"If you want to know God, burn your ego in the fire of love.” -Mansur Mastana (Sufi poet)
The yogis, the Sufi poets, and most all of the most profound sages and spiritual teachers believed that true God-consciousness resides in the heart. Living one’s life according to the guidance of his or her heart makes for a truly wise and spiritually aware embodied soul. The belief system of the Western world has us deeply ingrained and habituated to place most all of our trust in our thoughts – to lead from our head, rather than our hearts.
For those of you who happen to be seasoned meditators, who have explored the undeniable fickleness of the human mind, you might know this head-centered awareness to be less than reliable. For the mind is made to be lost in present memories or future fantasies. Thoughts arise and they fall, like the waves in the ocean. Heart intelligence, however, rests within the still, deep waters of the ocean floor. It’s where the steady, stable truth lies. (Learn more about calming the waves of your mind here.) Our hearts are full of love, in their core. While they often become muddied by the perils of human existence, their essence is one of satya (truth) and bhava samadhi (a state of trance, ecstasy and devotion).
Our hearts are the gateways for accessing higher levels of consciousness. They are doorways into secret powers and capabilities not available to the mind. When we awaken our hearts and live from this state of heart-centered awareness, we live our lives from a place of unconditional love. On the spiritual path, we’re trying to be more in love – with everything, with all people, all beings, the entire play of sacred energy. We realize that our lives are universities teaching us, through all our many lessons and all the people we meet – what it means to live from love. If we can align our life with the intelligence of the heart, we mature spiritually in ways we may never have imagined possible.
“A loving heart is the truest wisdom.” -Charles Dickens
Even Western science is beginning to understand that the heart has an intelligence that runs much deeper than the mind. Scientists from the acclaimed Heartmath Institute are leading the way in this scientific and spiritual revolution.
When we lead our lives from the heart, we become free from all the mental states that hold us back and keep us in a limited and bound state of consciousness. Worry, depression, anxiety, fear, hatred, resentment – all these thoughts, which turn into feelings, come from the mind state. They don’t exist in the heart.
Have you ever experienced even a moment of awakening where you felt truly connected to everything and everyone? The energy of your heart was flowing freely. You were experiencing a heart opening. If we can really integrate the feelings of our heart into our every waking moment, we’ll be living from our souls, because expressions that come from the heart are expressions that come from our souls.
Through yoga we can cultivate our heart’s awakening through various practices and teachings. Certain yoga asanas help to open the heart center. All backbends help to do this. Try practicing a heart-opening posture like upward-facing dog pose, camel pose, bridge pose, bow pose or wheel pose.
Then there are a variety of guided meditations that help quiet the mind and bring our awareness to our hearts. There are even specific mudras – like lotus mudra, Ganesha mudra and anjali mudra – that work to get energy flowing to and through the heart chakra. (Learn about more mudras for your yoga practice here.) Various pranayamas also help us drop from head consciousness to heart consciousness.
When sitting in meditation, close your eyes, get comfortable and begin to focus only on the breath. Allow tension to melt from your body. Get very still and imagine that every inhalation and exhalation is flowing horizontally into and out of your heart center. You may wish to repeat a heart-opening mantra as you do this. For example, “I am love” or “I give love freely and without conditions.”
You can even take some time each day to simply give your heart some attention. As you sit or walk, simply rest each of your hands over your heart and breathe deeply. Talk to your heart. Treat it as if it were your best friend. Say to your heart, “I love you. Thank you for always being there for me.” If you need advice, ask your heart questions. See what answers come up, as you may be pleasantly surprised. The more attention you give your heart on a daily basis, the more your heart’s intelligence will start becoming more present in your life. So shower your heart with love and attention, in whatever way makes sense for you. Have fun. Get creative, and begin to see the love and light that only your heart knows.