Religion and Spirituality
The Subtle Heart - A Tool for Awakening/ a Universal Practice
By Himayat Inayati
The following practice is handed down in various forms by all the great mystical traditions, through Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, and various indigenous religious ways. It is truly universal and certainly the heart is "The Meeting Place" for those who wish to relate to life in a sacred manner. This is a practice that is easy for most (but not all) people to do. Most people believe they have a heart that is the center of their deepest most sacred feelings and their deepest most sacred perceptions of life. The difficulty is that most people have no idea how to find or access this subtle faculty. Then too, after accessing it most have no idea what to do with it. Yet, with just a little orientation and facilitation people can find and use this faculty to open their life to depths of beauty, intuition, and love beyond their present understanding or imagination. So read the practice slowly and then sitting with your back erect, in a comfortable and relaxed position, close your eyes and begin. You are about to awaken to the ocean of creation.
As you breathe in and out the nostrils be aware of the breath flowing behind the sternum, the bone in the center of the chest. As the breath flows in and out of your lungs, slowly, gently, bringing fresh life and light, be aware as what we might call "the light of the breath" carefully assesses what is there behind your sternum. As they say in the "focusing" work, be aware if you experience a "felt sense." It may be subtle at first and then intensify. It might be experienced as an emotion, like sadness, grief, nostalgia, passion. It might be felt as a sensation like pain, tenderness, a catch in the breath, a constriction, an experience of tightness or a deadened, phlegm-like congestion. Let the breath caress this "felt sense", like the morning breeze caresses your cheek. Let the light of the breath be cast upon the area more carefully, assessing it once again. When you have a sense of the area to work on, stay present to it. Continue to breathe upon it. The in and out breath have been likened (by the ancient ones) as "blowing upon the ember of the heart". The Sufi poet and master Rumi had at least two things to say about this practice. First, he stated: "If you wish to find the Beloved, be present to the sadness in your heart. You think it is your sadness, the experience of being abandoned, cut-off, alone. This is truly your sadness. But mixed within this sadness can be found the sadness of the Beloved, who experiences that you feel abandoned, cut-off, alone, even as He holds you so close, so dear. So, if you wish to find the Beloved, be present to the sadness in your heart." We'll come to Rumi's second statement soon.
Now, as you continue to breathe upon the heart, there is a kindling, as a warmth, a decongesting movement, begins to develop. There is release. The heart softens. The in-breath penetrates. The out-breath releases. Of this warmth, Rumi uttered: "Burning! I want more burning!"
As you continue to breathe upon the heart, and as it softens, let the in-breath penetrate the heart ever more fully, ever more deeply. As you penetrate the heart ever more with the breath you begin to experience your "perceiving self" descending from the head as it moves ever more completely into the heart.
Now you begin to see from the perspective of the heart. Now you can begin to relate to the worlds within and without from the throne of the heart. Now you are beginning to develop the eye, the ear, the tongue, the sensing of the heart.
As you continue to breathe in and out the heart, it softens more and more. You might begin to experience an inner space to the heart. At first the chest cavity seems larger than usual. Then as you continue to breathe you become aware that this space of the heart is accentuated, develops, and unfolds into a boundless condition. This boundless space of the heart is both inside you and outside you. It penetrates three-dimensionality and yet resides outside of it. It is a dimension all of its own. We can call this the domain of the heart. This vast, boundless domain is not empty however. It is just the opposite. It is fullness itself! It is an ocean teeming with the most wondrous, the most scintillating, the most luminous, and the most subtle of structures. We are now approaching those "secrets" great mystics in the past said were placed in the heart.
What is it like to be in the domain of the heart? What are you like? What qualities of life can you discover here? How do you relate to inner and outer life now? As you are present to the issues of your life from the perspective of this domain how are they affected? What new information emerges into your awareness? Now open your eyes and be aware of being in two worlds, the outer world and the vast domain of the heart, simultaneously. You can maintain your ability to hold both worlds through your presence and your breath. As you open your eyes strengthen your connection with the heart by orienting your breath to it as you breathe in. Play with strengthening this faculty throughout your life. Allow it to be the meeting place for your presence and the presence of one you love as well as with anyone you may be having difficulty with.
You may contact Himayat Inayati at: firstname.lastname@example.org