Learning Your Heart: Reflect on Key Moments

St. Francis.

Last week I shared that we’re going to do a short series here about how to get in touch with the truth of our hearts, so as to bring our hearts into greater authentic relationship with God. The first post encouraged you to acknowledge those subtle intimations that flit into your awareness on occasion, asking for your attention but which perhaps get pushed away quickly because they disrupt the status quo. 

Today, I’m going to invite you to begin collecting and reflecting on key moments. 

I’ll go ahead and warn you right now: this is a big one. Not only is this likely the most illuminating step you can take along this road to learning the truth of your heart, but it also probably takes the longest to do. In all seriousness, this process can unfold over a period of several years. 

Be patient with yourself. Be patient with the process. This is not a race. It’s a lifelong — and really, an eternity-long — relationship with God we’re about here. 

The purpose of collecting and then reflecting on key life moments is that those moments reveal what we’ve taught ourselves about life, ourselves, other people, and God. In those moments, we ingested experiences that became messages — usually at the level of our subconscious — about who we are and how life works. 

It happens in a split-second, but it leaves a life-long mark. 

In those moments, we got disconnected from our hearts. The messages became the main thing — the means to our survival — and our hearts got left in the dust. 

All of this sounds theoretical. What does it look like in real life? I’ll give you an example. 

Three key moments happened in the context of my childhood elementary school experience. One happened in first grade, one happened in second grade, and one happened in third grade. In all three instances, different classmates caught me off-guard in moments of real vulnerability and proceeded to humiliate, mock, or degrade me. 

Taken on their own, these moments may have taught me nothing more than the cruelty certain people can have in their hearts and wield upon others. But collectively, they taught me something much more substantial that I proceeded to carry with me for many years: I’m not safe. Stay on your guard. Don’t let anything catch you unaware. People are cruel. They will degrade and diminish you if you don’t keep them from it.

As a result, I cut myself off from vulnerability. I turned off the pain and turned on the super-attentive and watchful self. I proceeded cautiously through life. My mind became a whiz at crafting contingency plans and sizing up situations from all angles before letting myself proceed into them. 

I became a machine of sorts. 

We have to go back into the archives of our memories and start collecting those key moments. And once we collect them, we need to reflect upon them. 

What are those moments for you? How did they impact you? What did they teach you? How did they affect the way you lived your life from that point forward?