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Reflections on the Mind and the Heart

Life has been, to say the least, very interesting to me recently. A healthy dose of happiness, a substantial offering of stress, and a hell of a cocktail of unpredictability. But these life experiences have led me to where I am today, and by experiencing them I have grown stronger than I ever thought I had the capability to.

For a long time, I was convinced that reason was the solution to life. And for another time, I was convinced that pure feeling was the solution. But neither of these are entirely true, and I keep coming back to this idea, present in almost every religion and spiritual practice: moderation. I once believed that the heart and the mind were bound to battle one another, engaging in an endless, confusing, and completely fruitless war. But this is not the case at all. In fact, the mind and heart are not enemies, but rather two partners that may dance together beautifully if you allow them to. If you allow both your mind and heart to find synthesis, and you make a balanced decision that feels right based off of what they tell you, then there is very little that you can do wrong. Act from a place of reason, a place of love, and a place of honesty. A heart well-tempered by reason is a powerful one. And a reason well-tempered by the heart is equally powerful. But together, they are more than simply powerful, they allow you to be triumphant over any circumstance — even those that seem impossible or insurmountable.

It is with the greatest error that we live without acknowledging both of these things as important and as integral to our existence. Live too far within reason, and you find yourself unable to listen to your heart. Listen too much to your heart, and your brain merely falls out of your head. Every mistake I have made in life that was of my own doing can be categorized into falling too much in one of those directions. Reason has, at times, forced me to remain unhappy, and feeling has, at times, compelled me to chase poison that was disguised as ambrosia. But each time one of these mistakes is made, it allows me to grow closer to the truth of things; to be able to recognize poison, even in its most convincing disguises, and to understand to what extent I can allow my reason to endure in harsh circumstances. The remedy to life's maladies is life itself, and only through acquiring that wisdom and experience may one grow. As much faith as I'd like to have in people to learn from others' mistakes, it is abundantly clear that most of us learn through experience and through our own mistakes. It is one thing to be aware of something, but another entirely to become intimate with it. To dance with demons is the only way to recognize their missteps. Someone who has danced with the same demons may tell you what those missteps are, but people are far too curious to allow that to be enough, and must see them for themselves. Even I suffer from this same flaw.

But to come to the root of these problems, I understand that the mind and the heart cling to things. They cling to expectations. They cling to outcomes. They cling to futures that are speculated. They cling to assumptions. It is becoming ever clear to me that it is indeed attachment that appears to hold us prisoner. So one must live without expectations. But do not misconstrue this: I do not mean to live without expectations merely to avoid disappointment, but rather to find the ability to embrace things as they are. A transient friendship was still a friendship. A failed relationship still contained love. An unsuccessful venture still provided a lesson. Of course, you must try your best to succeed, but you must also accept when things have run their course, make your peace, and move forward in life with your newly-acquired knowledge. If you have no expectations or attachments, the only things that may come are positivity and growth. There is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

To some, a person who lives with such confidence in their endeavors, that truly (by this, I mean not completely marred by a tainted, perverse, or traumatic lens) believes everything will inevitably have a positive outcome, may appear arrogant, but I implore them to consider further. What you'll find is that this person is not arrogant nor overconfident, but one that lives with a sufficient confidence well-tempered with a reasoned humility. Such a man is not fearful of fate's powerful jaws, yet holds a respect for them. He laughs in the face of expectation and remedies it with hope, invigorating his own spirit and the spirits of those around him. He knows precisely which battles are worth fighting and those in which he stands no chance, but there is an unremitting and unshakable belief in his ability to endure the adversity he faces. And this is all from merely learning — not from expecting, but taking life as it comes and taking it in stride. 

I hope that someday I can completely free myself from attachment and expectations, so that life opens up even further for me. There is much to learn.


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