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Hearts That Speak

I do not usually read books looking for quotations.  But inevitably a phrase or, even, a whole sentence will jump out at me and I know it is a “keeper.”  Sometimes, I do not even know for sure why it is so important or why it captivated me.  I am convinced that sometimes I am captivated and, then, I have to figure out why that is the case.

Just such a thing happened recently as I was reading a book that is being used by a group of which I am a participant.  Parker Palmer’s book, The Active Life, is a good read.  I confess that I like Parker, that he is a friend of mine, and I am biased to like whatever he writes.  But that confession does not mean he cannot say important things and everyone would agree.

The phrase that jumped out to capture me comes in a chapter he entitled, “Active Life: The Shadow Side.”  Thinking about the shadow side does not entice me.  In fact, I find it a bit foreboding.  I don’t have doubts that I have a shadow side.  To be honest, part of me really hopes it stays in the shadows!  But I also know that is not the way to grow and deepen in the Spirit.    But most of us would have no clue how to find the shadow side, even if we acknowledge we probably “have one.”

So Palmer gave me a clue.  The shadow side is typically (in my understanding) seen as bad news.  It is something that may be negative---something we are “stuck with,” but would rather not have.  The only way we “get rid of” it is to face it and deal with it. 

But I get a different take from Palmer’s one-liner.  He says, “It often takes years for our hearts to speak, and when they do we often cannot hear them…”  I know exactly what grabbed me.  It was that phrase that suggests our hearts speak.  Clearly, that is metaphorical.  I know the organ beating in my chest does not speak.

But wait a minute, I think.  Of course, the organ in my chest does not speak---speak with real, vocal words.  But I do think it speaks.  Sometimes, it speaks literally.  Ask somebody who has just experienced a heart attack and see if she or he would not claim the heart spoke loudly!  Ask someone who has fallen heads over heels in love if their hearts are not speaking?  Their heart literally throbs in the absence of the beloved.

But surely, there is also the metaphorical “speaking” our hearts do.  I think Palmer suggests there is a true inner voice inside each one of us.  It is our “true self” that Thomas Merton and so many others have claimed we possess.  It is the Divine Voice within---the Divine Whisper.  But it is like the shadow self.  It is there…but hidden.  It is obscured by the self our society and culture require us to be.  Our true self may never see the light of day.

The question is: will I ever truly be me?  My answer is a resounding “yes.”  But it is not automatic.  I have some work to do to get in touch with the true self.  I know that true self is the “heart speaking.”  I am convinced everyone has a “heart speaking.”  Some of us don’t listen.  Some of us hear it, but choose to ignore it.  But it “speaks.”

The place I have to be most careful is not to assume my heart is the same thing as my ego.  I know all too well what “ego speaking” sounds like!”  Seldom is “ego speaking” the same thing as my “heart speaking.”  In ego-speak there usually is no Divine Voice involved!

So my quest (and even prayer) is to turn down the ego-speak volume.  I want to be quiet, pay attention, and begin to catch the utterances of my heart speaking.  I am confident it speaks.  I am hopeful I can hear it.  And I dearly want to practice what my heart speaks. 

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