote of the week: “Trust your heart and embrace the journey. You may make a wrong turn, but your heart will get you back on the right path. Just keep making [wisdom] choices and don’t second guess yourself.” ~E’yen A. Gardner

    Love you.

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