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Un-silencing Your Heart

by Lisa Avnet

Un-silencing Your Heart, Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA


Growing up, we often learn to turn away from the instinctive wisdom of our heart center. 

The message at home, school, and with peers, is often to put aside the inner knowing of your heart's wisdom, to ignore it and instead,  to go along with the main consensus to get along with others. We learn to squash, hide or shut down heart knowing and feelings, in order to please, to be accepted, to get along or be safe.

And slowly, over time, shutting down how you feel becomes the default pathway. The voice of your heart is silenced.  You no longer feel, hear or valued its priceless wisdom.  Modern culture doesn't teach us to how to access the the knowledge and wisdom that we hold in our hearts.  We're taught to ignore and move away from our heart feelings and voice in order to get on with it, to be agreeable and fit in.

One of the most powerful tools we have to guide us, to connect to ourselves and the world around is our heart, and it's vital to be connected to this priceless inner gps system.

The human heart is mysterious, intelligent, powerful, deeply feeling and often misrepresented.

In these modern times, especially within western culture, the heart has been largely left on the shelf and forgotten.

And yet, there remains ancient wisdom and stories to guide us, information about the heart as a seat of the soul, a place of knowing and the compass and guide of our being.  In many diverse spiritual traditions, the heart is given a place of honor, referred to as the "cave of the heart", the "well of the heart" and in early desert Christianity "the cell of the heartt", in energy medicine, the "portal of the heart".  Taoist wisdom and Chinese medicine identifies the heart as the "Emperor" that governs all other function in the human body.  These diverse perceptions have been substantiated by numerous scientific studies, showing the heart to be an organ of perception and communication, rich with nerve cells and a brain in its own right through which we view the world, an organ deeply rooted in our emotional and mental health.

Twelfth century Christian mystic, Hildegard of Bingen wrote, “The soul sits at the center of the heart, as though in a house.”

“The majority of modern peoples, if asked to find the place within their body where the unique self resides, would say they live about an inch above their eyebrow….. But most indigenous and historical peoples would locate the self someplace very different. They would gesture in the region of the heart. For most of our history of habitation on earth, that is where the seat of intelligence, the seat of the soul, was located. That this has changed is more an expression of how and what we are taught in western cultures than of some exact truth.” - Stephen Harrod Buhner

Slowly, we are returning to the awareness of the heart's importance.  The heart's central place in our being is slowly being restored. The Heart Math Institute has developed a simple practice called Heart Coherence to restore us to connection with our hearts, which been taught world-wide for many years.


Our heart's nervous system is attuned to other fields and is contantly receiving information in energetic form.  Our world is full of the invisible and the felt, the language of the soul.

The Greeks had a word for the hearts ability to perceive meaning from the world - Aisthesis. The word literally means “to breathe in”. It is receiving the world, a taking in of soulful communication that connects us. When we experience this, we experience that we are not alone in the world. Aisthesis denotes the moment in which a flow of life force, imbued with communications, moves from one living organism to another. 

“the organ of aisthesis is the heart; passages from all the sense organs run to it, there the soul is set on fire” - James Hillman

Want to get started strengthening your connection to your heart wisdom?  I offer several pathways to re-connection.  Book a free consult today for more information.


A Metaphorical Map of the Territory

Metaphors for the Beauty Way of tending your inner gardens – a Map of the Territory.

I had fun one snowy day in December, on the new moon, dreaming and weaving some words about soul qualities that I carry and kindle in others.  Hope you enjoy this list and perhaps are inspired to create one from your own life experience.

I’m a tracker, following the threads of image, dream and story and assisting in bringing them to consciousness.  As a tracker, I listen deeply and ask questions to help you connect with your own tracking system to find and follow the thread your through line.

I’m a gatherer, harvesting words and wisdom for sharing. As a gatherer, I delight in sharing my knowledge and in learning from yours. I hold the sacred bowl in our work together, lighting the way .

I’m a sower with a myriad of seeds to share for individual and community growth - like Johnny Appleseed, my basket is full. As a sower, I plant seeds for future growth into the fertile field of consciousness.

I’m a gardener and tender, helping the flowers flourish and the weeds wither.  I am a guide to the garden of soul, watering the keepers, and replacing the weeds with the seeds of new growth. As a gardener, I help you tend the symbols, images and stories that arise.

I'm a weaver, like Grandmother Spider, always weaving colorful threads into the web of my life, repairing as needed and starting anew when I must.  As a weaver, assisting others in cultivating the threads and weaving the fabric into their own unique life tapestry.

A hearth tender, I'll teach you to tend to your heart hearth with the energies you have gathered and how to fan your inner flame of inspiration and joy.

And a poem would be in order but that's for another day.  I do what I can, with the time I have, and my to do list is calling. 

"The Woke and the Dreaming" - repost from Tad Hargrave

by Lisa Avnet

repost from Tad Hagrave's Substack page "On Culture Making" written June 2021

Last night, driving home to Victoria from Courtenay, I was listening to Martin Shaw and Manchán Magan on the work of John Moriarty. Martin had just written up a collection of John's work in a beautiful book called A Hut At The Edge of the Village.

"He wasn't woke. He was dreaming," said Martin of John.

That difference struck me as worthy of sinking into.

There is such a focus on being 'woke' these days. I'm not against it but there's more to the story. Being awake is half the story of being human. The other part is dreaming or, even more so, being dreamed.

The condition of being awake is a hard one. It means seeing this world with a blazing lucidity with the noon day Sun banishing all shadows. It means coming to sobering grips with the consequences that made us and that we have made. It means attending to the 'wake' we have left behind us and trying to discern which boat left the wake in which we find ourselves.

It means regularly attending the 'wake' of all the endings, limits and frailties that are a part of life. There's a lot of grief in seeing clearly. As Stephen Jenkinson puts it, "the sound of waking up is not 'aha'. It's a sob." And that's often true.

But there's another whole side to this.

It's being on the receiving end of the deep mystery often in the form of images that appear to us. Sometimes those images come to us in the form of poetry and old folk tales. Sometimes they come to us in dreams.

We didn't generate the images any more than we generated the eggs we cook or apples we pick but they nourish us just the same.

Being awake lets us see the territory as it is, but being dreamed by forces greater than us is what allows us to navigate that territory and choose a direction.

Part of being awake must also be to wake up to the hard limits of wakefulness. Of course, the science, statistics and data matters. But, if that's all we have, we are left directionless and overwhelmed.

Dreaming and being dreamed is the home of our intuition, of synchronicities, of the ways that the natural world speaks to us and gives us signs.

I suspect that traditional people's understood that the little ones born to them came out of the Big Dream, from the other side, that they were a sign of something and some ones. That the appearance, the gifts, capacities, personalities and interests of this little one could tell us something of the times we were in. They were a communication from the Great Beyond.

And this matters. As Martin put it in another wonderful book of his called Scatterlings, "Of course we're outgunned. But outnumbered? Not when you call in the myth world, not when you call to ancestors deserving of the name, not when you weft your life to the thinking of a hare or the open-shouldered stance of a midwinter beech. Make a stand for something small, specific and precious. Do it today. Amen and let it be so."

We are being spoken to constantly. Part of that speech we hear when we are awake. Part of it is banished by our insistence on constant, vigilant, wakefulness.

Calling out bad behaviour is important but so is being able to hear the call of your soul telling you where to go next.

Can we, as Yeats suggested, "make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us to see their own images and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even a fiercer life because of our silence."?

Wakefulness tries to offer us safety rooted in control. "If we just understand enough of the facts, we'll finally be able to relax," says some younger part of us obsessed with the idea that universe is a machine. It's understandable but it's not the only kind of safety there is. The little bird doesn't feel safe because it trusts the branch won't break.

Wakefulness gives us a map but dreaming gives us a compass. Maybe it's something like that.

Statistics are like bread. The calories burn quick, man. But images? These are the full, exploding with nourishment, dripping fat left to us in the mystery feast of our ancestral art and stories. It's amazing any of it has survived at all.

Dealing with the troubles of the world can't happen by logic alone. It will also take radical imagination. The root of this word is 'image'. The images we receive from nature, good art, our dreams, poetry and myth. No image? No imagination. No imagination? No new direction. No new direction? More of what's become normal and, as Bruce Cockburn says, "The trouble with normal is it always gets worse."

While we are busy trying to 'figure it all out' we may have missed the most obvious and important thing: we are the world's way of sorting out the messes of the world. Imagine a body full of white blood cells waiting for someone to come along to deal with the troubles of the body. We, ourselves, are one of the images, planted in the world at just the right place and in just the right time.

Dreaming is that hut at the edge of the village. It receives strange guests all night long. They leave gifts for you when you wake. You will need them in the times to come. The ones to come will need them more.


Upcoming Workshop in New Haven, CT

by Lisa Avnet

Upcoming Workshop in New Haven, CT, Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA

The perception of reality or "he sees what he wants to see"

by Lisa Avnet

I'm always looking for information that sheds light on the human mind and consciousness, the realm of hypnosis. Being a bit of a science geek yields some great material, such as this recent and controversial Ted Talk, linked below, that recently came my way.  

"Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman is trying to answer a big question: Do we experience the world as it really is ... or as we need it to be? In this ever so slightly mind-blowing talk, he ponders how our minds construct reality for us."   from the intro to the talk, link below

Some of what he says supports the model of the mind we use in hypnotherapy without ever referencing the word or concept.     Have you ever heard the phase "he sees what he wants to see"?   The answer is yes, although this is a little inaccurate. You see what you expect to see based on prior experience, because your mind has created filters to do so. It's actually also an explanation of why you can't change people's beliefs by trying to reason with them- both the man "seeing what he wants to see" and the person who has a particular political belief are literally unable to see or process information that doesn't fit the belief, because the brain is programmed that way.   This programming is beneath conscious awareness, which is why it is difficult to create meaningful behavioral change. Fortunately, hypnosis is able to access the subconscious programming, creating the opportunity to change and upgrade old, global beliefs that have haunted us since childhood, for example "I'm not good enough", or "I'm weak" or "I'm bad - there are many such beliefs that hold us back, sabotaging our relationships as well as our work life and goals.

Or, the transcript from the talk:

I love a great mystery, and I'm fascinated by the greatest unsolved mystery in science, perhaps because it's personal. It's about who we are, and I can't help but be curious.

0:25The mystery is this: What is the relationship between your brain and your conscious experiences, such as your experience of the taste of chocolate or the feeling of velvet?

0:37Now, this mystery is not new. In 1868, Thomas Huxley wrote, "How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as the result of irritating nervous tissue is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the genie when Aladdin rubbed his lamp." Now, Huxley knew that brain activity and conscious experiences are correlated, but he didn't know why. To the science of his day, it was a mystery. In the years since Huxley, science has learned a lot about brain activity, but the relationship between brain activity and conscious experiences is still a mystery. Why? Why have we made so little progress? Well, some experts think that we can't solve this problem because we lack the necessary concepts and intelligence. We don't expect monkeys to solve problems in quantum mechanics, and as it happens, we can't expect our species to solve this problem either. Well, I disagree. I'm more optimistic. I think we've simply made a false assumption. Once we fix it, we just might solve this problem. Today, I'd like tell you what that assumption is, why it's false, and how to fix it.

1:58Let's begin with a question: Do we see reality as it is? I open my eyes and I have an experience that I describe as a red tomato a meter away. As a result, I come to believe that in reality, there's a red tomato a meter away. I then close my eyes, and my experience changes to a gray field, but is it still the case that in reality, there's a red tomato a meter away? I think so, but could I be wrong? Could I be misinterpreting the nature of my perceptions?

2:38We have misinterpreted our perceptions before. We used to think the Earth is flat, because it looks that way. Pythagorus discovered that we were wrong. Then we thought that the Earth is the unmoving center of the Universe, again because it looks that way. Copernicus and Galileo discovered, again, that we were wrong.

3:00Galileo then wondered if we might be misinterpreting our experiences in other ways. He wrote: "I think that tastes, odors, colors, and so on reside in consciousness. Hence if the living creature were removed, all these qualities would be annihilated."

3:19Now, that's a stunning claim. Could Galileo be right? Could we really be misinterpreting our experiences that badly? What does modern science have to say about this?

3:31Well, neuroscientists tell us that about a third of the brain's cortex is engaged in vision. When you simply open your eyes and look about this room, billions of neurons and trillions of synapses are engaged.

3:46Now, this is a bit surprising, because to the extent that we think about vision at all, we think of it as like a camera. It just takes a picture of objective reality as it is. Now, there is a part of vision that's like a camera: the eye has a lens that focuses an image on the back of the eye where there are 130 million photoreceptors, so the eye is like a 130-megapixel camera. But that doesn't explain the billions of neurons and trillions of synapses that are engaged in vision. What are these neurons up to?

4:22Well, neuroscientists tell us that they are creating, in real time, all the shapes, objects, colors, and motions that we see. It feels like we're just taking a snapshot of this room the way it is, but in fact, we're constructing everything that we see. We don't construct the whole world at once. We construct what we need in the moment.

4:44Now, there are many demonstrations that are quite compelling that we construct what we see. I'll just show you two. In this example, you see some red discs with bits cut out of them, but if I just rotate the disks a little bit, suddenly, you see a 3D cube pop out of the screen. Now, the screen of course is flat, so the three-dimensional cube that you're experiencing must be your construction.

5:14In this next example, you see glowing blue bars with pretty sharp edges moving across a field of dots. In fact, no dots move. All I'm doing from frame to frame is changing the colors of dots from blue to black or black to blue. But when I do this quickly, your visual system creates the glowing blue bars with the sharp edges and the motion. There are many more examples, but these are just two that you construct what you see.

5:48But neuroscientists go further. They say that we reconstruct reality. So, when I have an experience that I describe as a red tomato, that experience is actually an accurate reconstruction of the properties of a real red tomato that would exist even if I weren't looking.

6:12Now, why would neuroscientists say that we don't just construct, we reconstruct? Well, the standard argument given is usually an evolutionary one. Those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage compared to those who saw less accurately, and therefore they were more likely to pass on their genes. We are the offspring of those who saw more accurately, and so we can be confident that, in the normal case, our perceptions are accurate. You see this in the standard textbooks.One textbook says, for example, "Evolutionarily speaking, vision is useful precisely because it is so accurate." So the idea is that accurate perceptions are fitter perceptions. They give you a survival advantage.

7:01Now, is this correct? Is this the right interpretation of evolutionary theory? Well, let's first look at a couple of examples in nature.

7:09The Australian jewel beetle is dimpled, glossy and brown. The female is flightless. The male flies, looking, of course, for a hot female. When he finds one, he alights and mates. There's another species in the outback, Homo sapiens. The male of this species has a massive brain that he uses to hunt for cold beer.(Laughter) And when he finds one, he drains it, and sometimes throws the bottle into the outback. Now, as it happens, these bottles are dimpled, glossy, and just the right shade of brown to tickle the fancy of these beetles. The males swarm all over the bottles trying to mate. They lose all interest in the real females. Classic case of the male leaving the female for the bottle. (Laughter) (Applause) The species almost went extinct. Australia had to change its bottles to save its beetles. (Laughter) Now, the males had successfully found females for thousands, perhaps millions of years. It looked like they saw reality as it is, but apparently not. Evolution had given them a hack. A female is anything dimpled, glossy and brown,the bigger the better. (Laughter) Even when crawling all over the bottle, the male couldn't discover his mistake.

8:48Now, you might say, beetles, sure, they're very simple creatures, but surely not mammals. Mammals don't rely on tricks. Well, I won't dwell on this, but you get the idea. (Laughter)

9:03So this raises an important technical question: Does natural selection really favor seeing reality as it is?Fortunately, we don't have to wave our hands and guess; evolution is a mathematically precise theory.We can use the equations of evolution to check this out. We can have various organisms in artificial worlds compete and see which survive and which thrive, which sensory systems are more fit.

9:32A key notion in those equations is fitness. Consider this steak: What does this steak do for the fitness of an animal? Well, for a hungry lion looking to eat, it enhances fitness. For a well-fed lion looking to mate, it doesn't enhance fitness. And for a rabbit in any state, it doesn't enhance fitness, so fitness does depend on reality as it is, yes, but also on the organism, its state and its action. Fitness is not the same thing as reality as it is, and it's fitness, and not reality as it is, that figures centrally in the equations of evolution.

10:20So, in my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds. Some of the organisms see all of the reality, others see just part of the reality, and some see none of the reality, only fitness. Who wins?

10:47Well, I hate to break it to you, but perception of reality goes extinct. In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality but are just tuned to fitness drive to extinction all the organisms that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor veridical, or accurate perceptions. Those perceptions of reality go extinct.

11:14Now, this is a bit stunning. How can it be that not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage? That is a bit counterintuitive. But remember the jewel beetle. The jewel beetle survived for thousands, perhaps millions of years, using simple tricks and hacks. What the equations of evolution are telling us is that all organisms, including us, are in the same boat as the jewel beetle. We do not see reality as it is. We're shaped with tricks and hacks that keep us alive.

11:47Still, we need some help with our intuitions. How can not perceiving reality as it is be useful? Well, fortunately, we have a very helpful metaphor: the desktop interface on your computer. Consider that blue icon for a TED Talk that you're writing. Now, the icon is blue and rectangular and in the lower right corner of the desktop. Does that mean that the text file itself in the computer is blue, rectangular, and in the lower right-hand corner of the computer? Of course not. Anyone who thought that misinterprets the purpose of the interface. It's not there to show you the reality of the computer. In fact, it's there to hide that reality. You don't want to know about the diodes and resistors and all the megabytes of software. If you had to deal with that, you could never write your text file or edit your photo. So the idea is that evolution has given us an interface that hides reality and guides adaptive behavior. Space and time, as you perceive them right now, are your desktop. Physical objects are simply icons in that desktop.

13:03There's an obvious objection. Hoffman, if you think that train coming down the track at 200 MPH is just an icon of your desktop, why don't you step in front of it? And after you're gone, and your theory with you, we'll know that there's more to that train than just an icon. Well, I wouldn't step in front of that trainfor the same reason that I wouldn't carelessly drag that icon to the trash can: not because I take the icon literally -- the file is not literally blue or rectangular -- but I do take it seriously. I could lose weeks of work.Similarly, evolution has shaped us with perceptual symbols that are designed to keep us alive. We'd better take them seriously. If you see a snake, don't pick it up. If you see a cliff, don't jump off. They're designed to keep us safe, and we should take them seriously. That does not mean that we should take them literally. That's a logical error.

14:02Another objection: There's nothing really new here. Physicists have told us for a long time that the metal of that train looks solid but really it's mostly empty space with microscopic particles zipping around.There's nothing new here. Well, not exactly. It's like saying, I know that that blue icon on the desktop is not the reality of the computer, but if I pull out my trusty magnifying glass and look really closely, I see little pixels, and that's the reality of the computer. Well, not really -- you're still on the desktop, and that's the point. Those microscopic particles are still in space and time: they're still in the user interface. So I'm saying something far more radical than those physicists.

14:45Finally, you might object, look, we all see the train, therefore none of us constructs the train. But remember this example. In this example, we all see a cube, but the screen is flat, so the cube that you see is the cube that you construct. We all see a cube because we all, each one of us, constructs the cube that we see. The same is true of the train. We all see a train because we each see the train that we construct, and the same is true of all physical objects.

15:23We're inclined to think that perception is like a window on reality as it is. The theory of evolution is telling us that this is an incorrect interpretation of our perceptions. Instead, reality is more like a 3D desktopthat's designed to hide the complexity of the real world and guide adaptive behavior. Space as you perceive it is your desktop. Physical objects are just the icons in that desktop.

15:52We used to think that the Earth is flat because it looks that way. Then we thought that the Earth is the unmoving center of reality because it looks that way. We were wrong. We had misinterpreted our perceptions. Now we believe that spacetime and objects are the nature of reality as it is. The theory of evolution is telling us that once again, we're wrong. We're misinterpreting the content of our perceptual experiences. There's something that exists when you don't look, but it's not spacetime and physical objects. It's as hard for us to let go of spacetime and objects as it is for the jewel beetle to let go of its bottle. Why? Because we're blind to our own blindnesses. But we have an advantage over the jewel beetle: our science and technology. By peering through the lens of a telescope we discovered that the Earth is not the unmoving center of reality, and by peering through the lens of the theory of evolution we discovered that spacetime and objects are not the nature of reality. When I have a perceptual experience that I describe as a red tomato, I am interacting with reality, but that reality is not a red tomato and is nothing like a red tomato. Similarly, when I have an experience that I describe as a lion or a steak, I'm interacting with reality, but that reality is not a lion or a steak. And here's the kicker: When I have a perceptual experience that I describe as a brain, or neurons, I am interacting with reality, but that reality is not a brain or neurons and is nothing like a brain or neurons. And that reality, whatever it is, is the real source of cause and effect in the world -- not brains, not neurons. Brains and neurons have no causal powers. They cause none of our perceptual experiences, and none of our behavior. Brains and neurons are a species-specific set of symbols, a hack.

18:01What does this mean for the mystery of consciousness? Well, it opens up new possibilities. For instance,perhaps reality is some vast machine that causes our conscious experiences. I doubt this, but it's worth exploring. Perhaps reality is some vast, interacting network of conscious agents, simple and complex, that cause each other's conscious experiences. Actually, this isn't as crazy an idea as it seems, and I'm currently exploring it.

18:37But here's the point: Once we let go of our massively intuitive but massively false assumption about the nature of reality, it opens up new ways to think about life's greatest mystery. I bet that reality will end up turning out to be more fascinating and unexpected than we've ever imagined.

19:00The theory of evolution presents us with the ultimate dare: Dare to recognize that perception is not about seeing truth, it's about having kids. And by the way, even this TED is just in your head.

19:19Thank yo


Hypnosis and the Mainstream

by Lisa Avnet

Hypnosis and the Mainstream, Lisa Avnet in Pittsfield, MA

What is hypnosis?   When I ask this question, some people conjure up images of people with glazed eyes following a swinging pendulum like a zombie or clucking like a chicken at a stage show.   Hollywood and the entertainment industry have portrayed this ancient art in such a way as to make many people wary. 

However, hypnosis in various forms has been used as a healing method as long as people have been on the planet.   You may be surprised to hear that hypnosis has actually been recognized as a legitimate treatment by two of the most prominent agencies in the medical community - the AMA (American Medical Association) since 1958, and by the APA in 1960.

Here is a timeline:

Other Endorsements of Hypnosis by Medical and Psychological Associations:

1955 – The British Medical Association became the first professional organization to endorse the medical use of hypnosis.
1958 – The American Medical Association officially approves hypnosis as a therapeutic procedure. (Rescinded)
1958 – The Canadian Medical Association endorses hypnosis.
1958 – The Canadian Psychological Association endorses hypnosis.
1960 – The American Psychological Association endorses hypnosis.
1961 – American Psychiatric Association endorses hypnosis as a therapeutic procedure.

Here's a link to a nice article from the APA website for those of you interested in seeing how they view the work:


HeartMath and Hypnosis

by Lisa Avnet…/science-of-the…/making-emotions/

A nice article from Heart Math. The model of the mind we use in Hypnosis - that the way we react with emotion and behavior in the present is largely due to unconscious filters produced by prior life circumstances - for good or for ill. When we access them, we can change them. When we change them, we change the behavior and increase coherency in the field.    Link