The Loving Heart



We’d all like to be basking in its warmth, and we’d all like to know the secret to being able to generate ‘the loving heart’ but what is it? Where does it come from? And how can our practice of yoga lead to a greater understanding of it? The ‘loving heart’ sounds like a thing that we’d like to possess or be possessed by, but the yoga traditions of the East, from their roots to their branches, can help us to understand what it is and how to open up to it. Terms like ‘what it is’ give the false view that the loving heart is something out there that is fixed and unchanging, something that could be possessed. Wherever language is involved there is necessarily some division, because language is an attempt to put in a polarised sense that which is non-polar (hence possesser/possessed). The mind wants to know and its desire to do so, to defeat the world’s allusiveness, has forced us to squash reality into arbitrary designations, like; you and me, beginning and ending, the loving heart and the non-loving heart. This pull towards polarity can only be negated by rising above language altogether, to trust in what it carries, to recognise the indescribable experience that the words are trying to point to. The ’transcendence of duality’ itself is a phrase that does not work in words alone, one has to look to where the words point, as the words themselves are dualistic (non-duality necessitates duality and vice versa).

In our lumpy bumpy world of words, we often feel compelled to take on views in opposition to views, compelled to proffer the other side of the argument. This polarisation often leaves us feeling shut out (to take on a view means to be shut out of another), lonely or hurt. We are often the victim or cause of pain that arises from this kind of division, not through a sheer bloody-minded desire to keep fighting or to make ourselves resistant but through our addiction to thinking and its counterpart verbal language. This is not an argument against thinking or language, that would render this piece dead in the water and be a polarity itself, but instead an argument to be more creative to use our other faculties to relate to the world around us at least as much as we use thinking. We can and do relate to the world through touch, sight, smell, we use surrender and giving, abandon, devotion, and joy as ways to touch the world more directly than thinking could ever do with thinking. It is then recognition through surrender, non-violence and contentment, that can point the way. But if we ignorantly grasp even these words as points of view to hold tightly, we can get caught even more subtly in polarised modes of relating to the world.

Isvara Pranidhana (lit-dedication to the lord, or surrender our intuitive centre) is a good example, where we may confuse; surrender to inner guidance, devotion to that which intuits, with following our conditioned tendencies which includes our thoughts and emotions. This happens only when the view is grasped instead of looking to where it points. Some signs that we are on the right path and not just being further duped by more conditioned views and opinions, (even if those views and opinions include the words love, peace, metta and so on) come through simple indicators: Breathe is an old yoga favourite, but tensions in the skin, breathe, facial tone, can all help us to see where we are gripping to a point of view to the extent where we are resisting the ‘living’ nature of what we are dealing with. Motivation is an issue here, we need something to help us make a leap of trust so that we can see the world and all its sentient beings for what it is/they/we are, this is the essence of the loving heart. This comes when the heart has built up enough energy through feeling the strength of love combined with tiredness for going round and round life seemingly endlessly compelled by conditioned tendencies and circumstance. These then are the two wings by which love can know itself; deep affection and a real desire to be free of the cyclic nature of life (Samsara)