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About The Lens - Issue 21: The Principle of Balancing Head and Heart

Our colleague Christa Metzger reads and comments on each issue of The Lens. Her feedback and keen eye is a gift to all of us. Below are her comments about the last issue of the Lens with the theme: Balancing Head and Heart.

“But don’t lose sight of the fireflies!” These are the final words in Bob Cole’s thoughts on the theme of this issue. Ah… that’s not only a beautiful title for a poem, but depicts the richness of thoughts from all of the authors on the important theme of balancing the head and heart.

Here are the fireflies that waited for me as I read these contributions. Each flashed an insight to me, illuminating my mind and heart with a brief light that I want to stretch into eternity.

Paul, your splendid analogies, stories, and examples perfectly illustrate the vital connections between head and heart.

Stephen, as I have been privileged to get to know you better, your good mind and good heart truly operate in concert and are one.

Adam, a beautiful story amazingly told – I heard the music in it and loved it!

Peter and Anne, I could relate so well with your “mentally animated conversation” but haven’t always been able to come back to heart and body awareness in such a situation – as you were able to do. Thank you for your suggestions.

Tom, your experiences as an AP in charge of discipline and the daily decisions that confront school leaders rang a lot of bells (or flashed a lot of lights) for me. It is not easy to keep a balance, to know yourself and to practice with a perfect blend in such situations.

Maybeth, I love the DBT model of the three states of mind and am grateful for your sharing this knowledge with us (as a retired administrator, I no longer have access to such workshops). To gain a wise mind is surely the perfect balance between head and heart.

Kathleen, thank you for sharing your truly remarkable achievement - to identify how a habitual past belief limited your “heart” reality and how, with inspiring reinforcement from a friend, you both freed yourselves to live with more joy and passion.

Domenico, you also emphasize the importance of being open and practicing self-examination in order to get rid of habitual behaviors that no longer serve us.

Bea, looking at your photo illustrates a “stress-busting smile” – you probably say Metta daily and passed the course of “Love 2.0” (and probably “Love 1.0” before that) with full balanced awareness. Thanks for all your great information.

Bob, your gift to tell a story and to use words that get right to the heart of a topic never cease to amaze me. And from your intellect you give sound advice to wisely choose analytical or mystic powers – to delight in the fireflies and also, when asked, to be able to explain their astounding anatomies.


Dear Steve,

I am a new practitioner to Buddhist teachings, and was recently at a lesson where the lamas taught that the Tibetan word for "mind" and the word for "heart" are the same thing. That is such a novel concept to me as a Westerner – where the definitions of heart as emotion and mind as cool intellect are so deeply ingrained. But I am striving to blur those lines, and especially loved the article Maybeth presents about Wise Mind – where reasonable mind and emotion come together. She writes, "When they are well calibrated, they support the very best of our humanity as we think clearly and emote appropriately. When they are misdirected or out of alignment, problems and suffering arise. Too much thinking fosters detachment while emotional excesses lead to disorientation and hysteria. This is when we need to search for Wise Mind." So I am striving to blur the idea of separateness, and to tune into my Wise Mind.

Lastly, a note to Robert: the magic of fireflies has always made my heart – and mind – sing with happy wonder!

As always, so wonderful to read all the thoughtful essays.

- Erin O'Kelley Muck, Ashland, Oregon


Dear Steve,

I read with interest the various articles in the Lens dealing with the age old discussion about the relationship between heart and mind. The conventional wisdom is that of “balance” (the golden mean, or the middle path).

I believe that the concept of balance fails to allow for ongoing individual superiority and achievement. The forces of intellect and compassion, thought and deed, shouldn’t be seen as being in conflict, but rather as complementary parts of a fully integrated person. There are times when the intellect must take the forefront and times when it must retreat in the face of heartfullness.  Is the compassion of not wanting to hurt even the smallest creature a justification for ending medical research? Should science regularly give way to kindness? Similarly, what is kind in the short run may be unkind in the larger scheme of things. Would it have been unkind to kill Hitler in 1922? The heart calls upon us to be true to our higher natures, the mind calls upon us to create, innovate and invent. But, the issue is not that we need both to be really human, that is a given, but whether humankind doesn’t flourish not by balance, but by course correction. Extreme mindfulness is essential at times and extreme heartfullness is essential at others. The wisdom comes from knowing when to course correct so that the Divine Plan remains intact.  

- Bart Pasternak, Elkins Park, PA

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