Spiritual traditions have long decried that the Heart contains a secret or divine power that is latent, meaning it is everthere and yet usually is unnoticed and unused. However, we are mostly unawares of this latency and untapped power. We see this illustrated in the limited notion of what love is in our present era; the force that the Heart commands. Love is devoid of the exuberant potency, esoteric agility and infinite possibility we find elaborated ecstatically by mystics and artists alike since ancient times. As Rumi whirled, “Be drunk in love since love is everything that exists.” Or follow the trail of singing starlight to Kahlil Gibran’s passage On Love from his eternally inspiring book The Prophet:
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
To nibble on Rumi’s terms of endearment, in a love that is everywhere, asks of us to take of a food we may not be too familiar with: in our culture, love is too often mitigated to romantic revelries, which surely are some of the rays of love, but afford crumbs that temporarily satisfy but rarely fulfill the deep desires of our being. And yet, like the sun, we are told in creative constancy by impassioned brethren, love has innumerable rays. Ultimately, to posit love as a mere tryst between lovers, affections bestowed on family, friends and the like is a gross belittlement of its awesome power.
This is natural to an unnatural society like our own. I speak not with exaggeration: modern culture is one of the most unnatural expressions of civilization that has ever roamed this Earth. We are pitted in many ways in conflict with nature and the planet’s ecological Way (capital W here to harken to the Chinese Taoists who viewed life’s fulfillment in harmonizing to the Way or Tao of nature). So much waywardness has become of this disenchanted folly. We have ripped ourselves not only from the bosom of our true sustainer, the Great Mother Earth, but we’ve also ripped ourselves from ourselves because we are nature too.
When we encounter natural or indigenous cultures, we find peoples who express a much more expansive bandwidth of love. Most striking is that love is not merely pledged to other human beings but finds its abundant affections being flung over all animals, plants, trees, landscapes, winds, stars, rivers, blades of grass, ardent scents of flowers, the alchemical treatise of sunrise, etceteras into the cosmos. One must consider that this keeps the heart healthy in some capacity we have not figured out in a culture where heart disease is among the top reasons for poorly timed death. Perhaps this relentless pouring out and taking in of the energy of connection through the orifice of the Heart strengthens this centre, much like any muscle would through perpetual work. Moreover, this love, buoyed up by an animistic perspective (meaning one that sees all things in this world as alive), defeats some of the primary challenges of our urban sophistications, namely loneliness, alienation and pervasive inhibitions from the domestications of capitalist society (there is something irrevocably wild in us all that dies a slow death here in the city).
I have often mused that the whole notion of ego which obsesses many spiritual traditions can find transcendence indeed through stolid meditational devotion but also through a constant expansion of the heart to connect with the life in all things. What is fostered is a perpetual awareness of great self, Self with a capital S, the Self which we are all, human, animal, plant, star, a part of. And for those who have vied to be present to such union through contemplation, sentiment and experience, they know it as a feeling, not a fact requiring intellectual proof, but as a pulse of deep consciousness that blazes with bliss. Thus, ego, or the rigid separate self, is relentlessly trumped by the abundant connectivity to a greater web of life. Independence surrenders to interdependence and happiness follows swiftly in its wake.
One of my affirmations is Redefine Love With Awe. Truly love needs to be redefined as we shift as a culture and as a species into new realms of being that require a keen awareness of our unity not only with each other but with all that sums up the environment. This is where the environmental movement finds new boldness in the awakening of intimacy with the Earth. When we expand love to these new limits, we truly encounter a sense of awe in that we feel radically different and a whole new resource of the Heart comes to be revealed. We find ourselves entranced in more warmth, positivity, understanding, and harmony as we no longer withhold these splendorous, cardiac rays. We feel nourished and energized as we blend with the forces of life; less hard in individual form, more fluid and flowing and, thus, easier to be transformed by the inevitable excursions of transmutation of which existence is known to be privy too. We melt, ceaselessly so, and in so doing we may lose our sense of former self, and yet, reactive fears of loss and temporary unknowing as we transition to new sense are quickly overridden as we join a greater ocean around us. It is no secret that love has often been compared to an ocean and the Heart a river flowing into it.
Finally, the great mystics have said the Heart can also exude a love for the divine, which is a loaded word for us today. But really it can be substituted with simply the universe or the cosmos; the greatest sense of what is ALL. When we encounter this kind of love, we literally lose all sense of ourselves and the world and disappear into an utter state of ecstasy. It is indescribable and yet coming out and back to ‘normal’ states of consciousness, one is left with a permanent residue; a shining stain on the soul. When we reflect on the immensity of what we were able to connect with through our heart, the universe itself, the heart is suddenly a profound mystery that transcends all sweetness. We must keep it that way, sustain such mystery and find allegiance with awe, which is incredible nourishment for us (as the great mystic Lao Tzu attested). The ancients counsel us to keep the heart empty for then we leave space, always, for it to be filled with the immeasurable capacity it inherently possesses. It’s as if eternity itself resides in our heart, choosing to reach into us from this central cathedral in our chest and beat this wild drum for the measure of our life. And if the mystics are true again, it’s not beating the drum: it is reaching the pulse of life into us, the pulse that is everywhere, in everything, the signal of eternity, the endless, cosmic beat of the greatest Heart of all…