We are equipped with different ways of seeing, and if we are fully open to them, then we are much more than equipped; we are blessed. Here is a (true) parable to illustrate the point:
A middle aged man, devastated by kidney failure and the stressful wait for an organ transplant, collapsed into seizures and suffered a breakdown that manifested in an unexpected bout of amnesia. He was subdued in his confusion as family members visited him in the hospital, speaking very little, so they did not realize the extent of his memory loss. When he revealed that he didn’t recognize his sister, she asked him, shocked, “You don’t know me?" He shook his head and retreated into himself like a lost child. A few minutes later, he said, with tears in his eyes, "I don't know who you are, but when I see you I want to cry. I don't know why." They both cried.
Then she thought for a moment and spoke. "It's because you don’t know me with your head, but you know me with your heart.”
Technically he suffered from what is called global amnesia, a temporary condition that is often an adjunct to severe stress and depression. His memory loss did not prevent him from emotionally reacting to someone he knew all his life. His heart-based knowing overrode his physical limitations, creating a sacred space, his memory cushioned in a place holier than the brain; it was was preserved in his heart. The power of that Divine connection transcends the physical and the temporal, opening the door to a spiritual mode of seeing. Heart-centered vision, when it truly happens, opens a door to higher consciousness. Someone without the gift of physical sight will activate other ways of knowing/seeing out of necessity, experiencing life with more intensity and gratification than those of us with eyesight. Helen Keller understood: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched -- they must be felt with the heart.”
Seeing with the heart is not at all a new concept. We just sometimes forget that we have access to heightened levels of experience. We can find references to this in many historical and cultural avenues.
Religion: Diverse religious traditions have stressed the heart's importance as a route to the Divine, a way of bringing the highest spiritual energies into daily life. It is written in Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Paul’s words in the New Testament echo this: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,” (Eph.1:18). In Hindusim and other Easrern religions and philosophies,the heart is assigned a much more significant role than our primary physical muscle. We learn that the chakra system identifies the heart as the bridge between the physical and the Divine. So many of our ways of knowing and functioning revolve around the heart, thinking, seeing, loving, living. “In the physical body the heart is the deity that houses the soul.” (http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/essays/the-meaning-and-signifi...) A prominent aim of Buddhism is cultivating compassion for all beings; compassion unfolds from the heart.
Psychology: When we aspire to live a “heart-centered life” we begin to see through the heart. It need not take a crisis to present that opportunity. The centrality of the heart to our non-physical existence holds a place in psychology, medicine, and healing as well. Why does it so often take pain to activate our heart? ? In The Last Passage: Recovering a Death of Our Own, Donald Heinz writes, “The soul sees by means of its afflictions.” Similar to the earlier the earlier parable of amnesia in a spiritual context, he continues, “The soul’s house is always under construction and filled with occupants not all of whom are acknowledged or recognized.”
Metaphysics: Visualize The Tower card from any popular Tarot deck: complete chaos turning our personal world upside-down in the blackness. To the novice the image appears to be a steep, dark fall from which we cannot recover but to the seer it reflects opportunity to rebuild from the soul. The psychological breakdown that precipitates natural shamanic initiation is the most profound intersection of earth-spirit connection. This gateway is a gift that allows us to see in multiple dimensions.
Animals: Animals see with both physical eye and spiritual heart and eye. They need their heightened physical senses to avoid dangers in the wild and navigate difficult terrain. But their interactions with the human species are regulated by the heart. Witness the abused animal, fearful and distrustful of humans, responding to the love of its rescuer: heart centered living. Notice the defense or guarding stance of a dog who identifies one particular stranger out of many as a real threat, the best example of the accuracy of heart-centered knowing.
Literature: Storytelling is a primary highway to the heart. It’s worth revisiting the simplicity of St. Expury’s The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Storytelling itself is a restorative and sometimes miraculous method of awakening non-verbal patients afflicted with Alzheimers disease. D.H. Lawrence wrote,”Love is the hastening gravitation of spirit toward spirit.”
And there you have it. Seeing and knowing through the heart enables us to live through the heart, where we connect as spirits. On this level we recognize all beings as “all my relations.”
Lisa Shaw is an animal communicator, spiritual counselor, writer, and professor who lives in South Florida with a clan of furry and feathered companions. Her web site is www.reikidogs.com, and her e-book, "Illumination: Life Lessons from Our Animal Companions" is available on Amazon.