the Jill Saunders blog

What Brings Your Heart Alive? (Post 1 in a 4 part series)


January 8, 2020

Welcome to blog post 1 of a 4 part series called “What Next Dear One?“. This series is all about giving you practical tips, ideas, and practices to get clear on “What’s Next” by paying attention to what brings your heart alive.

I have found that the best answers to the questions of what’s next for you and what brings your heart alive can come from two sources:

  1. Honoring a desire or inkling that we have in our hearts, a curiosity to explore or expand in some way. Our heart is a source of wisdom and inspiration, a source of guidance. It gives us joy and happiness and fills our life with love. When we pay attention to it, it can tell us how to bring it alive.
  2. Listening to guidance and wisdom from the Universe. We are surrounded by an endless field of possibilities that the Universe has in store for us. When we are in our heads too much, we can’t hear about what’s possible beyond our limited thinking. We get caught in patterns of what we “should” be doing instead of “what’s possible” for us to do. When we ask God or the Universe for insight and guidance, we step out of the realm of “shoulds” and hear what may really bring us joy.

In this post, I’ll layout three practices for paying attention to what brings our heart alive. The three practices are:

  1. Honor Your Core Values
  2. Follow Your Curiosity
  3. Ask the Universe

Check out these practices and see what resonates with you!

Honor Your Core Values

Let’s Start with Honor Your Core Values. Each of us has a set of core values, a shortlist of what’s truly important to us in life. When we know what our core values are and honor them, we bring our hearts alive. When we ignore our core values and just live by the “shoulds” in life, we can find ourselves spiraling down into a life that isn’t as vital or fulfilling. If you’ve ever had a day where your core values have been violated, you can probably relate to the experience of having lower energy, feeling discouraged. So the practice here is to get clear on what your core values are, then take action to honor them.

Getting clear on your core values isn’t as difficult as you may think. One way to go about this is to review a core values list and go through a process of identifying your top 5-6 core values from the list. Here’s my recommended process for selecting core values from a values list:

  • First, silence the noise in your head. Silence the “shoulds”.
  • Close your eyes. Shift your attention away from your mind to your heart.
  • Place your hand over your heart, and breathe through your heart area.
  • Take some time here to silence your mind, and breathe for 2-3 minutes or so, in and out through your heart area.
  • Then, read through the core values list you can find here:
  • Identify 5-6 core values that are most important to you, your non-negotiables.
  • Then, spend some time considering if you are honoring your core values, or if your core values are being diminished some way in your life. Questions you could journal on for a few weeks are, “How am I honoring my core values?”, “How are my core values being dishonored?”

I was working with a client over the course of last year who was having a particularly difficult time in her job. She was showing up, giving her best, and often times felt undermined by the leadership team she was working with. She has a core value of trust/respect. When this value would get trampled on, her energy level would drop and she would feel discouraged. It was turning into an almost daily experience of needing to manage spiraling down.

It got really clear to her that her value couldn’t be honored at her workplace, and that it was time to take action. She visioned what she was looking for in an employer and within two months found a new job that was aligned with her core values! Her story demonstrates the magic that can happen when we honor what brings our hearts alive and co-conspire with the Universe.

Getting clear on core values is a great first step to identifying what brings your heart alive. I think you will find that honoring your core values can make a difference in your day to day activities and your energy level.

Follow Curiosity

A second practice to help discover what brings your heart alive is to Follow Your Curiosity. To follow the nudges, the inklings, the interests that have been tugging at your heart. These are all signs that there is something that wants to bring you great joy.

Being curious is about noticing what is calling you. Rumi has a quote “Respond to every call that excites your spirit.” Consider here what is calling you, what is it that excites you? What sounds interesting? What do you want to explore? Think, what sounds so interesting that you could get lost in it?

Some starters to get you going: play a musical instrument, sing in a choir, work with animals, meditate, write, practice yoga, exercise, paint, knit, volunteer, play a sport, spend time in nature, commit to a prayer practice, take up photography, develop a side business, sit with a cup of coffee, commit to a dream you want to explore, enjoy gardening, cook, eat green, be a stand-up comedian.

I have one friend who has a health challenge and has discovered the practice of functional medicine as a way to heal herself. She has found it so interesting that she has decided to go through a training program on functional medicine. One client has a love for dogs. She has two outside dogs and just added a puppy to the mix. She plans on having the puppy be a service dog so she can share it with elders in a nursing home. Another client has gone through a tough year trying to discern right action for her career. As a young girl, she would ride horses, and remembered the feeling of confidence riding a horse would give her. She got back on a horse, and is practicing riding! She is filled with greater confidence and inner peace after her rides.

It starts with paying attention to that nudge in your heart, that inkling to check something out – and it turns into a practice that brings your heart alive, giving you great joy and happiness, and who knows where it could go!

Ask the Universe

This practice may be one of my favorites. I believe that we can ask the Universe or God questions, then listen to the guidance and wisdom that is meant for us. In this post, I’ll give tips and practices for asking the questions. The next post will be about how you can listen and tune into the nudges and guidance meant for you.

We are always asking questions. Questions like, “Why is this happening? What should I do? Why are they treating me that way? What should I make for dinner? Should I get a new job? Should I write a book?” Tune in for a moment and see what questions you are currently asking. What questions are running through your stream of consciousness? You may be surprised at how many questions you are asking.

This practice is about being deliberate about the questions you are asking, and ask them to God with the intent that you will receive some guidance on the answers. My suggestion is that you ask these powerful questions whenever you can. You may ask your questions in prayer or meditation, or when you are in the shower, driving to work, making dinner. Ask the questions out loud with an open heart and the intent that an answer will find a way back to you. Just ask the question, and let it go, don’t expect to get an immediate answer. You might say “thank you Universe for giving me an answer in a way I can understand.” Here’s a sample of questions you may want to ask to discover what will bring your heart alive:

  • What will bring me greater joy and happiness?
  • What will light me up?
  • What can I fall in love with in a greater way?
  • What will I never tire from, or will never tire me?
  • What are my God given strengths and gifts? How can they be used?
  • What can I love so much that I lose track of time?
  • What’s a dream where I can be up to something bigger?
  • How can I be of service in a greater way?
  • How has my story prepared me to share and give?
  • How can I have more fun and adventure?

Go ahead, start asking these questions to the Universe out loud and start to believe that your questions will be answered with insight, inspiration, and guidance. You may not get your answers right away, that’s ok. Again, the next post will be all about listening and how to listen for the answers.

That’s it! Three practices for discovering what brings your heart alive, discovering “What’s Next…” for you. From here, we will cover:

Post 2: Listening – How to tune in and listen to that heart wisdom and Universal nudges.

Post 3: Shine and Surrender – We’ll explore taking bold actions from an inside out approach, no pushing and striving.

Post 4: Be Gentle & Repeat – We’ll talk about developing a practice of being really gentle with yourself. We’ll explore having dreams and aspirations without pushing and striving. We’ll also look at dealing with obstacles, challenges, disappointments by being really gentle with yourself.

So thrilled you checked this out! Your assignment this week is to experiment with one of the three practices, or maybe all three! Begin to honor, explore, and ask for what it is that will bring your heart alive. If you like the picture at the top of this post for a reminder to tuck in your journal, you can print it out here:

With love,


P.S. I am offering a Dare to Dream workshop on February 16th from 9:30 to 11:30 at The Riveter in Edina, Mn. We’ll do a deeper dive into daring to dream about your life! Check out the description here:

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