I’d like to begin this blog with a spiritual practic that can be used to directly engage the mystical Way of the Heart. The Heart of Love is a method of meditation and prayer that works with the most profound and powerful teachings of Jesus:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like it, that you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
As you have done to the least of these my brethren, you have done to me.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
It takes very little reflection to know this method involves everything taught in the quote above: Love for God and our fellow souls is at once the motive force, the immediate sentiment, and the practical aim of this work. It makes use of our human intelligence in the most graceful and subtle of ways – an internal cultivation of love that stimulates a more living and visible operation of hope and faith in our relationships with others. It puts the Way of the Heart into immediate practice.
This method is developed through four phases. It is recommended that the first phase be practiced alone for at least a week, and then each phase can be successively added over a period of several weeks until you are finally practicing all four phases in each sitting. Once a working familiarity has been developed with each phase, then the practitioner may place more or less emphasis on various phases, and even rearrange them, as desired. Some people might find this method suitable as the mainstay of their regular devotionals and inner work, while others might prefer to use it less routinely. This method is an excellent practice for anyone who wishes to serve in spiritual healing, for it helps in keeping one’s soul open to the flow of higher energies and tends to infuse one’s healing prayers with the special sweetness of selfless love.
Phase One: The Heart of Love Received from the Exemplar
It is always advisable to begin and end such work with a mindful ritual such as lighting a candle and perhaps some incense, and crossing oneself. After settling into a centered and peaceful state of meditation, offer a prayer of submission to the Divine Will, expressing your desire to know and serve it through love.
Next, call to mind the image of someone you consider to be a great historical embodiment and exemplar of love. For many Christians, Jesus will be the only suitable figure, though others may be attracted to another, such as Mother Mary, St. Francis of Assisi, or Mother Theresa. Imagine this person standing in front of you with a loving smile. See within his or her chest a flaming heart, radiating love out through the whole body in rich hues of pink, ruby and golden light, like a splendid sunrise.
Feel the warmth on your face and chest. Let yourself respond emotionally to this great soul’s love, smiling in return. Imagine your exemplar reaching out to cup your heart in his or her hands, and the flames of love flowing into and igniting your own heart. If you feel moved to weep with gratitude, or smile or laugh with joy, allow that to happen as you continue to meditate upon this person as an embodiment of Divine Love, a living vessel through which God loves the world, including you. To accept this love is itself an act of love for God, for the exemplar, and for yourself. You may speak with your exemplar if you wish.
In your meditation, consider that to ancient people the heart was not merely symbolic of emotions, but was also the seat of intuition, inspiration, beauty, peace and harmony. There is much to discover here about the nature of love, which includes far more than our feelings of affection and sympathy.
When you are ready to end the meditation, simply let the image fade. Offer a final prayer of thanks and return your consciousness to the external world, though now infused with an elevated awareness of love.
While most people report this exercise to be positive and uplifting, some people may also find themselves challenged by various kinds of discomfort with the work. For example, feelings of unworthiness, guilt or shame may arise. It is important to simply be aware of all our feelings, both pleasing and uncomfortable, accepting them as indicators of deeper processes occurring within our hearts and minds. In effect, they present us with opportunities to learn more of what we really believe about ourselves and our relationships with the Divine. In response to such observations, it is important to remember that accepting the infinite grace of Divine Love is not about using the head to strategize a path toward righteous worthiness, but is rather about simply opening the heart to the immediate fact of God’s freely given mercy and affection. With this understanding, where we find self-condemning thoughts and feelings of self-loathing, we have the opportunity to practice acceptance, forgiveness and healing of our own humanity, as well as truly nurturing ourselves toward more virtuous living.read...