The Connected Hearts Philosophy
Connection: We all need it to thrive and flourish.
In my Connected Hearts philosophy, there are three layers. First, we connect with ourselves. We get in touch with our inner voice of truth and the sense of self that comes from the inside, not from pressures of ideas on the outside. Next, we connect with others. This means engaging with family members, friends, teachers, mentors, co-workers, etc. We become aware of the ways we contribute to our relationships with other people, as well as our needs, wishes, and desires in these connections.
Then, we connect with community. Here, we recognize the ways that we relate to and serve humanity. Communities can be small and intimate, like Boy Scout troops or spiritual groups, or they can be neighborhoods, schools, or cities.
I think of these layers as three concentric hearts that operate like a “ripple effect” of connection and responsibility. The inner heart represents the Self, and this connection serves and informs connection to others– the middle heart. Likewise, our connection to others, motivates us to connect with and participate in communities that matter to us, represented by the outermost heart.
Today, I share a personal process that illustrates the way Connected Hearts has shown up in my own life and has been a tool for greater harmony and peace. It is my hope that this story and the Connected Hearts process can be a tool for your own self-reflection, self-awareness, and goal-setting. Thank you for witnessing me!
Connecting with Myself
During my eighth year of classroom teaching, I really started to listen to a part of myself that I had been pushing down, ignoring, silencing for a few years. Finally, I was listening because my body and mind no longer had the energy to shut this voice down.
As I listened, I began to accept that I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I let these sensations take up space. Through this process, it became clear to me that my gifts for empathy and sensitivity were being used up at a rate that was unsustainable, and I was unable to refuel.
I also heard a more concrete message: It is okay for me to leave the classroom. This came with the affirmation that I would still be a loving, passionate, creative human if I decided to make my eighth year my last year of teaching (for now).
Once I determined that I would leave my school and the classroom, I spent a lot of time considering what would be healing and soothing, what kind of self-care I needed. I sorted through my vast experience as an educator and named my gifts and talents. Specifically, I came to back to my empathic and highly-sensitive nature with a lens of love. I offered appreciation to myself for the ways these gifts served me, my students, and my campuses over years.
I truly connected with myself— the light, the shadow, and everything in between.
Connecting with Others
With this renewed relationship with myself, I began to consider my relationships and my contributions. I acknowledged that my sensitivity is what helped me gauge when a student was having an “off day” or was facing stress or another big emotion. Additionally, I named the ways that my gift of empathy allowed me to listen to each student with patience and compassion. I was excited to witness my agency within the many relationships I built and maintained each day. (Don’t get me wrong, I made mistakes, missed connections, or expressed frustration from time to time just like any other human.)
Over time, I also became aware of the ways that I was blocking connections with coworkers because of insecurities about belonging. When I wasn’t truly listening to my inner voice, I was making decisions about myself, including what others thought or felt about me, that were influenced by external factors— real or imagined. While there was a lot of light in my relationships, there was plenty of darkness and struggle to face as well.
I honestly assessed of my connections with other people. Whether connections were flowing or stagnant, I was becoming aware and feeling empowered to own my responsibility.
Connecting with Community
As I developed this nonjudgemental, yet honest, reflection of my life as a teacher, it became apparent that contribution to community massively influences my happiness and joy. Witnessing groups of students in raw conversation about life as a teenager brings me deep joy. Facilitating restorative circles about big life topics and ideas gives me so much hope. Additionally, I recognized my own power to create and participate in community.
Sometimes this meant gauging the energy in the room and adding breathwork or a brain-break into my lesson. Other times it meant writing permanent hall passes for the lunch bunch that developed in my classroom. Larger scale, this meant collaborating with other teachers, attending school board meetings, and running a community service club. I love witnessing and participating in collective energy.
Here, in the third stage of the process, I connected my school and local community. The three layers of self, others, and community influence one another, and with this awareness, I was headed towards a life of intentional living.
With all of his new awareness, I did, in fact, decide to leave the classroom! Shortly after, I started my business as a Life Coach for Teens and Parents— emphasizing my gifts for building relationships and my passion for being in community. Being deeply in-tune with myself, supported intentional and shift in my outer world, and over time, this ability to listen and focus on connection has influenced my entire perception of myself and the world.
Connection is a Dynamic Process
The process of Connected Hearts is not static or always clearly defined because life is dynamic. I have broken down one of my own powerful, personal experiences as a way to illustrate the parts of this process.
Again, I hope that you and your children or teens can begin to notice how connection informs your life. As you explore, you notice which connections support you in thriving, as well as areas of life that feel disconnected or confused. I invite you to use my Connected Hearts framework as a reflection tool, both individually and as a family. Reach out to me if you’d like to process this together or begin on a journey of reflection with your family.