From hard work to heart work

In recent times, I have understood that hard work is preceded by heart work, if hard work is to truly pay off for us in a productive and sustained way. I have been deepening my understanding of reflective practice especially in my current work and am sitting with these aspects to do with ‘heart work’.

Creating conditions for ‘heart work’, some initial ‘conclusions’…
Precondition: Be mindful of your intention and sit with it long enough for it to move from your head to your heart. Only then will your work be heart work!

Lesson 1: Get to know the conditions so well that you can describe them to another in detail.
Lesson 2: Be patient and sit with this necessary knowledge growth (or information gathering phase) – this connects your head with your heart.
Lesson 3: Test your understanding of the conditions with others, so that you are not only clarifying your own knowledge, but are – through your interactions – sharing knowledge too (this declares your position to others as well).
Lesson 4: Let your actions be governed by heartfelt intentions rather than that little voice that says “I should…” (this way we are fully aware of our responsibilities for our own actions).
Lesson 5: Enjoy the struggle, because usually it’s something you care deeply about.

Now, here’s the story…

Image from I ♥ Inspiration

I had a lovely and inspiring reflective afternoon yesterday with a dear friend of mine, who facilitated a visual reflection activity with me. I had, the previous week, chosen a series of images that spoke to the question I had, that is, “How did I see my (research / facilitator) role in the project that I am currently working on?” The origin of this question was borne out of the move of the project to the next phase, an evaluation whereby service providers and local Nyoongar Elders would work together to review and reshape the way services were being delivered.

I chose my reflective images without analysis or judgment, but with feeling – that is, my reaction or connection to them. For the rest of the week I sat with the images, peering at their detail and wondering at my connection to them (again, without judgment or analysis). I then began describing the images in turn, which sparked a further connection to them. I grouped them, moved them around, regrouped them, and so on. After a week, I felt I could engage with another in uncovering my thoughts about the images I was working with.

I also began to realise that I needed to sit with my feeling of impatience in understanding their meaning to me. I was aware that I was not yet ready to delve into an analysis until I had really got to know them and become incredibly familiar with them (that is, so that I could describe them to someone else in a vivid and detailed way).

It is from here that I diverge from my imagery story to settle on the focus of this blog post! (Maybe I’ll write some other time about image-based reflection)…

This is about intention. What I realized through this exploration of reflection using images is how we are connected to – or disconnected from – our intentions. Being patient enough to allow these forms of connections to emerge is challenging.

Often we are intent on doing something. We set our sights on it and we work to get it done. However, I think often we are not truly mindful of our intentions when we do things. We get to the end of the day with a sense that we’ve completed many things and “been busy” (which, I argue, is the most overused and least understood phrase in our everyday!), yet often we do not reflect back to how well our actions and engagements matched our original intentions, or whether we were fully attuned to them in the first place. We also need to refine our observational skills so that we can better ‘see’ the world around us, and also realize our place in it.

So, in laying out the “lessons learned” above, I have included a precondition; that is, to ask myself what is my intention, and have I matched my intent with my feelings about them? That is, have I taken the time “to feel into the tone and emotion of that intention as well as stating it verbally to yourself or out loud” (see para: 13, Wise Heart, L. Lowe-Chardé, December 13, 2012)?


Our feelings determine our thoughts and our actions, whether we are mindful of this or not. They also provide us clues to our value positions, add to our personal stories, and echo our assumptions, as well as our histories. Our intentions further echo this and if we are mindful of how and what pushes our buttons, then we can both be triggered by and align with what we truly care about.

If we can align these three rings [What we do – How we do it – Why we do it], we are putting our best selves forward.  We have integrity between action and intention – and with purpose.   We do the right things, in the right ways, for the right reasons.  This reason I’m committed to practicing emotional intelligence is that it gives me a way to create integrity – alignment between who I am and who I mean to be (End para, Freedman,, 7 Aug 2013).

If we can do this, then we don’t need to struggle everyday being busy with hard work, but can struggle intentionally with heart work; doing things we really care deeply about.

via Blogger

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