When you make a salad, some of the best parts fall to the bottom of the bowl. All you see are the greens, but you know that there are avocado chunks, cherry tomatoes, almonds and pieces of feta or tofu farther down.
There’ no doubt about what to do if you’re at home – dig down and get all the goodness onto your plate
Now imagine you’re at a potluck with friends or a wedding banquet. Are you still willing to dig down when you don’t know how others will react? When you don’t even know what’s underneath the lettuce?
That’s my definition of ‘speaking from the heart’ – being willing to dig down in myself and articulate my most genuine feelings and my own personal experience.
That means getting past all the head stuff – rehearsed speeches, quotes from outside sources, intransient positions, even the idea of prompting specific responses or reactions from the other person. Finding words from down in my torso that are direct, open and honest.
And while speaking from my heart might include sharing my true feelings (as ‘from the heart’ implies), I think of it more as expressing my personal experiences, be they of mind, body, emotion or spirit. I tell you how it is for me.
When I speak from my heart, I experience a certain vibration in and around my body. I might not explain it well, but it feels like being more alive, elevated, connected. I know people who hear a hum when connected to their truth. Others feel their chakras light up one by one or sense a conduit between the center of the Earth and the farthest galaxy.
Maybe you already know your feeling of speaking from your heart or maybe it's something you have yet to discover. Once you know it, it's nourishing like the avocado and tomato, a feeling that you want to feel over and over again. And reassuring like a guiding star.
There’s an entry in the idiom dictionary for this.
Speak from the heart: To say something with deep emotional sincerity.
Yes, sincerity, honesty, authenticity, realness…
An expression of you from the inside out.
Now imagine yourself speaking from your heart with your 15 or 22-yr-old…
Suddenly it feels risky. What if they don’t believe you? What if they insult you? Or tune out or walk away?
Young adults can be incredibly insensitive and unkind; they need us to model for them how to be something else – open, honest, vulnerable and brave. To be willing to be misunderstood, even though it hurts.
For some parents, there may also be an underlying sense of risk in speaking their truth to their child. Maybe it’s about subconsciously maintaining the illusion that they’re in control and have it all together. Maybe it’s about ego holding onto its sense of power over (I’m still the boss). When you get down to where it’s tender and raw, your sense of your parenting role can shift under your feet a little. And that's uncomfortable. You don’t where it might lead or how it might impact you. You don’t know if you want to allow the dynamic between the two of you to change.
Vulnerability is tricky. And sometimes what seems weakest is actually most powerful. Speaking from an open heart can feel so risky yet be the strongest move of all.
How to Speak from the Heart with courage and love
As you prepare for the conversation:
Get clear on your intentions. Is this about you being heard? Are you looking for common ground?
Plan to focus on your own experience – your thoughts, emotions, body sensations. Avoid the urge to rehash what happened or who said what and simply stick with teh facts of what’s true for you.
Honour your truth. It has a place in this world.
Open and align your throat chakra. Sing, hum, chant or read aloud. Practice a breathing technique like Lion’s Breath, do a bridge or camel pose, or eat blueberries and honey.
Warm up your heart space. Call up memories of feeling loved, use rose and ylang ylang essential oils, meditate or hug yourself.
During the conversation:
Start slowly. Take a few gentle breaths and settle into your body. Allow your breath to expand and soften your throat, chest and belly. Feel the support of your spine.
Sense into the place in your heart where you feel compassion and connection with your child. With another breath, allow that love to merge with your primary intention for the conversation.
Stay connected to the experience you want to articulate and the feelings you want to express.
Say what you mean. You don’t need to make a whole speech around it. All the extra words dilute your sincerity. When you truly speak from the heart, you can usually say what needs to be said in one minute. Be direct.
If your child becomes reactive, dismissive or tries to shift the topic, stay the course. Keep coming back to the essential point you want to communicate. You’re not trying to convince them or make them change, only to express yourself honestly.
When appropriate, encourage your child to speak from the heart, too. Open and listen with full attention. Look them in the eyes, nod and rephrase to let them know you’ve heard and understood them.
After the conversation:
Register your somatic experience of speaking from your heart. Where did you feel those words coming from inside you - a noticeably warm belly, a taller-than-usual spine or a soft light in your chest? Connect with the sensations of speaking from your heart.
Did your head try to take over with extra words, explanations and reasons? How exactly did you bring it back to your heart? Make note of the capabilities that you’ve already got going for you.
Anchor the positive aspects of the conversation. Did you communicate the core of what you meant to say? Did they appear to hear what you said? Just because they reacted doesn’t mean they didn’t hear you. In fact, it may be that your truth touched a hurt or confused place in them.
Trust that a seed has been planted. Maybe you didn’t say all you intended to – that’s ok. There will be another time. In the meantime, your child is digesting what you shared so give them some space. Don’t ask them the next day if they’ve thought about what you said or if they’re ready to continue the discussion. Let it be absorbed in its own time.
Celebrate your bravery. Yes, really do this. Go outside and cheer. Write yourself a love poem. Tell a friend.
Authentic expression isn’t something that comes easily, especially when it comes to your kids. You find yourself oscillating between saying what you mean and trying to avoid any more disconnection. Between being direct and being diplomatic. Between being vulnerable and protecting yourself from judgement, rejection and harm.
All those fears can hinder your truthful expression so be gentle with yourself as you practice and find your balance.
What I’ve come to believe is that the ability to speak from the heart – to get beneath the lettuce and parsley- is encoded in each of us. There is a force of truth in us, the energy of our unique human experience that wants to be spoken into the world. There is not only power in sharing our inner knowing with others, but also profound generosity.
When you speak from the heart to the young adult in your life, your divine essence comes through. Its light fills the room and enters the hearts of your beloved child. And isn’t that what you’re really longing to do?