In Heart Meditation the Life of the Spirit is open to all. The Wisdom traditions teach us the true temple is the deep center of the Heart. Our true spirit, lies within, animated by the Life of the Divine. This is the Secret Garden, inviolable and whole. At the center of the Garden lies the Radiant Light of the Divine Presence. In cultivating Holy Breath and Longing we center in the Heart and there the seeking soul may enter and find healing, rest, and home.
"I looked for God in
all the temples and mosques of the world and I found God in my own Heart.
Mevlana Rumi- 13th cent. Sufi mystic of Turkey.
The River that flows in you flows in me. -Kabir
Yoga- Union and Connection
am going to use the word yoga now
because it is a word that is well known in Western culture despite its Sanskrit
roots in Hindu culture. It is commonly associated in the West with the practice and
discipline of postural (asana) yoga
as a physical discipline. However, the term yoga means union or joining. The English word yoke as a
noun or a verb is a derivative of yoga and refers to this same process of joining together or union. In the
Hindu tradition, yoga refers to the multiple pathways by which we actualize and
make conscious the union of human with Divine consciousness within the soul. In
the Hindu tradition there are many disciplines of yoga that make virtually all
human activity a potential form of yoga or union with the Divine, and all
authentic yoga is a form or dimension of the Yoga of the Heart or spiritual
center. In yoga as spiritual practice, human friendship, conjugal love
(tantra), compassionate service and care-giving (karma), devotional love (bhakti), and meditational heart presence
(raja), everything in our life, becomes a practice of yoga or union
with the Divine Beloved, when we center in the heart. All human life,
everything we do, can become a pathway to the heart or a dimension of Yoga of
Spirituality is connection, communion, joining our human awareness with
Divine Awareness, joining our human soul with Divine Soul, and realizing we
were never separate. Spirituality is yoga, heart yoga in all things, and
bringing all of our human life into alignment and connection with Divine Life.
The human soul hungers most deeply, not for religion, but for the conscious
experience of Divine union and connection. For us this is coming Home, and
there finding who we are, our true identity and belonging, in our union with
the Divine and all beings. For some, religion can assist in conducting a
conscious spiritual life. For too many, religion is an obstruction to, or
diversion from, authentic spiritual life.
As I Walk with Beauty
As I walk, as I walk
The universe is walking with me
In beauty it walks before me
In beauty it walks behind me
In beauty it walks below me
In beauty it walks above me
Beauty is on every side
As I walk, I walk with Beauty. -Navajo Prayer
To walk in beauty is to walk in Heart Presence. Heart
Presence is not just being mentally awake. Heart Presence is consciously
dwelling in pure Being or Presence, one way of understanding what Being is. The
process of soul healing is the healing of our human presence into Universal
Presence. We participate in that process through the practice of Heart Yoga, In
Centering in the Heart in formal meditation we encounter and experience Heart
Presence in stillness and quiet sitting. In Heart Yoga we bring that same
quality of being, the same practice of Centering in the Heart into all of life,
into all relationships, into all activity and service.
centering in the heart or heart presence in daily life our reference point and
home is the heart. We recognize this interior space and sanctuary as the space
where we experience interior peace, and our capacity to love deeply and fully,
love as self-offering. We experience this space close to the location of the
anatomical heart in the center of the chest and sternum. We can breathe from
and into this space and our breath can help guide our conscious awareness to
that space and anchor our abiding there. If we have a chosen mantra or sacred
word aligned with our breath, it can also help us anchor our conscious
awareness there. Sufism calls this muqtaba
of putting the mind into the heart. Likewise Eastern Christian mystics call
this hesychasm or the interior
quiet of putting the mind (conscious awareness) into the heart.
The Ear of the Heart and Moral Discernment
“Immersing our self into the heart we allow the energy of
love to slow down the mind and its many thoughts, until we arrive at a state of
empty receptivity, in which we patiently wait within the heart…. In this
interior place we come to hear the words of our Beloved, experience divine
presence, or merge deeper into the silence that belongs to love. … Listening
within the heart is attuning ourself to our Beloved. We develop the ear of the
Heart, the inner listening of the soul.” (Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, Prayer of
the Heart in Christian and Sufi Mysticism)
Hence in Heart Presence we walk in Beauty Itself, we walk in Love
Itself, and with the ear of the heart open, we listen to what is in harmony
with the Beloved and what is not. In this way we align our path, our actions
with Love’s way, and experience deeply the sorrow that comes from not doing so.
This interior listening is the source of all ethical, moral choice and
behavior. This is what it means to walk in Beauty in Heart Presence. Sorrow itself can be what the mystics
call the “gift of tears.” To feel
personally and deeply when harm comes to beings, arises from unitive love,
being one with Oneness Itself, the One Life that animates us all. From this
comes forth all just and compassionate discernment and action, all moral
commitment. Morality is no longer a rule or an ideal, but a felt Presence.
Heart Presence and Soul Healing
this Oneness comes the healing of our existential alienation and aloneness. We
experience that we are never alone, always in communion with the One who loved
us into existence and sustains our life and spirit. We are always Home and
never a stranger or estranged. In this state the craving for substitutes and
diversions that arise from spiritual alienation falls away, and the heart is
our true Home, the Beloved our true dwelling place and security. Our journey is
one of always coming home again and again throughout our life, no matter how
far we may wander or be distracted or diverted. The Practice of Heart Yoga
brings us Home. We come to experience that our heart’s desire finds completion
within and that ultimately we are more the sought than seeker, the one whom
Love seeks and finds. “In the silent niche of the heart the lover experiences
the truth that there is only one prayer that underlies all creation-the prayer
in which the Beloved is present, not as a personal God or Creator, but as
something both inexpressible and intimate In this innermost recognition of the
heart the lover recognizes the Beloved as something inseparable from oneself. …
only the Beloved exists.” (Vaughn-Lee, Prayer of the Heart…..)
Healing the Eye of the Heart
our healing of soul we heal and open the ear of the heart. And we also heal the
eye and vision of the heart to behold the Original Light. In our intimacy with the Beloved we
come to behold the Beloved in all things, in all life. In the words of the 9th
century Celtic mystic, John Scotus Eriugena, we “recover the true beholding of
the Light with our inner eyes” of the heart. (Newell, Listening to the Heartbeat of God ) When we are intimate with the Beloved we learn to
behold the Light of the Beloved within the entire universe in things animate
and inanimate, in all beings who share the One Life with us. In this way we are
able to consciously walk in Beauty, the Beauty of the Beloved, whose heartbeat
we hear and whose Light we behold through the inner eye and Voice we hear with
the ear of the heart.
The ancient Celt mystics said it this way:
God before me,
God beneath me,
God all around me.
God within me
From Fear and Obsession to Freedom and Interior Safety
In heart presence we continue to lay down our obsession with
past conditions and grievances, and our future expectations to simply come back
to the eternal NOW, being present in the heart, anchoring with our breathing
and our sacred word.
from the Ego-Mind and Its Motivations
motivations of the egoic mind of separateness are often fear based and designed
to control external conditions.
They are driven by the compulsions of the ego to enhance and protect our
misdirected drives for control, affection, and security. Through the practice of ceaseless heart
presence we continually open to see our hidden motivations of the mind,
truthfully, as they are, however twisted and misdirected. Through heart presence we release the
motivations and creations of the thinking mind and return to the intention of
the Heart to simply abide in our deepest loving intention. Through the continual return to
centering in heart presence, we return to loving kindness as our deepest motivation,
and experience the internal security of our true dwelling place.
Breath, and Sacred Word- Our Homing Pigeon
We may often
find our attention wandering.
Therefore we gently return in all activity, continually, to communion
with the True Being, the Beloved who welcomes the wandering soul back home.
This ceaseless desire to return home, no matter what, no matter how badly
we've "blown it,” how far we
have been misdirected, how far we've wandered, is the basic practice, and
life-long movement. The return to ceaseless heart presence is facilitated when
we find a few places in the day of external quiet when we can re-establish our
interior anchor in abiding through breath and sacred word.
In this way we
find that we are always at home in Life, in true Being, in the secret garden of
the spirit, in our own heart.
One of my Zen
teachers along the way, Willigis Jager, says it this way,
"Life, which we may call God, the Absolute, the
Reality, True Being, … permeates and expresses
Self in everything. This True Being is the heart of our
God is the Being out of which we live; God is the being
lives in us and through us. We are God's form
Many people I know experience their greatest feelings of communion and connection, of being understood and loved, in long term relationships of friendship. Indeed for many the life of the spirit may be most deeply felt with true heart friends.
In our walk through the awakened spiritual life we live the practice of Heart Presence in interior silence and in the middle of life and relationships. Our shared experience of Heart Presence occurs in friendship with other beings, whether they be human or other living beings. With our human friendships there are some where we feel a strong heart resonation that brings us a profound experience of intimacy and loving support, as though our inner radiance of Heart Presence is mingled with another. Such a relationship in the Celtic tradition is called a soul-friend, or anam cara (dear soul).
The Anam Cara Relationship
Brigid of Kildare, the druid priestess and later Christian mystic of 7th century Ireland asserted that the most vital element on the spiritual journey is one's "Anam Cara." Anam Cara actually translates as "dear soul." It means a relationship of intimacy and trust, of spiritual communion that is profound and life-sustaining. For the human being on the journey some of us may be fortunate to find for a time a human "anam cara" who companions us and we companion them, for a time on the Way, whose love, support, acceptance, and total regard for our well-being is without measure. Such a friendship is precious and those who enjoy it cherish and nurture this shared bond for all the ways it nurtures the soul and expands the heart. In this relationship we find safety and sanctuary, a safe and sacred refuge in the soul and psyche of another who receives us in love, as we are in our humanity and as we are in tenderness and exquisite sensitivity of the spirit.
The anam cara friendship draws its life from the Light that is greater that lives in and through both friends. The anam cara relationship arises from the Divine Anam Cara relationship, mutually shared with another being. Sometimes that being is an animal friend. For many humans that being might be a dog, cat, or a horse, those animal friends with whom we share our life. In later life I had a ten year relationship with a female black labrador in a mutual love and constant companionship that was nurturing and exquisite, and whose passing brought profound grief, but also gratitude for the shared journey together. In this way the love and safety of the Divine Anam Cara flows through another being to us, and through us to them in a way that validates and enlivens our spirit beyond measure. We open to be such safety and refuge to another, as well as to receive it. Such intimacy between beings brings joy and purpose to living. This friendship in where we experience love and intimacy brings us to joy and completion.
David Steindl-Rast, the Benedictine monk and contemplative writer, in his book Gratefulness- the Heart of Prayer, states that everything written or said about spirituality is about belonging. The central wound of the human condition is the loss of our experience of intimate belonging here in the incarnate universe. It may be understood that the healing of this wound is the recovery of a lived awareness of our ancient and innate belonging in the circle of Divine Life itself. This experience and awareness is one of an intimacy with the Divine that is our birthright. We are loved into existence by our Source from all eternity. We can awaken to this ancient and ever present Love and that our very life and essence partake of the Greater Life that is Love Itself through the yoga (union) of Heart Presence that joins us consciously and intentionally with our Divine Beloved and shared with our soul friends who walk with us.
The Sufi mystic, Rumi, simply called the Divine, "Friend." Jesus called his followers, male and female, “Friends” . True friendship in Heart Presence with our human and Divine Beloved is the vital way we heal the wound of separateness and find connection and communion with the Source of Life. In soul friendships we feel the safety to bring forth the fullness of Heart Presence with another, and to receive in mutuality their bestowal of the gift of unguarded and safe Heart Presence.
The Divine Beloved- Our Heart’s Anam Cara
The essence of spirituality is connection, the life of communion with all life, all beings. Hence we are never alone in our life's journey. A vital aspect of this is the trust that the Heart of the Universe is both intimately personal and oceanic in our experience of It. In its personal face we can be in a conscious and intentional relationship of friendship with the personal face of the Divine and the Divine Friend in our human or animal soul friend. The ultimate spiritual teacher and soul friend is within us and always accessible for our grounding and guidance. Mystics from all traditions throughout time have found ways to name and personify the Divine, often using human relationships as metaphor.
For many this relationship is experienced with such intensity and longing that it can only be summed up as a Divine Friend and Lover, who is our heart's desire and life's fulfillment. The Divine Anam Cara therefore is often called "Beloved" by practitioners of diverse traditions. In the transient life's journey where our human beloveds are transitory companions with human limits, the assurance and ongoing presence of the Divine Beloved is a ceaseless comfort and security. Whatever term we use in addressing our Divine Anam Cara, whatever human metaphor we use to define our relationship with the Divine, it must come from within us, in a way that represents and defines absolute safety and healing, a refuge that is beyond question for us, a refuge that is mirrored in the safety we experience with our human and creature anam caras, as we walk the difficult path of life, a refuge that is at long last ‘Home’. And just as in a human friendship, this Divine "dear soul" becomes the trusted friend and confidant of our life. When we seek for direction, when we seek for healing, when we seek for the love that never fails, our Dear Soul, the Friend, is there, by whatever name or metaphor we may choose.
We are One with Our Anam Cara.
The growth of the path of Heart Presence takes us inevitably to the insight that there is no distance between ourselves, and our Dear Soul who walks with us. They are the same footprints. Our Divine Anam Cara is living, moving, loving, healing fully present in us, both in our resistance and ignorance, and in our awakening to the life of unitive love and purpose. The true Seeker of the Heart and the One being Sought are the same. We come Home and find we have never truly left. All the while the Friend has traveled in us, living the totality of the human journey in us, whether we have known it or not. When we live our life with this awareness it is rich, and full, deep and joyful, and never easy or without challenge. “Love is the source, center, and destiny of experience.” John O’Donohue, Anam Cara
A Friendship Blessing
May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of your belonging with your