BALANCING HEART, INTELLECT, AND INSTINCT

I’m lying in bed and wake up to the sound of rain. It’s a cold Spring, the rain is icy and it’s a holiday. The sound of the rain brings a feeling of duality. Feelings of coziness and the knowledge that winter continues even though it’s officially spring. I’m thinking that it’s never been this cold on this particular holiday. It’s usually sunny and bright and flowers are starting to bloom. The world is awakening slowly from winter. We are also well into the year of the dragon. The dragon, the most powerful sign of the Chinese zodiac, is unstable, unpredictable, and historically has brought change to the world. The dragon is associated with agents of change such as mutability, water, and storms. The year is predicted to be full of change.

I prefer to think of the coming year from an optimistic perspective and find inspiration can be unveiled everywhere. When we open our eyes each day, the day that lies before us is filled with possibilities. It’s a chance to revel in the beauty that surrounds us. A cocktail of nature, human chaos, and many times, order. I like being human and having choices. I like that I’m not perfect and that I can’t predict what will happen next. No matter how many plans I make, things will change, and challenges will come.

Religions and philosophers across the world have questioned human existence and purpose from the beginning of time. There are numerous theories about why we are here and how the whole person integrates multiple facets of their soul and body to create each unique journey to their final days on Earth.

One good example is the Orphic religion, which existed six centuries before the birth of Christ. One of the core beliefs of Orphism is the transmigration of the soul into a new body, known as metempsychosis. The soul is immortal and seeks always to be free as the body holds it captured and contained. Once the body dies, the soul is released, to be captured once again. If the soul works towards purity, each rebirth into a physical body will elevate the soul, and this continues until the soul becomes godly and is finally free. This philosophy still exists today and is a frequent topic visited in the metaphysical arena, supporting that change is an intrinsic quality of human existence and will always be.

Life teaches us that it’s never too late and then sometimes it is. Our direction is influenced by our experience and outcomes. What opportunities have the potential for success, and which ones are just too risky? This awareness of yourself is a journey too.

As time passes, and reflection takes place, we begin to see the integration of the many aspects of being alive here and now. This life journey is filled with these challenges, and through them we learn to grow and survive. The drive to surmount obstacles and tackle challenges originates from our primal instincts for survival. 

A key primal instinct we possess as human beings is the heart, the root of our emotions. Emotions evolved as part of human survival, and we harness our feelings to make choices that position ourselves for personal success. Emotions launch us into a series of actions to institute change. Without a vessel, the actions we take can be blunted and rough to the edges. 

This is where intellect comes in, and serves as our “sharpener” of sorts. Over the centuries of evolution and socialization, we have redefined challenges and obstacles and refined our methods for surmounting them. We differentiate ourselves from other species with our capacity for advanced cognitive function and communication, positioning us for complex social interaction and development of diverse, workable societies. 

An awareness of our feelings provides vital information for decision-making. When a feeling is strong, there is the increased likelihood of a more dramatic change. Strong feelings will create a momentum that will move us through the flow of emotions. If we can tap into our intellect at that stage, we can apply reason to our emotions, and direct that dramatic change to a successful outcome. For example, if I fail at a project, I may feel disillusioned and initially not want to continue my efforts. Applying reasoning and working through my emotions allows me to channel that energy into determination and thus turn the event into a win-win situation.

Often in the face of our worst fears, instinct will override our heart and intellect. Our behaviors are reactive and quick, much like a roll of the dice. We don’t know where or how those actions will settle in the situation. In that moment, the release of adrenaline activates parts of the nervous system that stimulate physical action that cannot initially be controlled. A classic example of this is found frequently in parents who have rescued their children from life-threatening situations. For instance, a mother who lifted a car off of her child’s body, and ultimately sustained injuries herself in her attempt to save the child’s life with little forethought.

The only constant about life is its inconstancy, and perhaps that’s the beauty of it. If we move into action with our heart, intellect, and instinct integrated for optimal navigation of life’s challenges, we can learn to enjoy each moment, savor it for its own uniqueness, and what is being offered. Emotions counterbalance our intellect where reason is played out and information is processed. Instincts, nestled deep within our core, can be lifesavers or thwart success. The challenge is to find a balance of these aspects of our human nature. This is a day-to-day challenge that people work on throughout the course of their lives, constantly learning and growing. That is what makes life interesting and worth it, a delicious, intriguing cocktail.

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