We always hear that following your heart is the key to happiness, but what does it even mean to follow your heart? I used to wonder about this too, but eventually I figured it out. I figured it out when I was at an all time low, but I don’t think you have to get to that point. In fact, I created this website to help people follow their hearts so that they don’t have to go through all of the suffering I did.
So, what following your heart means to me is listening to what you feel you should do. NOT what you think you should do. I suppose some people might call it tapping into your intuition. It also means getting really honest with yourself and taking note of what is happening in your life that you don’t like, and recognizing what is missing from your life that you think would bring you happiness. Because you know what? You are right. What you don’t like shouldn’t be there, and how you want your life to be is how it should be. Let’s look at an example.
This is where I was and what I wanted before I started listening to my heart in 2012: I was extremely miserable. I had a job that was eating my soul and not bringing in enough money to pay my rent and grocery expenses. I was in the midst of another shitty relationship (if you even want to call it that) in a long string of relationships where I didn’t matter to the other person, I was unhappily struggling to do my art and get it out there, trying to force it on the world (the fact that I was at least trying to pursue my art at all was the best thing that happened in that time period… along with all of the fucking painful lessons that helped me change my life out of absolute necessity), and I was extremely disconnected from my family and close friends who actually cared about my well-being. What I wanted was to effortlessly create art and make a living from it, live close to nature, have a partner who loved me and who I loved and who also loved the same kind of adventures as me and eventually wanted a family, and who was up for moving away from San Diego. I wanted to have friends who I cared about and who cared about me and we would support each other in achieving our goals and we would appreciate each other’s gifts. I wanted to have those kind of relationships with my family too. I wanted to live on my own schedule doing things when I wanted to. I wanted to help the planet be healthier and happier, do something to protect the Earth and keep it and it’s creatures safe. I wanted to be healthy.
If you notice what was going on then and all the hardships I was experiencing, it is true, those things shouldn’t have been there (except to teach me I needed to change even if I didn’t know how). I didn’t deserve to live a life of suffering like that just because I was born into this society at this time and frankly wasn’t given or taught a different way, and you don’t either. And, all of the wonderful things I wanted for my life, I totally deserved those and deserve them still, and so do you.
You never did anything to deserve to be born in the time you were born in and the society you were born in that isn’t supportive of the life you want to live, the way you want to creatively express yourself, and your undeniable connection to Earth and nature. Society is confused, it is learning, it is a teenager that thinks it knows best, but hasn’t had enough experience yet to understand the best ways of doing things. But that’s ok. Because in your heart, and in mine, and in the hearts of everyone, we know the truth. There is a better way. And I am here to show you how to start following your heart and make the shift for yourself. And once more of us begin making this shift personally we will help society as a whole change as well.
What does it look like to follow your heart, you ask? Well. It can look mighty funny sometimes. And it is different for every person and in every situation. The way it takes shape is as infinite as you are, as infinite as the stars in the sky. For me it started out weirdly. I was at my all time low which I described briefly above, and I had got the inclination that I needed to sell or donate a lot of my stuff that I didn’t use anymore, it seemed like it was holding me back. And during this period that I now refer to as “The Great Purge” I had also moved back in with my parents temporarily at age 28 because I couldn’t afford my rent any more, and I quit my job without notice because I had become so overwhelmed at the amount of plastic I would witness being wasted on a daily basis by the company I worked for and their customers. I had been working at an independent grocery store. I had developed at that time a heightened awareness of how much plastic we people consume and throw away every day and I just couldn’t bear to witness this wastefulness for another second. So I was jobless, living with my parents again, things had fizzled out with the dysfunctional relationship, and I had this deep feeling I needed to get rid of more stuff. It was pretty uncomfortable, I felt horrible about my situation, and worried my family and friends could never understand where I was coming from and why I wasn’t out looking for another job, and they were probably wondering what the heck I was going to do. I didn’t want to disappoint them. I was also embarrassed by where I was. And funnily enough it was the year of my 10 year high school reunion. And there I was with nothing. As unsuccessful as they come. I felt terrible about myself.
It was at this point that I started noticing that my heart was trying to tell me something. It told me to “listen to your feelings.” This is when I started paying attention to it and actually listened and followed what it was telling me to do. It told me to continue getting rid of my stuff, that I needed to keep unloading things if I wanted to ever be free. It told me to stop socializing with people for the most part, except for a couple of close friends. It told me to go to nature. It told me to stop listening to music, to stop taking in information from outside of myself.
Following my feelings looked like… me doing nothing, going through my stuff over and over again every day to pair down more, hiding in my room, reading pieces of the Tao Te Ching, eliminating the noise from outside of myself, occasionally leaving the house every week or two to go for a hike in nature with my friend. And doing only these things for a few months.
What did it feel like? When I first started listening to my heart it felt like I was listening to the feelings in my body that were sensing what I should and shouldn’t do. I had a sense that trusting my feelings was going to lead me out of all of this darkness to a life I would actually want to live, but it was fucking terrifying to do, because I knew that there was no way of knowing if this was true without trying it and risking failure and embarrassment and more self-loathing. I was scared of what everyone, especially my few close friends and family, would think of me basically doing nothing, becoming pretty reclusive, not working, obsessing over pairing down my belongings, and becoming also obsessed with nature and the idea that becoming one with nature and being able to survive in nature and off the fruits of the land was the ultimate answer and the ultimate good. I was in the deepest darkest despair though, I couldn’t get any lower, I didn’t even know if I wanted to keep on living. So I had nothing to lose. And so I went for it. I started following my feelings.
And guess what happened???? It worked. Following my feelings eventually led me out of my darkness and brought me closer and closer to the life I wanted. It brought me to a 9 month wilderness survival, naturalist, and permaculture school, and has enabled me to become closer to nature and learn more ways to help and take care of the Earth and it’s creatures. It brought me to the love of my life who wants a family and wants to have the same kinds of adventures as me. It led me to finally moving away from San Diego which I had been wanting to do for years and years (now my heart is bringing me back there in September funnily enough). It has brought me new supportive friends and has helped me reconnect with friends and family I had felt disconnected from. And finally, it has allowed me to help other people feel happier and more supported.
So, now it is your turn. Look deep inside yourself and see what is happening in your life that you don’t like. And then ask yourself what kind of life you want to live, what do you want for yourself? Think of everything that would make you feel happy and fulfilled. And then, ask your heart and the feelings in your body to guide you to your next step. It could be what to do in general at this time in your life or it can even be as specific as what to do in this exact moment. And then finally, listen. Your heart and your body know the way, and even if what it tells you looks odd to you or doesn’t seem rational, try following the guidance you are receiving and see where it takes you. I think it will lead you to exactly where deep down you’ve always wanted to be.