Nityaprem considers what ‘living from the heart’ means for him and wonders what it might mean for SN readers.
One of the things I came across recently was the ‘Tombstone Exercise’. This is a simple thought experiment where you imagine you have heard that you’re going to die in a year’s time, and you’re asked what text you would like to have on your tombstone. It’s a question that confronts you with whether you are happy with the way you have lived your life.
For me, the question it raises is have I lived enough from my heart? I’ve done some good things, some difficult things, fulfilled some ambitions. On the career front I haven’t left much undone. But on the personal front, there has been a certain sparseness to my life. Even when there was the opportunity to create a family, I ended up not doing it and instead lived alone for many years.
Even more so, it causes me to ask myself if I even understand what it is to live from the heart? You could say it has to do with relating, and ultimately with those special moments which make a relationship ‘heartful’. It has to do with trust, being open, exploring the areas where you are most vulnerable. Those are the things which, when they are shared, create a vibrant togetherness.
When I look at Osho, I wouldn’t want to be like him. I’ve loved him as a wise grandfatherly figure, a deeply trusted spiritual guide, and now I find out he is as flawed as my real grandfathers. The thing I can’t help but recall is him saying any relationship between him and a sannyasin is one- sided, exists from the side of the sannyasin but not from his. How can you live from the heart when you cannot relate?
I think there are spiritual figures who can relate — like Ram Dass, who later in his life cared for his elderly father. He was a very heartful figure, and more a teacher than a guru. It speaks to his enduring popularity that late in life a community formed around him in Hawaii to take care of him.
The other thing I feel compelled to write about when considering living from the heart is control. The only way I know how to live is with the mind in control, and then consciously listening to the impulses of the heart and responding to them. My heart likes cats, for example. It also likes babies. And mountains. I’m not an impulsive person, not easily spontaneous, I tend to plan and strategize. So living from the heart is not easy for me.
Do you feel you have lived from the heart in your life? What do you think the Tombstone Exercise would show about you?