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From the Heart
I remember the moment of death, the day I turned the TV on to see planes crashing into buildings and was sure I was watching a bad movie. I remember the shock, the paralyzing numbness, the overwhelming grief, and the slow return to life, each new sunrise bringing a renewal of sense and strength. To fully return and embrace whatever was being born, however, I would have to delve deeperfor understanding, for some positive outcome, and for whatever new path was waiting to present itself. The old way wasnt going to work anymore.
As a spiritual teacher constantly attempting to expand my range and keep my edge honed, the tragic events of 9/11 provided the impetus to seek new and different solutions.I entered the sweat lodge with the mind set of a hero. I was sure that my 24-hour vision quest, sealed in the darkness of the lodge and devoted to prayer and deep introspection, would somehow contribute to making things better. My intention was to do this for the children, and for the future. I got a very different lesson than I expected, and it took many days after I came out of the lodge before the ceremony was complete.
When I finally experienced my epiphany, I felt the movement as clearly as a physical shift. Confusion often precedes clarity, and my confusion had manifested in self-absorption and projections. I was still living in the magic of my quest ceremonymy senses were heightened and my consciousness remained altered. But because I was trying to understand surrounding events through the filter of my personal journey, I had become somewhat frayed around the edges of my psyche. I was engaged in a struggle I could not win as though I were arm wrestling with myself. Only complete surrender giving up the game itselfwould achieve movement. I had reached the point at which it became clear that neither my rational mind nor my will had the resources to know what was right and true.
We were returning home to Eugene from a trip to Orcas Island when my husband turned off I-5 for a meal. I remained in the car in the parking lot, aware that a shift was coming. I knew I required stillness and quiet to manifest it. I finally gave up the struggle and allowed myself to relax, even though I didnt know what would happen. The highway noises and the people passing by became part of the inner world. Finally it became quiet. I seemed to float in the stillness without an agenda. There was nothing to do but be. Allow. Surrender.
And then it camethe shift from my will into my heart. Although Id worked weeks to get there, when I finally slipped into my heart center it was as though Id always been there. Everything was different, though nothing had changed but my perspective. Its hard to remember now, because Im not there at the moment. But if I relax, if I surrender completely, I am back, totally present, held in the soft caress of the compassionate heart, connected to everything and everyone, with respect and admiration for every living being. There is comfort in being part of the larger tribe of life rather than an isolated individual.
Since then, I have made it a large part of my practice to develop the ability to enter and sustain heart-centered presence as much as possible. The first exercise involved the recognition of the difference between the old and new paradigms. I call it the movement from Will to Heart. Ram Dass and Barbara Marx Hubbard, speaking at a recent Prophets Conference, used the language of moving from Ego to Essence. Either way, it is about the distinction between what serves us personally, and what we serve between our personal Will and Divinity.
When we are coming from Will, attention is centered in our ego, our personal identity, and our power is expressed through the third chakra. When we direct our actions from this center we tend to be passionate and creative about what we are doing, and often accomplish our goals by force of will. I was very good at this way of surviving, and always felt justified because I knew myself to be right and powerful, and politically correct. Often I could make things happen in spite of overwhelming odds, and I was convinced that my survival depended on this ability. It is hard for many of us to change this ingrained habit pattern because it requires giving up a level of control that we are sure is vital.
Moving from Mind to Heart also requires loosening our grip on our sense of certainty. I was always able to calculate with my mind as though I was playing a game of chess, looking forward as far as possible beyond the next move. I would then move forward from my will, my determination and desire strong and right, my motivations indisputably correct, and my course of action appropriate and defendable. Yet sometimes my decision-making was an exercise in rationalization. Perhaps the reasons behind my decision-making were more self-serving than I cared to admit. Reason is useful, and it provides a stable base for making appropriate choices; however if we could allow an opportunity for pure inspiration, we might discover something new and unexpected that we could not find through reason alone.
We are all familiar with reactions based on emotions such as anger and/or fear. Such actions inevitably create more problems than solutions, and keep us out of our center, out of our hearts.
So how do we make the transition from Will or Mind to Heart? My experience of surrender instigated a spontaneous leap into heart- centered awareness. Although powerful and transformative in nature, that initial revelation was only the beginning of a deeper exploration of the movement from Will to Heart. The inevitable tests that followed forced me to consider the tools I already had that I had not been using, such as the totemic relationships Id developed in my work with animal meditations and other empowerments, rituals, and techniques. Regardless of how you get there, sustaining the level of presence required to keep you in your heart requires vigilance and attention.
I had little time to get comfortable in this new space on my spiritual path before I discovered that Id veered off and lost my way. It was a journey with Giraffe (see Power Animal Meditations, Pg. 235, or newsletter #2001) that catalyzed my next experience of entering the pure heart space of unconditional love and compassion. Looking into the deep heart space catalyzed by the eyes of Giraffe, I could see the loving network of light that connects us all in the dimension of the heart. This is a simple, effective, and joyful way of tuning into and maintaining heart-centered awareness.
Practicing Heart Breath, an important tool in the Alchemical Healing work, cultivates the felt experience of sustaining a presence in the heart center. This breath can be used to rekindle your own heart flame as well as to transform your current emotions, feelings, and ambient surroundings into the energies of love and compassion.
Heart Breath Practice:
To practice the Heart Breath, make yourself comfortable and ground and center yourself (you can imagine a cord or anchor from the base of your spine attaching you to the center of the Earth). Begin by focusing your attention on your heart, and find the eternal flame that dwells within your heart center. Feed your heart flame with love, and feel and see, or imagine, as the heart flame brightens and intensifies. Now direct your attention to deep within the Earth, and imagine that you are drawing your breath from the heart of the Earth as you inhale, pulling it up through your feet and your body to the level of your heart center. Then, on the exhale, express your breath out into the world through your heart. Continue to do that for several breaths.
Now direct your attention above you, and begin to draw your breath from the sky, imagining it pouring in through your crown and down into your chest to your heart on the in-breath. Allow it to mingle with your heart flame a moment, then exhale it out into the world through your heart. Do that a few times.
Now simultaneously breathe from both above and below, drawing the in-breath through your body to your heart, and exhale outwards, through your heart into the world. Notice how, as you continue to breathe in this way, you begin to come into resonance with your heart center.
With practice, the heart breath can lead to a process similar to what the Tibetans call Tonglen, a way of transforming toxins and other problems through unconditional love and compassion. We are the vessels in which the transformation occurs.
You will know that you are in alignment with your heart center when you are aware of the fullness of being, the hugeness of the creation and your integral place in it, and the deep compassion and love you feel for all life and particularly for those around you. In my own experience, self-absorption simply vanishes in the light of the perfection of the moment, and I become receptive to inspiration beyond my personal imaginings.
Now is the time to embrace our practiceswhatever they are diligently, prayerfully, and with intention. Those of us who are connected to Spirit through guides can simply ask for direction. The more we dwell in our hearts, the easier it will be for others to find compatibility and resonance in theirs. When we make the shift and our hearts become the source of our guidance, we will be tuning forks that others can resonate with. We then carry that resonance of love into the world wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
Regardless of how you go about itno matter what tools you choose to use or what discipline you choose to practice, the movement from Will to Heart is essential to the quality of our lives, both individually and collectively, in the future we are co-creating.
This article by Nicki Scully is reprinted from Magical Blend, Issue No.82, January, 2000.
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