Living from the heart
The importance of getting out of our heads, especially now
I’m not sure what to say this week. It’s been an emotional few days for us here in the United States, mostly because of the U.S. Supreme Court. First they made it harder for states to limit guns just as the United States is experiencing worsening gun violence. Then they overturned Roe v. Wade, paving the way for dozens of states to outlaw abortion.
Before all this happened, I was going to start sharing characters sketches and details about the Orgasmic Human Institute—my fictional sex cult—including excerpts from the OHI manual and founding documents. I don’t have to make this newsletter topical and relevant to current events. But given a week like this not doing that would seem tone-deaf. So I find myself revisiting the relevant themes instead. It is encouraging to see how it might still be relevant; and this exercise is giving me an even clearer idea of what I’m trying to say.
My novel about polyamory, spiritual crisis and living authentically as a man in the 21st Century seems at first completely irrelevant to this crisis of democracy. But upon deeper reflection some of the themes do connect.
Our current crisis, at least in the U.S., is that people don’t know how to feel their feelings—people primarily exist and make decisions in a state of fear, and most male leaders are stuck at the adolescent stage of maturation. This is how we get so-called leaders like Donald Trump and domestic terrorist groups like The Proud Boys, not to mention Supreme Court justices like Brett Kavanaugh: men stuck in adolescence, completely cut off from their hearts and souls, stoking the flames of fear.
This also describes how we encounter Wyatt, my protagonist, as the story opens. Wyatt’s character arc is, in large part, one of moving from an orientation of fear to one of trust, and learning to feel his feelings along the way. Furthermore, part of living authentically today, especially for men, is maturing beyond the adolescent phase of development. In the novel, Wyatt goes through a series of trials that force him to mature, trials that his heart has chosen, in deciding to follow Myranda down the rabbit hole. And Wyatt meets a male elder who shows the way.
This journey from fear, disconnect, and arrested adolescent development to trust, feeling, and emotional maturity, was a journey I was midway through myself as I started the novel back in 2013. In fact, not being far enough along in that process is why my most recent draft of the novel from 2018 wasn’t satisfying to me.
I made this realization a few years ago in an ayahuasca ceremony. Most of my plant medicine ceremonies over the years had nothing to do with my novel, at least not directly. But, in this particular ceremony, it came up spontaneously. And the spirit of Grandmother Ayahuasca spoke to me in no uncertain terms: The reason I didn’t love my novel is that it was written too much from the head. That original draft was too knowing, flippant, almost cynical; attempting to be earnest about finding spiritual meaning in life while also keeping a distance and skewering aspects of Bay Area spirituality, parodying individuals like David Deida.
“Write from the heart,” the Grandmother counseled. And then I saw, in my mind’s eye, four angels carrying a long, shimmering ribbon that spelled out, “Write from the heart,” just to make sure I got the message. It’s no surprise. Not only is ayahuasca known as a medicine of the heart, but the primary driver behind all of my searching and healing and personal composting has been to crack my heart wide open. And that’s Wyatt’s journey too.
So that’s what I’m doing now. I intend to write from the heart in this newsletter, and in my new draft, and in everything I do. My therapist used to tell me to “drop a foot,” from the head to the heart, that doing that would solve all the other challenges in my life. I spent most of my life living in my head as a defense mechanism, a shield against feeling anything. We, as a society, have done the same thing. How else could we ignore the suffering of others so effectively?
As I’ve discussed on my podcast, I think we are living under a sort of tyranny of reason, totally disconnected from other ways of knowing and being. This is not to discount the importance of reason and rationality. But I think the whole world needs to drop a foot.
It’s a journey I think we all need to take. And this is one facet of the journey I wanted to take readers on in my novel, that descent from the head into the heart. But I had to take it myself first.
Those of us who are living from the heart have been mobilized this week. The human heart is beating more loudly than ever.
Next time, we’ll start to set the stage for the story I have been trying to tell…
Robert Bly talked a lot about how the dearth of male elders in our society explains men’s inability to mature.