In my last blog I talked about being real and dealing with your stuff, so you may raise an eyebrow at the title of this blog. This is perilous territory for someone who has written and talked about my dislike of gushing sentiment and smolchy false declarations. But I shall attempt to walk the razors edge and risk talking of love.
It’s an evocative word which in used with flippant ease in our culture. A quick pursue of the magazine stands whilst waiting for my train the other day, found headlines of royal relationships and endless advice column for those (mostly pity-able female) members of society without a betrothed.
Rather than get into the messy business of individual romantic relationships, in this post I’m going to attempt to explore some of the yoga ideas about love and the heart in a wider context. Think more like Bob Marley’s one love, than the Beatles I want to hold your hand. I am currently researching and writing on this subject for my final project of a Mandala Ashram yoga course. So expect to see more on this over the next few months.
Let’s start by looking at definitions. What do we mean by the heart in yoga? Well yoga teachers may refer to the physical beating organ that is central to our ability to survive. Or perhaps they are speaking of an attitude (in yoga this is called bhava). To do something with a courageous heart of a lion. To open ourselves and our heart to something new. Or to hold our practice with tender compassion, to look after ourselves. These are all different emotional aspects of the heart.
A third alternative is that they are speaking of the energetic heart centre, in the chakra system. Anahata is usually thought of to be chest height in the region of the physical heart. But I also enjoy how Tara Judelle describe your arms down to your finger tips as being tentacles of the heart. Which gives us a sense of the ‘ocean of the heart’ being far broader and deeper than the limitations of the physical organ of the heart. So there are certainly different levels.
For me working with the space of the heart is about reconnecting with something deeply nurturing. Switching the attention away from the busy mind space and moving to an intuitive sense of ourselves. There is no hierarchy between mind and heart. But personally I can see that for myself the mind can dominate, leading to the heart being somewhat ignored in my busy life. As a result of that emotions can surprise me, catching me off guard. Leaping up with fear, sadness, anxiety or indeed joy seemingly from no where.
Swarmi nishchalanda writes in The Edge of Infinity about how Anahata literally means unstruck because it’s vibrations are so subtle that it almost appears still. Sometimes when I try to identify with the space of the heart it’s hard to find. Rather it appears to be an empty void or a crackle of static that fails to produce what we as yoga students, or those instructing us, expect to find there. When this is the case it can be frustrating or worrying. But the act of noticing this very nothingness is useful. Interestingly in Buddhism we often see the heart or love linked to emptiness (shunyata), as in the beautiful text of the heart sutra.
Over the coming months I will be posting little excerpts of my research. I intend to interview bhakti practitioners and perhaps share practices that I have found helpful for finding that deep intuitive space of the heart, or for working with the nothingness when that shows up.
I’d love to hear other peoples thoughts. Get in touch with your ideas, thoughts and feelings. What helps you feel connected to love or the heart space?