Taking the Road Less Travelled, from Head to Heart

“The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.”
—  Andrew Bennett

I can’t remember where I first heard this quote, but it sums up the inner journey I’ve been on for the past five years. It started with the breakup of my previous serious romantic partnership, but it wasn’t until two years ago, when I joined the Samurai Brotherhood, that I finally confronted the fact that I was not making much progress on this path and it wasn’t just about romantic love. The beautiful irony is that this wasn’t why I joined, but it has been the best unintended outcome I could imagine.

A few weeks ago, I dug out a journal entry I made in early January 2017 about my 2016 annual review. I wrote about how I achieved two of my biggest goals for 2016, spending more than half of my energy in work that aligned with my highest calling, and spending at least a month travelling abroad.

I also wrote that despite 2016 being one of the best I’ve ever had, on paper, I didn’t really enjoy much of it. Did I overwork? Sometimes. Did I not take care of my health? I thought I did. Did I try to do too much? Perhaps at times. However, when I looked closer, I realized what was missing. I was craving consistent community, especially one where I could engage in inner work.

Before joining the Samurai Brotherhood, I didn’t lack meaningful relationships. Many of my friends were like family to me and still are today. Although I was comfortable being vulnerable with these friends, I realized I didn’t get to see them that frequently and it often felt like we were in catchup mode when we got together. Not all of them were interested in inner work either and we rarely got to share all of ourselves, only parts here and there.

What the Samurai Brotherhood provided me was a consistent group of people with whom I could share my complete inner and outer journey. For the past two years, I’ve spent three hours every week, sharing and receiving, noticing patterns, and uncovering blindspots.

For most of my adult life, to say I was a ‘heady guy’ is really an understatement. The problem was I didn’t really confront this fact until I joined my group. I thought I had heart because I cared about other people and contributed to causes bigger than myself through my actions. What I discovered was that even though I might show that I have heart, I was still disconnected from my heart, especially the felt experience.

For most of my adult life, to say I was a ‘heady guy’ is really an understatement. The problem was I didn’t really confront this fact until I joined my group. I thought I had heart because I cared about other people and contributed to causes bigger than myself through my actions. What I discovered was that even though I might show that I have heart, I was still disconnected from my heart, especially the felt experience.

Despite my initial resistance to this feedback in group, it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard it. I can distinctly remember my ex-girlfriend over five years ago telling me on multiple occasions that I need to get out of my head, and listen more to my heart. Of course I would respond with an intellectually clever response as to why she was wrong because obviously emotions are directed by your brain — I clearly missed her point.

I remember in my first share in group, I exposed the fact that I didn’t have a great relationship with myself. It wasn’t overtly negative – I didn’t berate myself when I messed up – but I didn’t really acknowledge myself either. It was as if I was indifferent towards myself. Perhaps it could be interpreted as stoicism, but there was a serious cost, I was missing out on the joys as well as the beautiful pains of life.

Despite this being the first of several indicators of the disconnect between my head and heart, it wasn’t until a few months in that my group picked up on it as my main growth edge. Without the consistency and careful attention of members in my group, this deeper insight could have easily been missed. More importantly, it has taken almost two years to integrate this lesson, including considerable hard work and persistent tough love from my group. And still, there is plenty of road left to be explored.

What I can proudly say is my heart is more open than it has ever been. I have greater access to richer emotions, I acknowledge myself when I win, and allow myself to feel the emotions of disappointment when I fall short. I’m also in my first serious relationship after four years of being single. Above all, I can say with confidence, I love who I am, and I love how it feels.

Some people have asked me, how could I invest so much time into something like this? Couldn’t I have done this work some other way, and faster? Probably not, and I wouldn’t trade my experience if I could. What I have gained is far beyond my own transformation. Witnessing and contributing to other men in my group has been just as powerful, and the benefits have seeped into all of my relationships.

We all need consistent and deliberate tribes to unlock our potential. A tree cannot grow strong without a forest or the wind, nor can a human.

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