1. The cage
2. Eastern principles of healing
3. Western approaches to healing
4. God’s love for us
5. Freedom and transformation
Materials needed: Journal, roses, bowl of water, fire, drawing materials
* Living from the heart
The rose ceremony
* Cutting through spiritual materialism
Memories and visions of paradise (optional)
Exercises and practices:
Projection and shadow work
The air element and dzikr
Prajna and compassion
Principles of healing
God is Love
Trusting the web of life (Appendix C)
* You will already have these books
“Wounds are openings through which Light can come” –Atum O’Kane
There’s that stuck feeling in your chest. Perhaps your heart actually aches. Tears are just below the surface but will not flow. You feel depressed and disspirited, but there is no objective reason for it. Everything in your life is going according to plan, and you should be happy, but you are not. You feel weighed down by some kind of heavy mass sitting on your chest. This is particularly noticeable at night just before you drop off to sleep. Now, assuming you have checked to make sure you are not having a heart attack, what else could cause you to feel this way? Maybe it is an heart attack of a different sort.
You may run across this problem somewhere during the purification process. It is the result of blockage in the heart center. The life energy (prana) is not able to flow past this chakra, so it backs up and causes pain.
I experienced this first as physical pain. I was waiting in the dentist’s reception room for my children who were getting their teeth filled when a severe, cramping pain hit me squarely in the chest. I broke out into a sweat and could hardly breathe. The dentist was so frightened, he called the ambulance and they took me to the hospital where I had an EKG. They could find nothing wrong and, by this time, the pain was gone, so they sent me home. Over a period of several years, I had recurrences of these attacks. A cardiologist told me finally that I was having cramps in the vagus nerve, and he gave me some darvon which helped to cut them short. After a while, I began to notice that sudden spurts of anger could bring on the pains. Then they gradually disappeared though occasionally I will get another one.
The next time I had “heart trouble” occurred while I was at the ashram. I became aware that there was constriction in my heart center. I was angry this time too as my ego lessons were cutting close to the bone. I was doing a lot of projecting as well as accusing others of attacking me. So, on one occasion, having just returned to the ashram from another visit home and having brought along my DSM III, a psychological diagnostic manual, I sat down with it to see what kind of mental illness I was cooking up. To my surprise, I was forced to admit I was becoming paranoid. More specifically, I was projecting all my authority issues onto Swami Radha and then getting angry with her. Now, paranoia provides a nearly airtight defense against the world because no one can get into your psychological space in order to help you, so I was in real danger. And I could sense a growing impatience with me on the part of others in the ashram community. Finally I was told to “shape up or ship out.”
Suddenly everything came to a head. Swami Radha blasted me accusing me of every sin in the book. She literally blew the cage around my heart into smithereens. I was shattered and went to my room. When I recovered a modicum of composure, I wrote down everything she had said about me and went over each thing carefully admitting what was true and noting what was not true. I then wrote her a letter and told her what I had learned about myself.
About this time, I ran across a book that had colored plates of what clairvoyants are able to see in the human aura. One showed a person with a black cage of what looked like black smoke around his heart. This picture spoke directly to me as it showed exactly what I was feeling in my own heart. I recognized it then for what it was, a defense against love. After numerous “failures” in love, I had closed down my heart to protect it from further injury. In consequence, it meant that no one could get close enough to me to care for me or to allay my fears.
The result was that I sat down with my journal and made a list of everything negative I had said about everyone. It came to three or four pages. Then I drew a line down the middle of the pages and, on the other side of each item, I wrote down how I was doing that thing to myself. What this amounted to was that I took back all my projections and claimed responsibility for them. When I had finished my list, I burned it on my altar. Then I went outside in my bare feet and did a Divine Light Invocation and washed all the dirty pieces of the cage that had been shattered down into the ground.
The psychological significance of this procedure lay in the reclamation and integration of the shadow figures I had found in myself. The outcome was that taking responsibility for the problem set me free from the paranoia. Although it was extremely painful at the time, I am everlastingly grateful to Swami Radha for her surgery.
It is probable that all of us who have been hurt in relationships have developed some kind of cage around the heart to protect ourselves. The last time I closed down my heart occurred when I gave up the Yoga center in Colorado and moved back east. I have always wanted to live in the Colorado Rockies and have tried three different times to make my home there without success. So I did not want to leave on this occasion. Nevertheless, it became clear that I could no longer maintain the place by myself, so I had to let it go. This felt like a betrayal by Spirit who had led me there to start the center. This time, closing my heart propelled me into a dark night of the soul which lasted for many years.
Exercise: Projection and shadow work
Read pages 79-102 in Sufism: Transformation of the heart.
Give some serious consideration to how and what you might be projecting
onto others. Clue: the next time you get into an argument or embroiled
in conflict or get irritated by someone, notice what you accuse the other
person of and look for that in yourself. You might want to journal
the process over time to try to reclaim your projections. Use the
Divine Light Invocation to cleanse yourself when necessary.
When I was ready to emerge from the cave of my dark night, I sought out the Sufis because I knew they specialized in heart work. And, with their help, my heart slowly opened once again.
Meanwhile, I made some other interesting connections. The wounded heart can become a warrior heart if its wounds cause it to become tenderhearted towards others. And the heart has marvelous recuperative powers. It can not only heal itself, it can change pain from other parts of the body and mind into love. This is called transmutation. We have already worked a bit with that.
Self-examination helps enormously to speed up the process if we are willing to look objectively and compassionately at ourselves and the ways in which we fool ourselves in the service of self-protection. This is why purification and remembrance are such valuable practices. It is of paramount importance that we keep in mind that, while this process is going on, we need to take care of our self-image and self-esteem. The Great Eastern Sun teachings are invaluable in this regard.
One thing that must be addressed because it is critical to success is our trust issues. You may remember Erikson saying that the first psychological crisis in identity formation is that of trust vs mistrust. Also that he said resolution on the side of trust is essential to continuing normal psycho-social development. Given the background of conditioning in our society, nearly everyone will have trust issues and feelings of abandonment that go back to infancy. These issues are notoriously difficult to address because they are not coded in words but directly into the cellular tissues. Consequently, it may take some intensive bodywork to access and correct them. A good massage therapist often can help to release and process them. Hakomi therapy is especially designed to do this work.
Troublesome emotions can be brought up to the heart center for transmutation as can pain in the body, mind and spirit. It is as if a steady flame of love burns in the heart chakra that can do the alchemical chores of purification. So keep that practice [cf. Unit IV for directions] handy for emergencies.
Exercises and practice: The air element and dzikr
1. Keep working with the practices from chapter 14 in Living from the heart. Bair says that working with the air element does three things. It: 1) makes the heart more sensitive, 2) makes it more able to express itself, and 3) expands the heart making more room in it to grow and expand.
2. At some point, when you have the practice fairly well mastered, begin to whisper “Hu” on the exhalation. Hu means “the Divine Presence.” Work fairly extensively with just Hu at first as it has the power to bring you into the presence of the Beloved in your own heart. You will notice that Hu fits nicely with the air element breathing practices.
3. When you are ready, you can carry this a step further, by repeating: Ishq Allah Hu. Ishq means the longing that unfolds creation, and Allah is the Beloved. So Ishq Allah Hu would mean “I am longing for the Divine presence of the Beloved.”
Do this dzikr with the following movements: 1) on Ishq: circle
your head from left to chest to right and up. 2) Bow head to
heart on Allah, and 3) lift the head back up on Hu.
Synchronize with your breathing.
Another way of working with the closed heart is to sacrifice our woundedness and/or pain. You probably never thought of pain as an offering to God. However, if you think of the Beloved trapped in your heart seeking your love and yearning to get out into the world, you may be able to rouse a bit of compassion for It. For the pain of a closed heart is not just your pain but is shared by the creator of all that is. It may, in fact, be Its pain. Think of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane immediately before his crucifixion. He knew what was coming and was terrified. So he prayed “Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me; nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). This image could move you to tears of compassion if you also have trouble with surrender.
A closed heart cannot participate in the flow of love energy within which we all are merged because of the blockage by fear and perhaps anger as well. In the passage above, Jesus is surrendering his ego to divine will even though he knows that excruciating pain is going to follow. Christians see this act as the sacrifice of Jesus’ life, but I think it is more than that. It is sacrifice of everything that keeps us separated from the love of the Divine One. When the ego bows in surrender, the heart must open. Not my will, but Thine be done. If the heart is opened, then Spirit can come forth into the world and do Its work.
Practice: Sacrifice ritual
1. Prepare a ritual to follow for sacrifice of your heart blockage. The ritual might follow a pattern similar to this:
a. Invocation – invite the Beloved to come be with
you – the Divine Light Invocation is good for this
b. Praise or thanksgiving – indicate gratitude for gifts given you
c. Reading – passage from some Scripture that fits your need
d. Bless some water and/or food – water for cleansing, food for offering.
e. Prayers as needed – this can be a cleansing part of your ritual. Use the water you have blessed and a confession if it seems necessary. This would be the place to work with ego on surrender and humility.
f. Offering – this is the point of sacrifice. Offer your pain, your closed heart, your fears, your anger, your life, your love, etc. whatever fits your need. You are suffering for the Beloved. Or you can think of it as helping to bear some of the Beloved’s suffering. For, make no mistake, the Beloved suffers intensely from all the separations in the world.
g. Feed yourself with the small bit of food or with Light – this is symbolic of the Beloved’s gracious response to your petitions and can be celebratory
h. Meditate – take enough time for the sacrifice to settle into your psyche
i. Closing prayers – express your gratitude and ask for help if needed
j. Say good-bye – this can be Amen, So be it, So let it be, Peace, Hari Om Tat Sat or whatever closes the ritual for you.
This is a fairly complex ritual, but it gives you a framework for any ritual. One way to think of it is as inviting a very special, beloved friend to your dwelling place to be with you. What stages would you go through to prepare, greet and share with your guest? Feel free to take what is relevant from the ritual outline and adapt it to your own special needs. You can insert music, chanting, drums, mantra, dance, etc. wherever they fit if you wish. Drumming is often used for invocation, song for praise, mantra for meditation, dance for offering or celebration.
2. The Rose Ceremony
This ritual is intended as an offering to Divine Mother, but can also be adapted to your own needs. Secure a copy of The Rose Ceremony by Swami Sivananda Radha either from Timeless Books or from any bookstore. I believe Amazon.com has it. Follow the instructions. You might want to invite some friends or fellow aspirants to join you. If you are alone, you may want to tape some music or mantra to accompany you. Of course, be careful with the fire especially if you are indoors.
Remember that the appropriate attitudes are gratitude, humility, sincerity, dedication to an ideal and commitment. Each rose petal represents a duality.
Eastern Principles of Healing
All sacred traditions offer rules for living and for contacting the Divine One. Usually we begin with purification of our own lives, then we make a connection with the Divine, then gradually return to the world with the gifts we have received. This process is healing because it overcomes the separations created by the ego and social conditioning.
In the Anahata chakra, we aim to heal our separation from the Beloved and to mend hearts that have been broken by our life experiences.
Brahmacharya. There are two yamas that fit this chakra: continence and truthfulness. Continence is symbolized by a vow of celibacy called brahmacharya. We have already looked at celibacy, but brahmacharya includes more than just governing sexual impulses. This pledge is a continuation of the work we have been doing to refine the senses as well. You will remember that all of the physical senses have a counterpart at higher levels of consciousness and that those extensions provide valuable insights and means to the spiritual journey.
Brahmacharya also means moderation as we discussed before. This has a deeper meaning if taken in the context of duality issues. You will remember that any duality is separation from the Reality that in its essence is wholly [holy] One. Yet we must live our lives on a physical level that depends upon dualities in order to function beginning at the most elementary levels of waves and particles and extending to the separation of our souls from God. We cannot avoid this issue as long as we live in bodies. But we can strive to overcome the effects of opposition by working toward moderation in all things. If you think of your dualities on a continuum, say of pleasant vs unpleasant, the effort would be to avoid getting attached to either end of the spectrum.
Buddhists say that the stage of grasping on the wheel of life is the easiest place to break out of the cycle of origination [reincarnation] because we can curtail our tendencies to hold on or to control things, events and others in our lives. So, for example, you have a few cookies after dinner but you don’t eat the whole box. You discipline your children gently rather than beating them or providing no guidance at all. In conflict, you negotiate and compromise rather than either insisting on having your own way or giving in completely or withdrawing. You stay in the world while, at the same time, you worship the Beloved in your heart. You don’t live in a cave nor do you give up the journey. You seek to understand both sides of the story instead of fanatically insisting on your own righteousness.
Please think about this.
Abstain from sexual intercourse for two weeks to a month and journal your reactions and those of your partner. Be sure you communicate your intention and motivation beforehand, so you do not create a problem of hurt feelings and misunderstanding.
If you are already celibate from lack of opportunity, physical dysfunction
or lack of an appropriate relationship, use this practice to examine your
thoughts and ruminations about sexuality. You might want to keep
a running diary of the times you think of sex and what kind of thoughts
they are. Or you might want to document all of the social stimuli
to sexual thinking and activity that you encounter such as advertising
and gossip. You might also want to consider making a vow of celibacy
for spiritual reasons, i.e., to use the energy for your spiritual journey.
You might be surprised at how much energy is being consumed in trying to
attract a partner.
Truthfulness means telling the truth obviously. But it also means looking after your personal integrity. And that means living up to your ideals and values as well as your own personal standards of what is right and wrong. It also means creating openness and awareness in your life. This is the positive side of the continuum. Truthfulness also means non-injury, non-cheating, and non-lying.
Look at the notion of satyagraha. We are all familiar with Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s crusades. Theirs was a commitment to living truth without doing violence to others. Truth not only means honesty in telling it like it is, but being loyal to commitment. It would include being who you really are as you go about your daily life, such as giving up the persona or social masks you might be wearing. Hiding behind a social mask denies your soul as well as your divine identity. Any kind of subterfuge, deception or manipulation is not truth. Living a truthful life would mean being loyal to your friends. Among other things, it would make gossip off limits.
See how many days you can go without telling or living an untruth. Document this in your journal every evening at bedtime. Whenever you goof, you must begin your counting at the beginning again. What we are after is a continuous practice of truthfulness. If you journal this consistently, eventually you will be able to see your progress. I think everyone is astounded by the untruthfulness they discover in their lives, so take heart in the realization that it may take some time to make a dent in long-term habits.
When you find yourself in the bind of having to choose between the truth
and hurting someone’s feelings, you can refuse to answer or redirect the
conversation. No one has the right to force you to an untruth.
After a while, you will be able to see these dilemmas approaching and be
prepared to sidestep the conflict. Think of aikido, step aside and
let it go by under its own steam.
The niyama that fits here is purity. Whereas the yamas deal with things to avoid, the niyamas are things to observe. Purity means cleanliness of body, mind, speech and spirit. This is not only in the physical sense, though that is included, but also on energetic, subtle and causal levels. Purity means working toward removal of the veils that hide our true identity, so that the Light can shine forth. It means clarity in the way we think about our lives and positions in the world. It means clarity in our motivations, so that we want the right things in life, and we are moved to act against all the negativities in our surroundings. We speak the truth and refrain from speech that can hurt others. We are able to keep silence and enjoy solitude. We see ourselves honestly: our faults and our gifts, what we need to work on and what we are ready to celebrate as progress is made.
Take a few hours and do an assessment of your purity status. What
social, emotional, psychological and mental dirt needs to be removed?
Swami Radha used to say that the spiritual journey is like opening a stuffed
and long-closed closet and turning on the light as all the junk comes tumbling
out. What do you need to get rid of and what can be kept? What
is hiding your light from the world? Do this assessment on paper,
so you have something to refer to later on. After you do the inquiry,
select one or two things you want to focus attention on and make a commitment
to work on them for a specific period of time. Follow up weekly to
see how you are doing.
Right Effort. Of the eight-fold path, probably right effort is the one most appropriate for the Anahata chakra. It refers to the maintenance of open space, providing natural openness. We would be present fully with delight in the moment and able to see situations precisely as they are. We let go of the past and forego the future. This is not to say we do not plan ahead nor that we pleasure ourselves all the time without any sense of responsibility for the consequences. But it does mean that we do not worry excessively about what might happen tomorrow. If a conflict portends, we decide what to do about it, then release the attachment to trying to control it. It also means we do not wallow in the past blaming others for the condition of our lives. We do what we can to understand and reframe past experience and traumas, then we move ahead to the task in front of us.
Right effort means we see our lives as sacred and worthy of respect from others no matter what our tasks in life might be. We hold ourselves upright in our own human dignity and stand our ground with respect to our values and ideals. We are truthful in dealings with others and honest in our business ventures. We find a sense of direction for our lives and follow it with open minds and hearts.
Mindfulness is allied with right effort. Its focus is on the present moment. Someone once said that the moment we are standing in is a gift, that’s why it’s called the “present.” Now is the only time we have. Now is the time to act, to do, to be. Mindfulness practice is a discipline for the mind. Focusing attention on what the present moment is offering to us erases the stream of discursive consciousness that wants to run its own course. In addition, such direct concentration improves the quality of whatever it is that we are doing. Mindfulness provides the context for direct perception, the ability to see things as they really are and to see ourselves vanish as separate entities.
Select one day a week and practice mindfulness all day. This simply means giving your full attention to whatever you are doing and doing only one thing at a time. If you are interrupted, you shift your attention to the interruptee and give them your full attention. Then you return to your task. This is going to give you some serious challenges even though it sounds pretty simple because when you are concentrating on something, there is a tendency to become irritable when you are interrupted. So you may get to look at any obsessive-compulsive tendencies you might have. Or you may find that you do not know how to concentrate. That knowledge would suggest some new arenas you might want to examine. Becoming able to move smoothly from one task to another even when the break in concentration is abrupt is a sign of progress.
Mindfulness requires us to be centered and grounded, so if you have
trouble with this exercise, you might want to refer back to some of the
exercises given to help develop those attributes. Think of life as
a dance. You are following, not leading this time. That requires
flexibility and balance.
Maitri is another name for loving kindness. It comes out of the gentleness and tender heartedness of the true warrior. Because we have suffered, we can meet the other in that uncomfortable place and give them the love and support they need to see them through the difficulty. Maitri deflates violence and aggression. It asks nothing for itself but is willing to take on the pain of others and transmute it into light-filled energy. It seeks a blessing, not only for itself and loved ones, but also for the enemies who try to destroy others and the world. In substance, it is the same calling to love our neighbors and do good to those who hurt us that was given us by Jesus. Maitri looks for no reward nor feedback of any kind. It just is itself . . . loving kindness.
1. Make a “right effort” to do at least one kind act for another person or animal every day. But don’t pass up any other opportunites that may also come along.
2. Practice the Metta Sutra whenever
you do your meditation or devotions.
Compassion is a companion to maitri. The word means “feeling with” or to “suffer with.” So it is closer in meaning to empathy even though it has a kindness connotation. When I feel compassion for someone, there is a quality of sadness and tears about it. There is an urge to connect and to comfort the other. But there is also restraint until I find out whether the person wants to be touched and/or comforted. Sometimes, a person’s suffering is a deep teaching for them and should not be invaded by someone who wants to “help.” In such cases, compassion waits as a supporting, listening presence that is sending out love and kindness. Tong len is a good practice for these kinds of circumstances. Trungpa (1973) says, compassion is “. . clarity which contains fundamental warmth” (p. 97), and that it comes out of basic trust in ourselves. It contains fundamental fearlessness and is marked by generosity and excludes no one.
Compassion has “passion” in it, and this is no accident because the feeling is very strong and directed. It may be that the action required is direct, truthful feedback that the other person does not want to receive. So, in such cases, it is critical that we make sure it is correct and not our stuff before we let it go. Prayer before action would be a good plan. You would never give negative feedback to anyone unless you care for them deeply. Otherwise it would most likely consist of and be felt as an attack. Hence, since most of us are not terribly clear about ourselves and the sources of our motivations, it is probably wisest not to give negative feedback unless we are precisely asked for it.
Prajna is a companion to compassion and Trungpa (1973) links them together. Prajna is the clarity aspect we have been discussing. It is “. . a very clear, precise and intelligent state of being. It has a sharp quality, the ability to penetrate and reveal situations” (p. 208). Together prajna and compassion create open space and open mindedness that give a panoramic view of life as a whole. In that environment, we can engage in skillful means, a practice which deals with situations just as they are without any obscurations. When you can manifest compassion and prajna, you can just “be” and let life “flow around and through you” (p. 213).
Exercise: Prajna and Compassion
1. Read pages 167-184 and 207-215 in Cutting through spiritual materialism. Make a list of the characteristics of compassion and another of prajna. Then take the ideas into meditation with you and set them up in the back of your mind. Then, leaving them there, sit for meditation. When you are finished, make some notes about what happened.
2. Make a collage of compassion and prajna and keep it in your prayer space for a while.
Western Approaches to Healing
A principle is a fundamental law or truth upon which others may be based. Or it may be seen as a rule of conduct. An attitude is a position one takes or a disposition of mind, state of feeling about something. A principle is external, an attitude internal. An attitude is composed of both thoughts and feelings whereas a principle is more abstract and inhabits the cognitive realm. We will look at examples of each in this unit.
Love, touch and support systems. Angeles Arrien (1993) has given us a set of principles for healing. The presence of these in your life will support your health and sense of well-being. Of these, love, touch and support systems are especially relevant to the heart center. Arrien reminds us that love is the most powerful healing force we have available to us. She says that indigenous people believe that the heart is a bridge between Mother Earth and Father sky. This reminds us of the rainbow bridge and the axis mundi.
According to Arrien (1993), the four-chambered heart should be: full, open, clear and strong. When it is not full, it is half-hearted and expresses an unwillingness to do something when we do not want to. When it is not open, it is closed, defensive and resistant as protection against wounding. When it is not clear, we doubt and/or are ambivalent and indifferent. When it is not strong, we lack the courage to be authentic. Healing the injured heart involves the principle of reciprocity. This means there is a balance between giving and receiving plus the ability to connect with others. Arrien (1993) devotes a whole chapter to the way of the healer, and I recommend the book, The four-fold way, to you. Arrien has studied indigenous cultures in different parts of the world, and she is bringing us the wisdom from them.
Faith and belief in the supernatural. Another of Arrien's healing principles is the presence of faith and belief in the supernatural. This means we go beyond the concepts and hierarchies of modern western thought into a realm that is not so easy to control. I think the issues of belief and faith emerge frequently because our society is so dedicated to rational thought and scientific methodology. Belief and faith require us to take a leap into the unknown and give trust to something we cannot apprehend with our senses. That goes against our educational training and socialization while natives in other cultures may be perfectly comfortable in the sacred realms and be able to equate their daily lives directly to divine supervision. Still, these concepts are necessary to fill the gap between where we begin our search for the Divine One and the time we come to know It through our own direct experience.
This is reminiscent of Bridges’ (1990) model of transition.
We leave the familiar territory and venture into the no-mans-land/desert
of the unknown in order to travel to another inhabited land where we are,
at first, strangers unsure of our welcome. The desert is a place,
in this metaphor, of potential danger and destruction; so special rites
are performed before the traveler leaves home to protect him on this journey.
Belief and faith are the protections we can carry with us into the feared
unknown. The only alternatives use some sort of control. We
can choose, of course, but it seems to me that trust which is allied to
belief and faith will have a more productive outcome. And its practice
is good preparation for the life ahead.
Exercise: Principles of healing
1. Give a little time to reviewing your support system. Who gives you love? Who touches you? How would you rate yourself on a scale of one to ten on the love you have access to? What could you do to change that, assuming you want to?
Make and color a drawing of your support system. When complete, consider what the colors mean about your responses to love. Try not to think about color when you are drawing, of course, as that would spoil the spontaneity.
2. Write a short paper on your position with regard to faith and
belief in the supernatural. Are you happy with your stance on these
issues? If not, what do you intend to do about it? If so, are
you open to change and renewal?
How we think and feel about something largely governs how we respond to it. So, if we want to know why someone does something, we need to know what they think is going on. Then we would want to know someting about their motivation, what they want from it or how they feel about it. Take for example your attitude toward going to church every Sunday. You may have an instantaneous reaction to that question. If so, jot it down then reflect for a moment about what is behind that reaction. First of all, what do you feel about it? Then ask yourself what you think about it. Maybe write both of those sets of answers down on paper, so they don’t get away from you. Then ask yourself, do my feelings depend upon what I think about going to church every Sunday? Chances are you will find a relationship. If so, which came first in your life?
Because attitudes are learned, they are open to study. More often than not, learning is tied to the consequences of your behavior such as reward and punishment. To test this out, ask whether your attitude toward church attendence reflects your actual experience with church-going. Was it pleasant or unpleasant or mixed? Attitudes can also be formed through observation of important others in your life. Who was it that influenced your attitude toward church going? Was that influence conveyed by example or by reinforcement? You get the drift.
Some attitudes that contribute to the healing of a closed heart are: openmindedness, willingness to change, humility, receptivity, gentleness, ahimsa, awakeness, commitment, persistence, gratitude, awe, wonder and faith. You can add your own, of course. If your attitude toward the world is basically defensive, you are likely to have closed down your heart. If, on the other hand, you have a generous gift of trustfulness, your heart is likely to be open and expansive.
Exercise: Healing attitudes (do all three)
1. Select an issue or problem that causes your heart to seize up or close down. Write a paragraph describing it: what initiates it, when it occurs, who else is involved, how you react to it, what is the usual outcome. What do you think about the issue? What do you feel about it?
2. Lie down on the floor, covered if it is chilly, and place your hands over your heart. Do a little relaxation routine until you are snuggy and comfortable. Then begin to tone. This means just make sounds. Do not make any judgments about these sounds, or even attend to them if you are inclined to judge them. You may want to start with a few sighs or groans. Then take deep breaths and sound out the exhalations. Experiment with pitch, rate, volume, and voice quality. When you are comfortable with the toning, bring your attention to your heart center and ask it how it feels. Allow it to answer with sounds you make for it. You might be able to get a dialogue going with your heart – both parties toning. When you feel finished, lie still for a few minutes before getting up to let things settle down. Then make some notes in your journal about your experience and the condition of your heart now.
3. Now go back to your paper and see if anything has changed in your attitude. If there are changes, write them in over what you had before. If you have significant changes, you might suspect that opening your heart is capable of changing your attitude(s).
God’s Love for Us
Jesus’ primary contribution to the world’s religious traditions was to teach us that God is Love. Now, that particular phrase is so dog-eared it might be a good idea to re-phrase it. We can see it as an identity statement: God is love. Or we can see it as meaning God is loving. Please substitute the name of your deity or higher power where I am using the word “god” in what follows.
The first interpretation says that the nature of God is love energy. Love is God. God is synonymous with love. Love is what God is. And, if that is what God is, then it is also what we are since we are cells in the body of God. This fits with the idea that we are floating in an ocean of never-ending love. Love is the basic energy of the whole creation as far as we can comprehend it. Therefore, we should be able to draw on its power whenever we need to.
The second interpretation is that God loves us. The implication of that is that we can trust God, and we can be nurtured by God’s love for us. We are protected and sheltered in the great heart of God. It would follow, then, that God would experience with us all the pains and pitfalls involved in any love relationship. In fact, God would be more vulnerable since God has more to lose in cases of betrayal or abandonment.
You may have noticed that these two interpretations are parallel with the two basic paths to enlightenment: identity and relationship. We either are God or we are in relationship with God. Actually we can have it both ways depending upon how we focus our attention. The two interpretations are not mutually exclusive.
One of the implications of these attitudes is that if I am God or if I am in relationship with God I must care about myself and love myself because God does. To not care for or love myself would deny God’s love for me. To think of this another way, visualize God seated in your heart center. S/he loves you and wishes to be loved in return. Now you may have difficulty with either side of this equation. You may have trouble believing in and accepting God’s love, or you may have trouble loving God.
If you have trouble believing that God loves you, it may be due to low self-esteem: who am I that God would love me? Answer: You are God, so it is a matter of self-love. If you don’t much care for yourself, you will probably deny that God loves you as well. That justifies your attitude toward yourself. And it closes the door to God preventing him/her from getting through to you with her/his love messages. It does not prevent God from loving you though, it just prevents your knowing it.
If you have trouble loving God, that may mean you have issues with authority figures. Our Sunday schools and early training pictured God as a formidable, remote figure seated on a throne and well beyond human comprehension. Furthermore, he is male, judgmental, demanding and not always merciful. Now, if we have had experience with such figures in real life, we would be less than apt to trust God. This is because we tend to project our authority issues onto God and then react to them as if they were real. The person of Jesus is one help in getting beyond this kind of problem because he is usually pictured as loving, kind and generous with his healing. Furthermore, because he was human, he is down to our level, so to speak, and can understand our problems. So he seems to be more merciful than the Old Testament God of the Jewish faith.
The Sufis offer us yet another interpretation on this same theme. For Sufis, God is the Beloved who lives in our hearts and loves us unconditionally. With this belief as a guide, we can try to enter our hearts to search for the Beloved there. There are an infinite number of names for the Divine One. If you have trouble loving God, you might want to select one that is more conducive to trust when you come searching. For instance, the feminine forms of god might be less intimidating if you are a person who has been wounded by patriarchy.
You could have a love affair with the Divine One. How about that?
Practice: God is Love
Select a time when you are going to have a few hours to yourself without interruption. Get comfortable either lying down on the floor or curled up in your favorite chair. Relax and allow yourself to enter the dreaming state of mind, not asleep but not fully awake either. You may want to use some of the exercises from Living from the heart to help you get in the right frame of mind.
Then begin to visualize your heart as a dwelling place for the Divine One. See what it looks like and what is in that space. Allow your heart to expand to contain all that is in it. Take your time and make it as beautiful and mysterious as you can. This is the setting for your love affair. When you have the space established, see yourself walk into it. Explore the place, help yourself to any food that has been provided. Find a comfortable place to sit down or sit on the floor.
Think of the Beloved. What does It look like? Picture It in your mind’s eye. Begin to wish for him/her. Let your longing grow, and sigh and fan the flames of your desire for the Beloved. Wait patiently to see if It will come forth to greet you. If and when It does, turn over the reins of the dream to It and just allow yourself to experience the bonding.
You might use this practice just before you go to sleep to enable you to spend that time in the Beloved’s arms for the night.
Freedom and Transformation
We cannot set ourselves free unless we are willing to change and to take responsibility for our lives. Transformation is a major change in not only identity but also in attitudes and locus of control. Surrender is necessary. Trust is necessary for surrender. Knowledge enables trust. Experience brings knowledge. And so, a path appears, one that leads into the heart of each and every one of us. God is not up there somewhere, the Beloved is within us and has been all this time. “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).
I think of bindu, the dot which appears in the diagram of the heart chakra, as a door to the beyond, to the presence of the Beloved. It may be a small door and hard to discover, but I believe it is there in the recesses of my heart waiting to be found.
One of the swamis at the ashram once was helping me to process a drawing I had made when she touched a raw place in me and I began to cry. She gently said, “I was only trying to set you free.” Freedom can be painful, both to achieve and to maintain because, in this context, it may mean sacrificing our most cherished preconceptions and beliefs about how things are.
Read Transformation as Process and Paradox in The Journal of Transpersonal
Psychology, 2000, 32(2), 157-164 by Tobin Hart. How is
transformation a creative act? What is the role of awareness?
How does the tension between wilfulness and willingness lead to surrender?
Why does freedom entail responsibility? How can we face our fears?
Why does Hart say the present is holy ground? What is postformal
operational thought? Are you capable of it?
May you be most deeply blessed by discovery of the Beloved in the depths
of your heart. And I wish you great courage for the journey if you
choose to undertake it.
Arrien, A. (1993). The four-fold way: Walking the paths of the warrior, teacher, healer and visionary. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
Bair, P. (1998). Living from the heart: Heart rhythm meditation for energy, clarity, peace, joy and inner power. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Bridges, W. (1990). Transitions: Making sense of life’s changes. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.
Hart, T. (2000). Transformation as process and paradox. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 32(2), 157-164.
The Holy Bible: King James or authorized version. Philadelphia: John C. Winston Co.
La Chapelle, D. (2001). Trusting the web of life. IONS noetic sciences review, 56, 18-20.
Radha, Swami S. (1997). The rose ceremony. Spokane, WA: Timeless Books.
Trungpa, C. (1973). Cutting through spiritual materialism.
We have seen how life’s challenges, our family and peers, and our culture’s socialization practices can cause deep wounding of the heart that may persist throughout a lifetime. The human animal needs to be part of a group, and, if this membership is denied, the individual may close down his or her heart and refuse to engage in further love exchanges for fear of being hurt beyond redemption. To try to remedy this malaise, we have drawn on several different sacred traditions to see what they might have to offer.
The Yogic path of Bhakti tells us that the worship of a divine being can lead to a reunion on a higher level of existence. The Sufi path says that the Beloved already lives within us, and we only need to figure out how to access It to be reunited with the source of all love. The Buddhists say we should seek to develop loving kindness and compassion in order to identify with the Great Eastern Sun that we already are. Christians remind us that God is Love, and that we are all one being living in that Love within the heart of God.
The sense of this chakra is touch, so we examined how connections are made with others, the bases of love, and how sexuality relates to love. We saw that problems in relationship can arise from passion (holding on), aggression (acting against) and ignorance (withdrawal). We looked at the role of fear in brokenheartedness. And we found some means of working with these issues.
The Satkona in the chakra diagram reminded us that the Beloved One is reaching down for us as we reach up toward It. And we delved more deeply into the relationship between the individual soul and the Divine One. This led us to examine methods of attunement which included music, mantra, chant, song, dance, drumming, dhikr, meditation, prayer and channeling.
The contemplative life is one of seclusion where the vows of obedience, chastity and renunciation are supported by others who are also commited to the search for God within. We looked at solitude, remembrance, recollection, surrender, balance and unconditional love as practices that might lead to union with God. Along with this came centeredness, groundedness, trust, humility, sacrifice and selfless service as personal goals to be developed through contemplation.
The Surya mandala led us to explore the role of Divine Light on the spiritual path. And we saw how it might be used for healing, illumination and transfiguration.
Finally, we looked at various approaches to healing the wounded and broken heart.
The constant theme throughout this chakra has been The Beloved’s love
for us. We need to remember that our love relationship with God is
reciprocal, and that the Beloved suffers with and for us because of that
perfect Love. We also found that the One we seek lives within our
own hearts, and that we must look for It there.
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