KOKORO 心: Follow Your Heart, Trust Your Gut, & Use Your Head—Simultaneously!
When I was young, I remember being raised with the notion to always “use my head.” Being the youngest of three and the only boy in my family, I often had to strategize to keep up with my sisters who were much older than me. I also had to keep up with a community and culture that prided itself on excelling in all things. I still remember the day I brought home a B+ and how it made me feel—like I had failed.
As I became older, I began to feel a new notion in the pit of my stomach whenever I was faced with challenging decisions or choices. At the time, I didn’t fully understand this feeling, but whenever I did not “trust my gut,” I often regretted my decision. Like the time I was forced to play youth basketball when I knew in my gut that I didn’t want to play. Just ask my cousins about my on the court antics and scoring a basket—for the opposing team. I can still hear my sister screaming, “Wrong way, dummy!”
Later in life, I began to “follow my heart” as I learned to face my decisions and choices. These decisions were the simplest and easiest to make because the love, joy and passion around these choices eclipsed any fears or second thoughts. Like when I met and married my beautiful wife, Irene.
Equipped with these three decision-making tools, I thought I had an infallible decision-making system for managing my life. However, life presented situations that put these tools in direct conflict with one another. I began to second guess my own decisions and it became confusing and frustrating as to which tool would best help me. 2022 alone presented an unending stream of turbulence in arenas that affected all of us (and the decisions we had to make) in a myriad of ways. These included but were not limited to things like family and personal relationships, health and wellness, politics, climate change, and economics, just to name a few.
Personally, I struggled trying to decide which of my fail-proof tools to use, especially when it came to making decisions about running my practice amidst a ceaseless, dynamic COVID landscape. I became aware that my core beliefs were not in integrity with my heart-centric thoughts and feelings. The relationship between my head, heart, and gut were out of alignment within me and I was using my great decision-making tools all wrong.
KOKORO – The Perfect Decision-Making Tool
Kokoro is a Japanese word that is commonly translated as “heart.” However, this one word has a much more complex meaning. Kokoro embodies a person’s collective heart, mind, and spirit and is much greater than just the sum of each element. It is the human expression and experience of all these elements happening simultaneously within us. So, if one of these elements is out of balance, then the others will be too. A person with a strong kokoro shows up in the world as a very centered or balanced person. Their relationship with the outer world is a direct reflection of their inner world. They are at peace with the world and with themselves.
In our Western culture, we tend to separate these three elements and no word exists that combines our heart, mind, and spirit. At a systemic level, this explains why our conventional healthcare systems are designed to separate body, mind, and spirit—and we sadly miss the opportunities to treat the whole person. At the individual level, we seem to further fracture ourselves by juggling busy schedules, being constantly distracted (i.e., social media, multi-tasking, etc.,) and focused more in going and doing versus just being: being still, being calm, being real—being human.
As 2022 ends, I hope that you’ll take a moment to reflect on your own kokoro and ask yourself if you are willing to reframe your sense of self. Instead of shaping yourself around what you are doing, owning, or achieving, focus on how you are being and working to become whole again. You can collectively accomplish this by being conscious and aware of each element of your kokoro (heart, mind, and spirit) and using all of them together when you show up in the world. You can strengthen and refine each element of your kokoro as follows:
· Heart: Cultivate your heart by emotionally exercising your heart to be more open-hearted to yourself and others. Seek to understand others with a different point of view or background than your own instead of rushing to judgment.
· Mind: Cultivate a well-rounded consciousness by being “mindful” of not just your mind, but also the minds of others. Be a curious and life-long learner of topics, people, and beliefs that are outside of your comfort zone.
· Spirit: Cultivate a practice of consciously letting go of those feelings, thoughts, habits, people, or things that you know for sure do not serve you well. Surrender to your higher and better self to create a more harmonious, joyful, and easier life.
Your kokoro is something that is not learned. It is something that already exists inside of you and is an internal force, not an external one. You just need the courage, resilience, and faith to reach deep inside and let it unfold. To use your kokoro is to fully utilize your heart, mind, and spirit, simultaneously to deliver your best behaviors and optimal choices.
The end result is your own evolution into the best and highest version of you. This is not only good for you, but for all of us. Imagine a world where everyone is tapped into their kokoro and I know we’ll all have a much better 2023!