Lev/Heart as reflected in the Jewish prayer known as the Shema: home of your intellect, emotions, and discernment and decision-making, integrating body-mind-spirit

There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you? ― Rumi

We can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion. This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith. In this sense, there is no need for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated philosophy, doctrine, or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple. The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need. — Dalai Lama

Sometimes the love of God is 12 inches from being real, the distance from the head to the heart. — David Ivey

In the Bible, however, heart is not a symbol. It isn’t an internal organ in your body either… Heart is your conscience. It’s the status of your deepest feelings. It’s the truth of who you are. — Sarah Fisher

Which brings us all the way back to the Shema. Every day God’s people are called to devote to God their body and mind, their feelings and desires, their future and their failures. This is what it means to Love the lord your God with all your heart. — The Bible Project

Everybody has all three centers (head, heart, moving) in them… It’s only when you have balanced the three centers—kinesthetic moving center, emotional center, and intellectual center—and integrated them that you become conscious. — Cynthia Bourgeault



There’s a morning when
presence comes over your soul.

You sing like a rooster
in your earth-colored shape.

Your heart hears and,
no longer frantic,
begins to dance.

At that moment,
soul reaches total emptiness.

Your heart becomes Mary,
miraculously pregnant,
and body like a two-day-old
Jesus says wisdom words.

Now the heart, which is the
source of your loving,
turns to universal light,
and the body picks up
the tempo and elegance
of its motion.

Where Shams-i Tabriz walks
the footprints become notations of music
and holes you fall through into space.

~~ Rumi

Blessing for a Whole Heart —Jan Richardson
You think if you could just imagine it,that would be a beginning;
that if you could envision what it would look like,
that would be a step toward a heart made whole.
This blessing is for when you cannot imagine.
This is for when it is difficult to dream of what could lie beyond
the fracture, the rupture, the cleaving
through which has come a life you do not recognize as your own.
When all that inhabits you feels foreign,
your heart made strange  and beating
a broken and unfamiliar cadence,
let there come a word of solace,
 a voice that speaks into the shattering,
reminding you that who you are is here,
every shard somehow holding
the whole of you that you cannot see
but is taking shape even now,
piece joining to piece in an ancient,
remembered rhythm that bears you not toward restoration,
not toward return—
as if you could somehow become unchanged—
but steadily deeper into the heart
of the one who has already
dreamed you complete.



The Hebrew word often translated “heart” is the word lev, לב. Although lev is frequently translated as “heart,” it should be rendered “mind.”  This information is actually very important for accurate reading of many Biblical texts. —Berkowitz, MBT Kids

In the Bible the heart is considered the seat of life or strength. Hence, it means mind, soul, spirit, or one’s entire emotional nature and understanding. The heart also is the primary source of such bad behavior as adultery, hatred, lust, mischief, pride, and rebellion as well as such neutral or good behavior as desire, doubt, fear, gladness, love, obedience, and sorrow. The heart is the organ that is said to have the ability to reason, question, meditate, motivate, and think. All of these mental processes in today’s world are normally associated with one’s mind or brain and not the heart (except metaphorically). God or the Lord is described as being able to know, search, enlighten, open, recreate, examine, strengthen, and establish one’s heart — not the mind. One can have a clean, contrite, perfect, pure, or wise heart, but those qualities are not biblically attributed to the mind. —Dr. Lorence G. Collins

“Heart” does not mean the emotions (though it includes our emotions). It refers to our inner orientation, the core of our being. This kind of “heart” is what Jesus was referring to when he told us to store up treasures in heaven instead of on earth, “for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matthew 6:21) This is the “heart” Jesus was worried about when he said “from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.” (Matthew 15:19) Jesus observed that our heart can get untethered from our actions: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8) Heart in this sense—the totality of our response—is the concern of the Spiritual Exercises. This is the ancient meaning of “heart” in biblical usage, but we actually retain traces of this meaning in contemporary English. When we say to someone “my heart goes out to you,” we mean something more than a feeling of concern. If said sincerely, it communicates a sense of solidarity with someone. It means more than “I understand” (our intellect). It means more than “I sympathize” (our feelings). It means something like, “I stand with you in this.” It is an expression of a fundamental choice. — David L. Fleming, SJ.

… biblical authors talk about the heart in many other ways that may seem strange to modern readers. That’s because the Israelites had no concept of the brain or any word for it. So they imagined that all of a human’s intellectual activity takes place in the heart. For example, you know with your heart; 5your heart is where you understand and make connections. In the book of Proverbs, wisdom dwells in the heart, and your heart is what you use to discern between truth and error. So the heart is where you think and make sense of the world, but it does more. In the Bible, the heart is also where you feel emotions. You feel pain in your heart,… You also experience fear in your heart… Your heart can even be depressed.But on the flip-side, your heart is where you experience joy. … So the heart is the generator of physical life and also your intellectual and emotional life, but there’s more. In biblical Hebrew the heart is where you make choices motivated by your desires …Your heart is where your affections are centered; they’re called “the desires of your heart,” and if you really want something, you’ll go after it. …So then, in the Bible, the heart is the center of all parts of human existence.— Bible Project

This teaches us that the heart, that the love that it represents, can thrive, can flourish, only when there is a totality in connection. The Jewish heart, true love, represents a mind-to-mind, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, body-to-body, soul-to-soul connection. —Sara Esther Crispe

The Hebrew word for this part of us is “Levar” or “Lev – לב” for short. Although lev is frequently translated as “heart,” it really could also be translated “mind”. This word does not refer to the organ that pumps blood but rather it has Biblical meaning which most often refers to the control center of our lives. Today we might refer to the mind as the place where decisions are made. In the Bible Lev literally means the inner man, mind, will, heart, soul, understanding. It is where we use what we know or understand, where we have thoughts and feelings in order to discern right from wrong. Lev also refers to feelings like joy, sadness, happiness, love. At times we make decisions based on these fleeting parts of us. — Chapel Hill Kids

In Hebrew, the holy language that holds the secret of all creative power, the word “heart” is written לֵב, a lamed (ל) followed by a bet (ב). Rabbi Abraham Abulafia, one of the greatest medieval Kabbalists explained that the word for “heart” in Hebrew, alludes to the physical form of the human heart: two (the numerical value of the letter bet-ב) lamed’s (ל) face-to-face. The Heart Understands Knowledge It is stated in the Midrash (Otiot d’Rabbi Akiva) that the name of the Hebrew letter lamed stands for Lev Meivin Da’at: “the heart that understands knowledge.” The same idea is expressed in the form of the letter lamed (ל), which depicts the aspiration of the heart to ascend to the highest level of consciousness, the understanding of knowledge. Knowledge (da’at) is the power of the soul which forges the connection between man and God, between man and his fellow, and especially between husband and wife… — inner.org

… the mistranslation of Lev as the figurative “heart” is replaced with Mind—the core of our mental reality…

  • a) the non-figurative “lev” never meant the anatomical heart;
  • (b) the figurative use of lev is, first and foremost, as the seat of rational thought, awareness, intent and reflection; and
  • (c) by correcting the mistranslation of lev (replacing the excitable “heart” with the perceptive “mind”) the bible’s fundamental teaching about the soul, prophecy and transformation emerges dazzlingly from the text.

— Ethan Dor-Shav


Wisdom is a way of knowing that goes beyond one’s mind, one’s rational understanding, and embraces the whole of a person: mind, heart, and body. These three centers must all be working, and working in harmony, as the first prerequisite to the Wisdom way of knowing. —Cynthia Bourgeault 

You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body. — C.S. Lewis

We see in Jesus that a physical life is a spiritual life. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

The secret of health for both mind and body is…live the present moment wisely and earnestly. — Gautama Buddha

All prayer disciplines are somehow trying to get mind, heart, and body to work as one, which entirely changes one’s consciousness. “The concentration of attention in the heart—this is the starting point of  all true prayer,” wrote St.Theophan the Recluse (1815–1894,) a Russian monk, bishop, and mystic. Apart from Love, any other “handler” of your experience, including the rational mind or merely intellectual theology, eventually distorts and destroys the beauty and healing power of Wisdom. — Fr. Richard Rohr

You need the practice of mindfulness to bring your mind back to the body and establish yourself in the moment. If you are fully present, you need only make a step or take a breath in order to enter the kingdom of God. And once you have the kingdom, you don’t need to run after objects of your craving, like power, fame, sensual pleasure, and so on. Peace is possible. Happiness is possible. And this practice is simple enough for everyone to do. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Whether you are sick or well, lovely or irregular, there comes a time when it is vitally important to your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, ‘Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address. After you have taken a good look around, you may decide that there is a lot to be thankful for, all things considered.  — Barbara Brown Taylor

The main concept behind the mind-body-spirit connection is that we are all more than just our thoughts. We are also our bodies, our emotions, and our spirituality … all these things combine to give us identity, determine our health, and make us who we are. — Cooper University

What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world. ― Barbara Brown Taylor

Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age. — William Blake

Our ‘ministry’ is Word and Sacrament —everything else flows from that. We see a need, we fill it. We f*** up, we say sorry. We ask for grace and prayers when we need them (a lot). Jesus shows up for us through each other. We eat, we pray, we sing, we fall, we get up, repeat. Not that complicated. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

Brene Brown’s 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living are as follows:

  1. Cultivating Authenticity and Letting Go of What Other People Think
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion and Letting Go of Perfectionism
  3. Cultivating Your Resilient Spirit, Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy, Letting go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith, Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
  6. Cultivating Creativity and Letting Go of Comparison
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest, Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness and Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work, Letting Go of Self-Doubt and Supposed-To
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance. And Letting Go of Cool and Always in Control

Each guidepost is like a coin with two sides. On one side, it shares what to cultivate. And on the other, it instructs what to let go of. The two work hand-in-hand.

More info: https://mindfulambition.net/wholehearted-living/

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