This is the preliminary text for a TED talk I’m doing next month…so I’d love your feedback…
There are really only 2 things I know for sure about clarity, and the first is that it’s elusive! It often seems as if I am swimming in a sea of confusion, misperception and miscommunication, and that’s just MY life. There appears to be a lot of that going around in the world as well. Sometimes I think I spend half my life dealing with the after effects of not being clear, especially with all the communication I do via email and text messages. Hey, it’s hard enough to be clear using complete words and sentences, let alone with acronyms and abbreviations! It’s gotten to the point where my wife and I always check each other’s emails for clarity before we send anything out, but no matter how clear we think we are, we are often are misunderstood anyway.
Once again, when I consider how much of this miscommunication and misunderstanding happens on a global level, it’s easy for me to see why we have a lot of the problems we have and therefore how important clarity really is.
The other thing I’m clear on about clarity is that it’s an inside job. In other words, the clearer I am within my own being, the more clarity I tend to experience around me. I can’t rationally expect to have clarity in my communication and relationships with others if I’m fragmented within myself. Gandhi said that his power to affect change flowed from the fact that his thoughts, feelings, words and actions were all the same. WOW! That’s clarity. And when I first heard that quote and thought about myself, I realized that oftentimes I think one thing, feel another, say a third and do a fourth! No wonder my wife has to check my emails!
For me, another way of saying what Gandhi proposed is that clarity emerges much more often when my head and my heart are working together. When my head is left to run the show alone, clarity is a rarity. I don’t know about your head, but mine loves to question and doubt and judge and stew over things ad nauseum. Clarity doesn’t seem to be a high priority for it; it’s much more interested in being right and making others wrong, or in doing things the same way it’s always done them in the past, whether or not that way has ever worked.
And this idea of head and heart working together isn’t just poetry or metaphor or New Age mumbo jumbo. It’s science. Organizations such as the HeartMath Institute have conclusively shown that the heart has a tremendously positive influence on the head, even more than the head has on the heart. They’ve shown that when the heart is engaged, especially when we’re in a state of love or gratitude or compassion or joy, it informs the head and the head instantly becomes much smarter, much more creative, much more aware of the big picture, and generally much clearer. Without the heart informing the head, we tend to react to life based on our emotions and our memories, not necessarily based on what’s important or on what’s going on in the moment, which seem to be 2 pretty important ingredients for clarity.
In the times when I need clarity the most, as in when I get triggered emotionally, my historical pattern is to go directly to the worst place imaginable to find it–my head. Once I’m there, it is virtually impossible to rise above my own emotional reactions and patterns based on the past. But when I remember to engage my heart, simply by placing my attention on it and by taking a deep breath into it, I am instantly rewarded. I become aware of my inner resources, I remember that it’s possible for everyone’s needs to be met, and I often even remember that it’s far more important to me to be clear and to foster a connection than it is to be right. All of this makes it much more likely that I will be able to take the clearest, most grounded, and most centered action that is based on my deepest values and intentions. Engaging my heart allows me to keep my attention on my intention to be clear.
The word “clarity” shares the same root of origin as the word “claim.” And that’s what I’m suggesting. In order to experience more clarity, I have to claim it for myself by engaging my heart. That may seem too simple but my question is how often do we do it? How often do we take a moment or 3 to fully appreciate our life or to fully appreciate those we love or those that love us? How often do stop to take a deep and conscious breath, instead of breathing just enough to survive? How often do we decide to commune with nature when we have a spare hour instead of answering emails or catching up with our friends on FaceBook?
Especially in this day and age of so much mental stimulation and overload, how often do we take the time to stop and engage our hearts in order to give our minds a rest and a glimpse of clarity? Clarity is something the world can most certainly use more of, and while we’re sitting around hoping and waiting for it, let’s remember another of Gandhi’s quotes…the one about being the change we wish to see in the world. We have to claim clarity for ourselves before we’ll ever see it in the world. I can’t think of a greater gift we can give to ourselves OR to the world.
So, if you get an email from me and it’s not clear, I give you permission to reply and remind me to breathe into my heart and try again. In the meantime, have a clear day!