The Domesticated Heart
Years ago, we adopted two wild mustangs off the range in Nevada. There is something about a wild horse that is magnificent. The way they move, their self-possession, their natural grace. If you’ve ever seen wild horses run, it is as if the sun has taken form—such fluidity, such ferocity, such freedom. It’s no wonder that the wild mustang is such a icon of Americana, a metaphor for freeing yourself from the pack, being at home in the wilderness, breaking virgin ground, all of this leading, interestingly, to domestication.
Domestication was the aim for this slice of Americana—to conquer and subjugate, to bend the wildness to the will. Yet the icon is the wildness. The wildness is what inspires us, energizes us, makes us feel who we are at the core of our being. This conflict between wildness and will is at the heart of the human experience.
The Mind Is A Self-Domesticated Machine
There have been stories over the years about feral children, which are children who have been lost or abandoned very young and have been adopted by animals or have survived and raised themselves alone. They are “wild” in the sense that they have not gone through the same process of acculturation that children raised in human families have, but they are still domesticated in the sense that they have learned patterns of living, communicating, staying safe, and surviving, they are just very unique ones.
The mind, for all its wonderful ability to plan, to imagine things that are not yet created, and to figure out how to create them, is a self-domesticating machine. The prime objective of the subconscious mind—which makes up 88-90% of your brain—is to ensure your survival. This means everything from beating your heart and breathing your lungs to the learned reactions to keep you safe from danger and pain—physical as well as emotional. It also stores things like language, customs, expectations, habits, patterns and hidden beliefs. Together these act like tunnels that propel you in fixed directions, domesticating you so that you fit into the world around you and play the roles your life calls on you to play.
The conscious mind, or your thinking, logical mind, as well a your center of will, takes its direction from the fixed paths and tunnels of the subconscious. The conscious mind creates goals and plans based on what the subconscious mind learned brings pleasure and avoids pain. The key here is the word “learned.” The mind has an enormous capacity to learn, but its great limitation is that it only knows what it has learned, both subconsciously and consciously.
Wild vs. Domesticated Heart
So what does this have to do with the heart? Everything. The mind and the will are critically important, and developing both is what many success books teach you to do. But the mind’s efficiency comes from neural connections that make for speedy assessments and actions, and comes from subconscious conditioning, most of which is established before the age of 7, much before age 2. This conditioning is largely hidden because the neural connections are so automatic that your mind does not consider, or even “see” other options. The mind is designed to see what it expects to see, which makes for fun email word and image puzzles, but is less fun when that expectation is that you will never make enough money to live on—so you keep making choices that ensure that outcome, or that every boy-/girl-friend that you fall in love with will see you for the sham you believe you are, and, when that conditioning goes unchallenged and unchanged, they will.
All this conditioning doesn’t just domesticate the mind, it acts like an endless series of lenses and tunnels and habituated neural connections that domesticate your heart by creating so many barriers and conditions on the heart’s influence that it’s like pulling one of those glorious wild mustangs in a giant funhouse maze and expecting it to find its way through.
The Heart is Naturally Wild
The heart can’t actually be domesticated—but when it is continually hamstrung by the conditioning of the mind, its influence and inspiration are stifled, even when you ask for its direction. The flow of information between heart and mind is 90% from heart to mind and just 10% from mind to heart. So when you limit the heart’s influence, you really limit what could be an extraordinary resource of energy, information, intuition and inspiration.
A wild heart is one that is free to direct your life from your true self and your deepest desires—all of which lay between the ideas about yourself and the desires that you’ve learned. A wild heart leads you with inspiration, toward real freedom, toward what really satisfies you at the core of your being. But to experience this level of flow has a cost, and that cost is you to let go of the mental conditioning and domestication that keeps you from your own wildness, your own freedom of heart.
Want to Live from Your Wild Heart?
I can’t answer that question for you, because each person’s heart adventure is unique. What I can tell you is that living from your wild heart is never boring, often spontaneous, always deeply satisfying even in the midst of challenge.