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Many cultures, including our own, tell us that the longest journey we ever make is the journey from head to heart. Anyone who has spent time living in thinking mode knows the truth of this statement. We spare ourselves the work of feeling when we crowd out our emotional responses with constant information gathering, analysis, and judgment. The truth is, our emotions distress us, because they often come with an awareness of our vulnerabilities. It feels much safer to give ourselves over to thinking about our lives and the world. And yet, without the guidance of our hearts and emotions, we are nothing more than machine-like problem solvers and problem creators. Given the number of crises we must address address today, it is easy to conclude that very few people have made the journey from head to heart.
In tree life, once a seedling makes it past the vulnerable newborn stage, it is called a sapling. In human life, we call this period of time childhood and adolescence. Our new habits enter a similar period, often marked by the adolescent cockiness that suggests we can eat some fudge if we’re transforming an eating habit, or smoke a cigarette if we’re transforming into non-smokers, without consequence. It’s a dicey period because it comes with very heady energies. In actual adolescence, we often believe we can do just about anything, never mind the battle scars our friends and family members often point to as they advise us to be cautious. As adolescents, we don’t take advice readily, perhaps because we feel so empowered by the physical evidence of growing strength. So it is with our habits.