Descent to the heart

“The greatest distance in the existence of Man is not from here to there nor from there to here. Nay, the greatest distance in the existence of Man is from his mind to his heart.”

–Angaangaq, an Eskimo-Kalaallit Elder

We may think that we are already in contact with our deepest questions, yearnings, and inner knowing, but the journey from the mind to the heart is a life-long journey. 

The peace we seek is beneath the overseer consciousness of our minds, but without the effort of the spiritual journey, we remain locked up in our heads where it is noisy and the lights are on 24/7.

We endure lives of walls, bars, and concrete up there, which is also how we’ve designed our world. No matter who we are with, or what we are doing, most of us live our lives in solitary confinement, and it is driving us mad.

I had a nightmare that served as my map out of solitary confinement some 20 years ago. Nightmares, like the collective one we are living in our world, are friendly at the root: they are here to awaken us. The discomfort of the nightmare is meant to be jarring–upsetting–so that we will leave the comfort of the known and embark on the journey of liberation.

I learned from this dream that the path to freedom is not a climb to the heights as the spiritual journey is so often imaged; instead, the path to freedom is one of descent.

Locked in a penthouse of white marble and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, I was freezing cold, profoundly alone, and filled with dread. I had committed a murder and was afraid that my secret would be revealed as I watched helicopters probe the dark lake below with bright searchlights.

Years later, I can tell you that I was the victim and the dark lake I was looking at below was my heart. The “murderer” was my mind.

For what seemed like hours of Dreamtime, I attempted to make it down from the penthouse to the ground. The elevator gave rides that looped and spiraled about, always taking me anywhere but down.

It seemed I would have to make my effort physical, embodied, and real if I wanted to escape from the prison of the mind. So I began the long journey down from the heights on foot, but the stairs turned to sand, making my progress slow and difficult. Winds came out of nowhere to knock me onto my knees time and again in my journey to the ground.

Our traumatized and traumatizing culture teaches us to take up residence in our heads, and indeed we are educated up and out of our bodies from a very young age. Up in the climate-controlled penthouse of the mind, we are sealed off from embodied connection with the natural world, our heart’s wisdom, one another, and the of Being.

Because we are locked up in our minds, we attempt to metabolize feelings and energies with thoughts and words. Mostly, it doesn’t work. The spiritual journey is a step by step journey of descent from our minds down into the body, down into the earth. The goal of this journey is learning to speak, once again, the indigenous language of the heart.

Just as you can’t effectively use a hammer as your only tool, so too we can’t simply use the mind to address issues in the world, especially when many of those issues were created by living up in our heads. A different consciousness is needed.

As feeling-based beings, as sensitives, we get our primary information not from thinking, but from the dark waters of the heart below the mind. Below, in the waters of feeling and sensation, we already know. Below, in the heart, we are already connected with all of life. Below, standing on the firm the earth, we are already at home.

Paradise is under our feet, only always, but until we take the journey of descent, we aren’t present enough to notice.


This week, I invite you to create a prayer altar for this journey. The idea is that the altar is your heart.

What are you carrying in your heart now? Externalize those energies by choosing different items to symbolize them. If we don’t externalize the energies we carry in the heart, our bodies become our altar. A discipline of keeping a heart altar has many benefits: self-awareness, physical health, sanity.

For our circle, add one thing to this heart altar that gives you beauty or peace or hope. It is this offering that we will share with the circle on Wednesday.

Our journey will be down into our hearts to be present there, to explore the terrain, to know ourselves better, and to grow in compassion and connection to Life itself. Let us endeavor to begin our journey out of solitary confinement, together, this week.

This is an online, free journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism each week from 4-5:30 pm PDT. Contact with your interest. All skill levels welcome.

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