Igniting the Fire of the Heart
From the forthcoming book "Meditation Is Not What You Think"
Once the Awakening Process has been activated within you one of the things that you will become profoundly interested in, attracted to and compelled by is meditation. Meditation is a time-honored practice that can be found in some form in all the great spiritual traditions. Since the 1960’s in the modern West, meditation, along with yoga, has become increasingly popular in the progressive East-meets-West alternative culture and these days meditation is also gaining popularity in mainstream society, mostly under the moniker of “Mindfulness”.
This widespread popularization of meditative techniques has freed meditation from much of its traditional and cultural baggage making it much more accessible to the secular, rational modern mindset. This is all very good news in terms of broad cultural development. As a result of this popularization more and more people are practicing many different forms of meditation and are meditating for many different reasons. Probably the most common reason these days is the desire to experience a deeper degree of peace, relaxation and relief from the fast-paced stress of modern life. This is very understandable and meditation can indeed deliver those benefits along with many others that positively impact our physical and psychological health. But if you resonate with the longing for liberation that I have begun to describe there is a much deeper reason why you are attracted to meditation. You might still have a desire to experience a profound degree of peace, relaxation and relief from stress, but on an existential level you are compelled by an indefinable longing that you cannot easily explain.
I like to call this longing the Fire of the Heart, because is it a longing that burns. By Heart with a capital H, I mean the Spiritual Heart not the physical heart. The Heart is synonymous with what I have already introduced with signifiers such as “Consciousness”, “Spirit” or the “Living God” (as opposed the God-Who-Is-Not-Here!). The word courage also comes from the Latin “cor” meaning heart and this correlates to the element of fire. When the Fire of the Heart is burning brightly then we have courage, which is an absolutely essential quality that we must bring forward in order to fully ignite the Awakening Process.
So what is this burning longing, this Fire of the Heart? You might envisage or describe it as a desire to experience deeper peace, happiness and fulfillment, but there is also something mysterious about it, something indefinable, something infinitely captivating, magnetic and unknown. Unlike any other desire it is a longing that is not focused on or satisfied by the material things, relationships and activities that the world has to offer.
This longing might be experienced at times as a very still, quiet, whispering tug of intuitive knowing, or at other times as an intense burning urge for radical transformation or anything in between. However it makes itself known, this Fire of the Heart streams up from the core of our being spontaneously. It is a longing for growth, for self-transcendence, for the full flowering of our humanity. It is a longing to break free of psychological and cultural conditionings that keep us bound to repeating patterns of thought, emotion and action. It is a longing to venture into new and undiscovered realms of free energy and free creativity. It is a longing for liberation from all that limits us; it is a longing to Awaken into a wider, deeper and infinitely more passionate and ecstatic life. In essence, it is a longing to discover, realize and release who we really are. No thing or particular experience that the world can offer us can quench this longing. Only that which it seeks will suffice: the on-going revelation and ever-growing realization of the inherent Truth, Love and Goodness that is the essence of our Self and all Selves and of Life itself.
If this Fire of the Heart is alive within you then have the courage to give yourself to it completely right now and indeed at any and every moment of your life. Simply breathe, relax and surrender yourself to that ineffable, heartfelt longing. As you allow that longing to come to the foreground of your experience you will progressively feel all of the seemingly different, disparate and contradictory “parts” of your self coalescing and unifying in an inner posture of concentrated conscious intention and wide-open receptive surrender.
While conscious intention and wide-open surrender may seem to be paradoxical qualities (and they are!), when you give yourself wholeheartedly to the Fire of the Heart you will discover that your one-pointed intention to free yourself from identification with binding psychological patterns and your open receptivity to a Mystery that transcends all knowing become one unified gesture of sacrifice of the self-contraction of the ego “I”. Intention is the relational force that issues from our limited finite sense of self and “knocks on the door” of God or Consciousness Itself (I will use these terms, and others like “Being” or “True Self”, interchangeably throughout the book to refer to that indefinable Transcendent Reality). And surrender is the movement of yielding, the emptying of self, which opens the vehicle of our “body mind” to draw down and receive the infusion of Conscious Light or Conscious Force or the inpouring of God’s Grace or the Holy Spirit in Christian terms.
So intention is the more agented, more penetrative, and we could say more masculine, aspect of giving ourselves, of putting ourselves in God’s way so to speak, and surrender is the more receptive, yielding, and we could say more feminine, pole of this paradoxical alchemy in which we empty ourselves in order to receive. Both qualities need to be activated and to fuse as one posture, one gesture, and one attitude in the Heart. This inner posture of longing for liberation ignites and fuels the enlightening and purifying trajectory of the Awakening Process.
As you listen intently to the bidding of the Fire of the Heart you will find that you become sensitized to the artful integration of both of these qualities. At one moment you may need to lean toward one pole or the other in navigating your way through the demands and challenges of the Awakening Process. As this intuitive capacity deepens and becomes more and more consistent in your experience you will be increasingly capable of transcending the conditioned patterning of separated, limited and conflicted existence that stifles your radiant Spirit.
Many people may practice some kind of meditation technique to experience some degree of peace, relaxation or relief from stress in the midst of the conventional pattern of seeking that I have described, but it is when we are ready to offer ourselves fully to this Fire of the Heart that meditation can be truly practiced as a direct door to Awakening. When we choose to open our hearts and minds to the Infinite and dare to conceive and consider the fundamental questions of existence—Who are we? Why are we here? What is our Source and what is our relationship to it? —Then we truly come Alive. Then we become much more interested in facing and dissolving the conditioned activity of the ego “I” that is the source of all of our unnecessary stress, existential tension and unhappy and conflicted experience of separation and limitation, rather than just temporarily feeling better. Then rather than seeking to temporarily transcend the unhappiness of the ego “I” through some fleeting “high” or “peak” experience, only to fall back again into our habitual patterns, we are ready and willing to give ourselves to the necessary discipline and practice that will enable us to take a stand in that higher and deeper Consciousness that is calling us forward.
The greatest and most effective discipline is total surrender to the Fire of the Heart without reservation. Simply acknowledge and accept that the flame of the Awakening Process is alive within you. If that is the case then that means that the potential for your own transformation is real and lies in your own hands. Meditation is then something that you will become profoundly interested in, and even magnetically attracted to. Why? Because you are being called home by the pull of your own True Self.
If spiritual freedom and the actualization of your own potential is of paramount importance to you, if you are ready to let go of any idea, expectation, or demand about what the Awakening Process is and how it should happen, then you are in that open, receptive and concentrated posture, you are ripe for the bud of Awakening to flower within you. If you truly allow the Fire of the Heart to overwhelm you in this way then you will begin to intuit the presence of an immeasurable, uncontainable mystery that is both who you are and is simultaneously much vaster than anything you ever imagined as being ‘you’.
This profound offering and consecration of the totality of your being to the Fire of the Heart is the most essential ingredient on any authentic spiritual journey. Why is this intensity of aspiration so essential? Because otherwise, when you are confronted with all the forces, within and without, that inhibit and revolt against the Awakening Process you will inevitably falter, doubt and eventually turn away to find consolation in some illusion, in some mode of life in which you will settle for less than the complete fruition and fulfillment of your precious human birth. It is your commitment to Awakening that will carry you through all the trials and challenges that the journey from unconsciousness to consciousness brings. We all commit ourselves to something in each and every moment of our lives. In each moment we are either moving toward or away from Truth, so if we seriously want to Awaken, if we sincerely want to transform, our passion for and surrender to the Fire of the Heart must be stronger than any other desire.
Many who undertake a spiritual path may do all kinds of practices, attend retreats and workshops and may be involved in various “good works”, all of which may be genuine, valuable and may result in positive benefits for themselves and others, but without the essential ingredient of this profound surrender to the Fire of the Heart these activities and experiences will not result in a deep and consistent transformation. While it takes a measure of commitment to give oneself to a regular meditation practice for example, the aspiration I am speaking about has no limits, transcends all forms and can be present in all activity. This longing for liberation, this Fire of the Heart, if it is profound, is not something that you can fit into your pre existing life. This heartfelt aspiration is a constant attunement, a living assertion of and alignment with Truth, with Life, with Love that is constantly being affirmed and reaffirmed at the core of your Being. You will know that this flame is irrevocably alive in you when you no longer need to remember it, when you cannot forget it and when it becomes the very animating force and guiding principle of your life.
I cannot emphasize enough how absolutely essential this passionate aspiration for Awakening is. All that happens arises from the commitment that you make in this very moment. When you are truly willing to give everything to that longing NOW then a shift occurs at the core of your Being that makes all things possible. Then that longing will define every important choice that you make in your life.