Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Heart and the Head

A friend of mine posted a great article on Facebook called, “The Downside to Down Dog” asking the question, “what is Yoga?” Her answer is that it is the path of the heart. Then I was reading a blog post by Lissa Rankin entitled, “Can You Hear the Voice of Your Soul?” And next weekend, I am going to see a teacher who starts his teachings by bringing people into their heart.

I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

The very first “alternative” medicine person I saw (actually, he was not the first, but the first who made any sort of impression and really started me on whatever path I am currently on) told me I am 97% in my head and 3% in my body, and that it should be the opposite. Yoga has helped draw me down from my head, but at the end of the day, I spend a lot more time being a lawyer than I do practicing yoga. Thus, I spend a lot more time in my head than my heart.

But what would the legal profession look like if more lawyers lived from their hearts? I am not even talking about doing more heart-centered work. I mean connecting to the heart in any capacity. Lissa Rankin, the blogger above, is a doctor. I mentioned her book, Mind Over Medicine, in the post, The Power to Heal (I find it hard to believe that post was from July).

In law school, lawyers are taught to “think like a lawyer.” I am sure this means something different for everyone, but the Dean of my law school at that time said it meant to her that we should be the last people in a room to make up our mind about something. But she did not tell us whether that should come from the head or the heart. Law school, for me, was amazing. I loved it. But one piece of it always bothered me. We read cases in a textbook, and we discussed the legal issues involved. That was great. But there was always something missing, and I noticed it most often in my Torts class.

These were real people. These were real cases. Whether they happened in 2003 or 1893, these people were harmed. We once read a case about a man who was turned into, “a human cannonball” because of an explosion at a construction site. But we discussed the negligence, not the person what was seriously injured as a result. I know doctors have to go through similar training. Instead of discussing the person, they discuss the symptoms. A person becomes a diagnosis. In the psychological realm, people talk about someone being depressed, not having depression, but otherwise someone has a mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

I do not want this to sound like I prefer people to BE their diagnoses. I am just pointing out how we talk about issues and people in professions. So, in physical medicine, psychological medicine, and the legal profession, we talk about criteria and elements. There are elements to a crime just like there are criteria for diagnosis. But we never look past those definitions to the person. We live in our heads and ask whether someone meets that definition for, and then we act accordingly.

There is a pull between the legal world and the yoga world I have never discussed. In some ways, it is the most difficult one to address. On one hand, I live in the world of lawyers where everything needs to be relevant, and nothing is true unless you can prove it. On the other hand, I live in the world of yogis, in the heart, where we know something is true because we feel it. At some level, this represents the ongoing battles between political and religious foes.

But when I say “feel it,” I mean the deepest sense of knowing. I cannot think of anyone I have met who would deny that intuition exists. We all get “ick” feelings from certain people and situations. It is those ick factors that sometimes save our lives. We sidestep situations that just feel wrong. Although the 1990s were called “the decade of the brain,” we still know next to nothing about how it works. Science has not yet helped us understand this head we live in and the intuition that we cannot deny.

And I certainly do not claim to have all the answers. What I do know is that this push and pull between head and heart is really a non-dichotomy. They are really one and the same. The separation we pretend exists simply does not. Reading those cases in law school, although we never discussed the fact that people were hurt and maimed and harmed, our hearts saw it and knew it, and it affected all of us. There is no way to separate. We can listen more strongly to one or the other, but at the end of the day, they are the same Being.

And so, I continue to wonder – how can we be more explicit about the heart in more professional settings? There are so many ways, but I have heard before that the first step is admitting there is a problem. If we could recognize there is a lack of heart speak and understanding, perhaps we could begin to see a way to acknowledge what is already there.

What about you? Do you listen more to your head or your heart? Do you believe there is a difference?


© Rebecca Stahl 2014, all rights reserved.

The post, The Heart and the Head, first appeared on Is Yoga Legal.

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