As a kid, I used to believe that the heart was the seat of emotion. It seemed only logical :) Why else does it hurt when something sad happens? Back then, I was sure that the heart was a sentient agent in the human body, capable of formulating choices and sending signals on the right course of action.
As I grew older, I learned that this idea of heart-centricity probably owes its roots to the ancient Egyptians who believed that the heart or 'ib' housed the individual consciousness of a person. In fact, the heart was considered such an important part of the body that it was not removed during mummification and instead, was protected by an amulet known as the heart scarab.
Eventually, I started to give due credence to the brain. The seat of consciousness. I still remember poring through books on the human body and finding myself utterly spellbound by the squiggly-lined organ that supposedly made us who we are. Why do smells trigger such vivid memories? It's because of the amygdala, an area of the brain connected to the olfactory bulb and also responsible for processing emotions and memory. What is love if not for oxytocin secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland?
Lately, however, I've started to wonder if we can ever really know from where consciousness stems. This Science Alert article, for instance, describes a French man who lived a relatively normal and healthy life despite having damage to 90% of his brain—causing scientists to rethink what makes us 'conscious'.
When I write of heart-centered decisions, I cannot therefore speak to the biological origins.
To me, a heart-centered decision is not merely about how it makes you feel. There are plenty of unjust and immoral actions that make us feel good but wreak havoc in the lives of others.
I think a real heart-centered decision is born from equal parts love and courage and its impact is necessarily wholesome. It lifts up, nourishes, connects and heals both the person making it, and those around them.
Having said that, such decisions are not always immune to displeasure or censure—in fact, a good test of whether you're making one is probably the following situation: Are the people most unhappy, disgruntled or threatened by your decision those who are also driven by personal gain, profit, fame, optics or notoriety? If so, my favorite book reminds us that 'you shall know them by their fruits'.
In this sense, heart-centered decisions stand in contrast with decisions born out of fear, coercion, self-aggrandizement, disregard for others or a pure financial motive.
For those who want to make heart-centered choices, start by tapping into that deep, inner place of knowing within yourself.
Hopefully, you already know what I'm talking about.