Joseph Campbell once said that while most people seem to be searching for the meaning of life, deep down inside, what we are all truly longing for is the experience of being fully alive. I wholeheartedly agree.
To me, this is precisely what The Path of the Heart is all about: A path with a heart. One that makes you come fully alive; that brings out both the best and worst in you. A path that allows you to discover powerful gifts and qualities you never even thought you had and unleash the person you came here to be.
The Path of the Heart, more than a spiritual path of compassion and love – as taught by so many master teachers, including Jesus and The Buddha – is a path of courage, that rage you feel in your heart when you are afraid to do something, but do it anyway. This path requires that you leave the life you planned to discover the one that has been waiting for you.
As an avid student of The Path of the Heart, my favorite definition is one I received while reflecting on my life…
The Path of the Heart is the journey that you embark on when you decide to love yourself enough to courageously go after 100% of what you believe in your mind, and know in your heart is possible. In the process, you transform yourself and the world.
Notice that I start by describing it as a journey. This means you have to get off your ass and start walking it, even when it feels like you don’t even know where you are going.
Then, the main reason you’re embarking on this journey is out of love and respect for yourself. Which means this is a self-ish path. You’re doing it for you; to grow and expand into the next stage of your life. Therefore it is a path of self-awareness, self-leadership, and self-mastery.
Also, notice that it’s a path where you seek or go after a new ‘possibility’ or something that exists in potential but has not yet been fully realized. And this new possibility requires you to blindly believe in it with both your heart and mind… with your whole being.
Can you do this? Can you love yourself enough to embark on a journey where you courageously go after 100% of what you believe in your mind and know in your heart is possible for you?
If your answer is yes, then you’re most definitely following The Path of the Heart.
As someone who is also following it, I’m here to help you get started and support you along the way. And one of the most powerful ways I can do this is by sharing with you what I believe are 8 clear signs that will immediately tell you that you’re no longer following The Path of the Heart.
You’re not following The Path of the Heart if…
1) There’s already a path in front of you
“If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”
– Joseph Campbell
Your path is unique to you. If you can see a path neatly laid out in front of you, then it’s not your path. Your path doesn’t exist… yet. It’s only a quantum possibility. You create the path with every step and action that you take. That’s why it’s YOUR path.
2) You’re trying to do it all on your own
You’re not meant to walk this path all alone. Although there will be times when you’ll have to rely on your own inner wisdom and strengths, along the way, you’ll meet mentors, coaches, or teachers who will help you discover and develop your unique gifts and talents. When the student is ready, the teacher will show up. Have you found your Gandalf, Merlin, or Obi-Wan Kenobi yet?
3) You continuously avoid facing your biggest fears
The path requires you to face your biggest fears daily. This might mean saying what you’re most afraid of saying, asking for what you’re most afraid of asking, and doing what you’re most afraid of doing. And you’ll project these fears onto others, creating colorful dragons and monsters you’ll slay, only to realize later that when you kill them, you were actually slaying yourself. When you stop caring so much about what others are doing and focus exclusively on what you’re here to do, you’ll know you’re fully walking your path!
4) You avoid pissing other people off
Being on your path requires you to repeatedly say NO to more tempting, pleasurable paths that your family, friends, and society have laid out for you. You must be willing to feel the guilt or shame that comes from saying NO to others, even pissing them off, so that you can stay on your path. As Oriah Mountain Dreamer asks in The Invitation, “are you willing to disappoint another to be true to yourself?”
5) You don’t regularly journey into the depths of your heart
Even though you’ll be walking outwardly, the ultimate truth about The Path of the Heart is that it’s a journey towards the center of your very own existence. This requires that you create regular periods where you can go into the dark cave of your mind and descend into the unknown abyss of your heart, where you’ll tap into all the wisdom that will guide your steps along the way. Therefore, meditate on your heart regularly as if your life depended on it because it does.
6) You don’t experience long periods of hard work with zero rewards
Along your journey, you’ll cross several deserts and valleys and go through long periods of hard inner and outer work, without anyone watching or cheering you on, and without any form of external gratification, acknowledgment, or reward. Some people call this ‘the difficult years.’ This is where you learn to walk the path for the sake of walking it, enjoying the journey, and letting go of your attachment to the destination or outcome. Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll nostalgically look back upon those years as the years where you developed your craft and grew in courage, confidence, and strength!
7) You don’t celebrate the miles you’ve traveled
To stay focused and inspired along your path, you must honor the miles you’ve traveled, the experiences you’ve encountered, and the progress you’ve made along the way. So be sure to celebrate any victories or milestones you’ve achieved. There’s time to work hard, but there’s also time to play hard. Your path must include space for both. Otherwise, it’s just a path of pain, not heart!
8) You don’t embrace the pain of being off your path
The paradox of this path is that to find it, you must first lose yourself. This means you must be willing to accept that you will often be off your path, only to find it again and again. So don’t beat yourself up for falling off! Zig-zag your way back by letting your feelings of pain, disappointment, and grief be what guides you back. It is through your feelings that your heart will help you find your way!
Finally, remember that The Path of the Heart is ultimately a personal transformation path and spiritual growth. It will never be about your achievement or the treasure you found. Once you ‘arrive,’ you’ll realize what matters most is the person you became along the way…
The skills you developed.
The challenges you overcame.
How you grew and transformed yourself.
And this, my friend, is the best gift you can give yourself, others, and the world.
From my heart to yours,
Photo by Rachael Crowe