For me, it often shows up in my jaw first, a tightness, a clench that has turned into TMJ.  Then, it travels to my nostrils, which flare as I try to breathe faster, as if more oxygen will mean better, as if breathing faster means more oxygen.  In time, it moves to my forearms, and they begin to tingle, edgy and ready.

I’m thinking too much.  I’m trying to figure out what I want to say before I say it.  I’m preferring my intellect to the space some call intuition and what I call, “me.”  I’m too much in my head and not enough in my heart.

And I don’t write well from my head. . . the good stuff pours from my heart.

But I’m trained as an academic, and I’m trained by a culture that says reason is more important than emotion, more important than spirit, more important that mystery of unknowing that happens within and around us.  So when I’m trying too hard, it’s my brain that takes the fore.

I keep retraining myself. I color to let my mind settle, to distract myself and let my words lift up.  I sew for the same reasons.  I have learned to write through – not stopping to research or answer an email or just check in on Facebook.  I have learned that the true stuff comes out when I feel my jaw relax and my grow heavy, when some space that glows orange in my chest feels central.

I have always thought of that place as my heart – not my anatomical heart, although of course that’s nearby – but my real heart. The one God sees when God sees me. The one where who I really am shines. The space that glows bigger when I do something out of service and love, not out of selfishness or fear.

My real heart is the place where I let go. 

I have been talking to lots of writers lately, and one thing I hear again and again is the way their minds are controlling their words.  I hear them talk about wanting to know the outcome of a work or having a purpose behind it.  They tell me about stopping to research as they write, about how they can’t seem to shut down logic and tap emotion.  I know every bit of what they are saying, and I know that it is so hard to put our minds aside, even for 500 words.

Yet, I know this, too: when I read your words, I don’t want to see what you think about CAFOs or about your mother’s battle with Parkinson’s.  I don’t want to know what you think about the neighbor whose children raise profanities like weapons or about the illness of your beloved pet. I want to know how you FEEL, right in your heart, about those things. I really do.

So here’s how I get out of my head and into my heart:

  • I write as fast as I can until I feel myself thinking again. Then, I pick up a colored pencil and color while I listen to what I have to say.  I listen closely, deeply, to the things that come up almost as afterthoughts, not the loudest voices usually because those are usually rational or ugly, the voices that I carry of pain and doubt and fear.  No, I push those back with the blue of my colored pencil and listen for the whispers.
  • I read a lot, and I underline the lines and words that resonate behind my ribcage.  Then, I write those words down in a journal and pour out what comes from them.
  • I disengage for at least some time every day.  I lay on my bed and watch the goats play out the window, or I take a walk with no purpose, no chore associated, and I learn to listen to my true self.  Here’s a tip – that true voice almost always brings the prick of tears to my eyes because it is beautiful and pure. 

I cannot tell you what your true voice sounds like, but I can tell you that it won’t be loud, and it won’t be academic, and it won’t make you feel bad about yourself.  Your true voice will sing in the music that is most beautiful to you because it will be – in the purest way – who you are.

What about you? Do you feel like your head ever gets in the way of your heart when you write? In your life in general?  How do you push it aside and find that heart voice?