Meet the Sages (and Get A Free Poster!)

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In recent years there’s been a surge of interest in ancient philosophers. Three of my favorite books in this vein are Expect the Unexpected Or You Won’t Find it: A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus by Roger Van Oech, Breakfast With Socrates: An Extraordinary (Philosophical) Journey Through Your Ordinary Day by Robert Rowland Smith, and The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I’m going to add to this growing body of literature by introducing the ancient writers of Hebrew wisdom literature. These sages said many interesting and often astonishing things, especially given how long ago they wrote. For example, two millennia before Freud and modern psychotherapy the sages wrote, “Many are the purposes of a person’s heart; one with wisdom draws them out.” There are things that go on in a person’s psyche about which we are simply unaware. In 2011 Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman wrote about this in Thinking Fast and Slow (read my summary here). Over one hundred years before that (1902 to be precise) William James said this about consciousness and perception, Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the flimsiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different, ” (Varieties of Religious Experience). These are all fancy ways of explaining what we mean when we say…
  • “Perception is reality”
  • “Appearances can be deceiving”
  • “My brain has a mind of it’s own”
  • “There are two sides to every story”
  • “Life is not always as it appears to be”
Woe to the person who doesn’t know that their consciousness can be altered an a variety of ways or that our minds can play weird tricks on us. Even neuro-scientists remind us that feelings of being right are not necessarily right. Click here to read an interview with Robert Burton, author of the fascinating book, On Being Certain. Which brings me to a free gift I have for you. The sages were preternaturally aware that things like emotions, health, hunger, sleep, and other factors trick us. I’ve collected (and drew faces for) thirty of their sage warnings that remind us that we can’t always trust our thoughts. You can download a free 8.5″ x 11″ color printout of this poster by clicking here. (Signed 13″x 19″ color posters are available for $30 (+$4.99 shipping in USA) on Amazon; small size posters are free to readers of this blog). The brilliance of these sage warnings is that being skeptical of our cherished beliefs will lead to open mindedness, mental flexibility, and a willingness to contemplate alternative ideas. This is often our focus when doing mediation or therapy–when emotions or other mood altering factors hi-jack our brains we don’t think rationally or clearly. I hope this handout (poster) will inspire careful self-reflection.

What Kind of Heart Do You Have?

We guard that which we value.

We guard that which we value.

We’ve all known people who are good hearted, warm hearted, faint heated, or light hearted.

We’ve also known people who are bad natured, mean spirited, or strong minded.

But what do those words “hearted,” “natured,” “spirited” and “minded” mean?

If you approach this question from the world of surgery you’ll think in terms of atrial fibrillation, myocardial infarction, and congestive heart failure.

If you approach this question from the world of biology you’ll likely think in terms of genes, synapses, and brain function.

If you approach this question from the world of psychology you’ll likely think in terms of personality traits, family systems and family of origin, or mental faculties.

But if you approach this question from a religious frame of reference as I do, you’ll think in terms of the New Testament Greek words, psyche (from which we get the word psychology), pneuma (from which we get the word spirit), kardia (from which we get the word cardiac, IE, heart), and nous (from which we get the word intellect).

Those unfamiliar with the Bible may be astonished to learn how much it has to say about matters of psychology, life, mind, and the heart. It’s hard to overstate the importance of understanding the “heart” because, if what the Bible says is true, it’s the source of all our issues, concerns, words, personality traits, ways of relating, attaching, and resolving conflict. The quality of our heart determines how we approach school, marriage, and business. It’s also the source of our emotions, decisions, and character.

Here’s a quickie list of the types of hearts a person can cultivate. Some are positive, some are negative, but all are crucial to how we navigate life.

Problematic Heart Conditions

Murmuring Heart
Fearful Heart
Adulterous Heart
Deceitful Heart
Unclean Heart
Prideful Heart
Divided Heart
Anxious Heart
Sick Heart
Aching Heart
Proud Heart
Heavy Heart
Evil Heart
Hard Heart
Perverse Heart
Wicked Heart
Angry Heart

More positive heart attitudes

A Clean Heart vs. A Wicked Heart
A Pure Heart vs. A Double Heart
A Seeking Heart vs. A Resistant Heart
Wise and Understanding Heart vs. A Foolish Heart
A Broken Heart vs. A Hard Heart
A Tender Heart vs. A Bitter Heart
A Meek Heart vs. A Proud Heart
A Redeemed Heart vs. A Deceitful Heart
A Large Heart vs. A Lean Heart
A Faithful Heart vs. An Unbelieving Heart
A Perfect Heart vs. A Betraying Heart
A Sound and Upright Heart vs. A Deceived Heart
A Cheerful Heart vs. A Discouraged Heart
A Trusting Heart vs. A Suspicious Heart
A Peaceful Heart vs. an Anxious Heart
A Righteous Heart vs. an Unrighteous Heart
A Pure Heart vs. a Heart of Guile

So, in addition to watching our blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and eating heart healthy foods, let’s do an occasional inventory on heart attitudes.